Monday, May 10, 2010

Legends and Inspiration

The world lost a great artist today. Frank Frazetta passed away at the age of 82. I wrote about his wife Ellie last year when she passed away after a year long battle with cancer. They had the type of partnership that was much like Johnny and June Carter Cash. They worked well BECAUSE of each other. And unfortunately, the one would not last long without the other.

And apparently the children have been bickering over the estate, blahblahblah. I do not care about the children or their petty disputes and squabbles. They are not the ones who were an early inspiration to me. There is only Frank (and Ellie, even though for a long time I was not aware of her influence) as far as I am concerned.

I'll try not to bore you with a drawn out history of Frank (it's always "Frank" to us fans, although I'm sure had I ever met him it would have been a very reverential "Mr. Frazetta, sir"). There are many fine books on Frank, but I will let his work speak for him as he often did.

THIS is what most people think of when the name Frank Frazetta comes up. Even people who don't read science fiction and fantasy books were familiar on some level with his work. The above is one of his many "Death Dealer" series and was also used as a Molly Hatchet album cover.

This next one was used as a cover on one of the many Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. I'm pretty sure that Frank never read any of those books (at least not beforehand) because of all the ones I have read, I don't think the covers ever had ANYTHING to do with the story contained within. But here's the thing about it...those covers were so amazing, it didn't even matter! The art was THAT good!

He was not contained to just one genre either. He was equally fun at westerns as well. His treatment of horses was always oddly accurate to me. By that I mean, that even if he was exaggerating the figures it at least LOOKED as if it were in a plausible position.

Now let's look at another medium. Most of his commercial work was done in oils but his sketches and pencils are stunning. He was proficient in pencils, pen and ink, oils, watercolors, and probably whatever else he picked up.

And if there was another thing that Frank was known for at least as much as his barbarians and fantastic beasts, it was the women. Known simply as "Frazetta women", they were as much a part of his vision as any other. Voluptuous and usually as ready for violence as any other character inhabiting his paintings, Frazetta women were readily embraced by the community of fans. These were no scrawny supermodels. And for those of us who do not see the point of the emaciated forms of current "models", we always said a silent "thank you" to Frank.

And this pen and ink I have always adored not just for the fact that it's an attractive female, but for the sheer mastery of the art form. The textures and forms throughout this entire drawing are, to me, just awe inspiring.

But by and large, we know Frank for unbridled carnage.

And the unfiltered savagery of a warrior triumphant.

But he was also a hopelessly devoted romantic...

(His loving wife Ellie, as painted by Frank)

And most importantly, he was a man...

Thereby giving all of us who are just men something to strive for. Thank you Frank, for so many things. Thank you for serving as an artistic inspiration for so many. Thank you for pushing the boundaries of genres not normally associated with "fine art". And most importantly, thank you for opening up the imaginations of so many kids who wouldn't have had it any other way.

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