It is with great regret this morning that I publish this particular Blog. I was going to write something last evening, but decided to think a little longer about what I wanted to say here today.
Rather than a sad eulogy I have opted to celebrate the fantastic artwork that has influenced generations of artists following him.
One only has to see the work of American Painter/Illustrator NC Wyeth and the Brandywine School of Art to notice their respective influences, especially those wonderful pieces of work by the aforementioned Mr. Wyeth.
Having been lucky enough to check out the Brandywine Museum during my time working in America I was able to see immediately such influences in the paintings on display in its galleries. As I have mentioned here on this Blog previously I was, in actual fact, supposed to visit the Frank Frazetta Museum, but at the planned time of the visit discovered the museum was in a transition stage between moves, so sadly I have not managed to visit it, up to press, although it is on my list of places to visit at some time in the future, if the opportunity arises.
I first discover Frank’s fantastic art on the cover of the UK publisher, Sphere Books’ edition of the Conan the Adventurer novel, the first of the reprints of the US publisher, Lancer Book’s novels back in the early seventies, where as a young schoolboy I was seeking to soak up all I could to do with my interest, comic and fantasy art. This image of the surly battle-scarred Conan (please see the above painting) instantly became how I saw Conan, which was most unlike the wonderful renditions currently in the Marvel Comics version drawn by the amazing Barry Smith, depicting Conan as a lean youthful barbarian.
Other books followed Adventurer in the series and then I discovered his comic book work in a card-cover UK edition of Eerie magazine, which I was to discover in later life was in fact a reprint facsimile, in the main, of Creepy comics. Both of the original comic titles were published by Warren Magazines in the USA. The best story contained in between its covers was a story drawn by Frank Frazetta entitled “Werewolf!”
So powerful is his work that early on, when I first discovered his work in my teens, I have on occasion bought a book just because his artwork adorned the cover, without even checking what the story was about, such as “The Book of Paradox”, by Louise Cooper and what covers they were, as you can see below.
The next Frazetta event for me was when Ballantine Books published the first edition of “The fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta.”
Further books of his wonderful work followed in both soft and hard cover editions all showcasing his wonderfully emotive paintings.
If one needs to seek out power, movement and life in a painting today, one need only look at any work by Frank Frazetta – even the Barbarian painting on the aforementioned, Conan the Adventurer cover, with it’s depiction of Conan stood resting on his sword, looks like a brief moment between violent outbursts, as Conan waits sullen eyed and ready to pounce like a raging panther, just as Robert E. Howard, his creator wrote in his stories.
For me the uniqueness of Frank’s work is his ability to see that if a sword, or axe is engaged in battle and moving through the air at the enemy, why show the hands, or indeed the feet of the weapons owner in great detail, as in real life, just like in his paintings one would only see a blur, at best before seeing the inevitable.
Many people have said his work is violent, showing lots of blood letting and characters covered in blood, but they are wrong, so powerful and evocative is the work, as Frank shows only the vaguest hint of blood, perhaps on the edge of a weapon, or a drop, or two in the snow, or on a shield, or red reflected on metal, with no visible source, to merely hint at and evoke emotional responses with.
I would loved to have met the man himself, but consider myself lucky to have had the chance from my schoolboy days of viewing the Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta.
There where giants in those days and today, once more, they stride in the Heavens…
Expect thunder and lightning when Frank and Jack meet next!
Until next time, have fun!