It has been a tough week for artistic giants that have had profound influences on me, as two have passed away since last Monday. It kind of bums me out, to be honest with you. Since I have a lot to say about both, I’m going to break it into two posts. Here’s the first.
I am not a visual artist, but the influence that Frazetta had on me from my earliest years as a reader and fan of the things I love cannot be underestimated. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Frank Frazetta, an illustrator of comic books, movie posters and paperback book covers, whose visions of muscle-bound men fighting with swords and axes to defend scantily dressed women helped define fantasy heroes like Conan, Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, died Monday in Fort Myers, Fla. He was 82.
The cause was complications from a stroke, said Rob Pistella and Stephen Ferzoco, Frazetta’s business managers.
Can’t judge a book by its cover? Maybe true . . . but an awesome one sure helps. When I was young and starting to read, Frazetta’s art opened an entire new world to me, as it did many others. His cover art got me into books in the first place, and the words, coupled with his imagery, kept me there. He is most remembered for his artwork portraying Robert E. Howard‘s sword-swinging hero, Conan the Barbarian. In the old days, when Howard’s Conan stories were first appearing in magazines and books, these are the types of images that accompanied them.
Frazetta not only took the imagery to a new level, he put it on another planet.
Or this one, which was used for the cover of the first Conan book I ever had.
Even today, I can stare at these images endlessly and feel much of the same awe and wonder I did as a pudgy kid. Frazetta captures the rawness of Howard’s world, the dark menace that was an undercurrent of his stories.
Among other things, Frazetta painted images for Edgar Rice Burroughs creations Tarzan and John Carter of Mars.
He was also a fantastic illustrator and cartoonist.
I’m sure my taste in women owes much to his portrayal of the curvier variety, I’m not ashamed to admit!
One of the things about Frank that most blows me away, as revealed in the magnificent documentary Painting with Fire, is that after his first stroke he lost the ability to paint with his right hand. So he learned to do it with his left and just kept right on working.
One of my “life list” goals is to create an opportunity to see some of these paintings, the originals, in person. I can’t imagine how awesome they must be in full, living color. In light of all the problems surrounding the estate, even before Frank died, recently being settled, I’m hoping they remain collected in part of a museum.
Frank’s death has reverberated through the community of artists and writers that I follow. Comics writer and artist Jimmy Palmiotti wrote a moving piece on Frank’s influence, and the day he spent with Frank several years ago, that you can read HERE.
Other artists have created their own tributes to the man who inspired them to pick up the brush, like this one from Francesco Francavilla:
One from Dan Panosian:
And Ron Salas:
Even today, I judge all artists working the genre in how well their work captures that of the original master, Frank Frazetta, at least in depth and tone. Many try, but few get there. The man will be missed, and I feel fortunate to have been able to grow up having my imagination inspired by such a powerful artistic force.