The Day the Colors Died - ATribute to Frank Frazetta
You can probably characterize the genre of epic fantasy as a "one man against the evils of the world" kind of thing. It is the predominant theme. We have a hero who has to overcome a lot of obstacles to save himself, his family or possiblyl even the whole world. And in his quest to do this he runs into a lot of nasty creatures! Well, what would happen if you took these basic ideas of written words and translated them into images?
You would get the work of Frank Frazetta.
He was a talented artist who did things his own way and he inspired a whole generation of artists with his bold colors and strong chraracters. He just recently passed away (May 10,2010). He simply was a man at the pinnacle of fantasy and science fiction art. I didn't know that he had passed away. Somehow this eluded me for a couple of months. But when I found out I was shocked. So I have put together this little tribute to him. (The DVD shown: Frazetta - Painting with Fire )
Books, Movies, Posters and More
If you are a reader of fantasy you have probably seen his covers and didn't even know who the artist was. But he had a distinct, muscular and bold style that was well suited to the genres of fantasy, swords and sorcery and many types of heroic fantasy. HIs name has become synonomous with the genre.
His art is well suited to the genre for a few very good reasons. Let me point out a couple of things by using this poster on the left.
First off his compositions tended to be direct and uncluttered. Can you see that in the poster? There are three figures and a few other major objects. And three figures was a stretch for him. Often there was one, or maybe two. But even though there are three figures (woman, man, and big cat) It is very clear that one figure dominates, both by placement and by lighting. (The poster shown: Frank Frazetta - Movie Poster - 27 x 40)
This direct characteristic is very closely tied with the epic fantasy and swords & sorcery. It is always about a single character or hero (like say maybe Conan?)
And do I need to say that there is a raw sensuality about this picture? Or a certain primal muscular strength to the characters, including the big cat? These are things that Frank did so well and again it is well suited to the genre.
This article is entitled "The Day the colors died" so let me talk a little bit about this. He did work with bold colors and his favorite was probably red. But this doesn't mean he was a Jackson Pollock type! His use of color, while bold was still restrained. Can you see how most of this painting is a bit subdued and almost sepia toned? Yet there are two things that very much stand out (in terms of color) the pillar the woman is leaning against and the blue silken fabric hanging from her waist. Ahh, there is part of the magic of Frazetta. He didn't just use color, he used it well and sparingly.
Well, I really don't know what to say other than thankyou to Frank for a lifetime devoted to creating some wonderful works that helped to deliver us into the fantasy worlds of Conan, Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs and many more!
Let's take a quick look at the philosophy of some of his work. In my opinion.
This is something that you see over and over again in his work. The use of Chiaroscuro as a tool to point out or focus on something or someone in the painting. And I think this is where he shines (no pun intended). It's just brilliant.
His quick rise to fame came in the late 60's and the 70's when he started doing book covers. Some of these are well known and he did work for Conan, Kane, Tarzan and other books. The 1966 book cover shown here was a phenomenal success and the book went on to sell 10 million copies which was astounding at the time. Conan the Adventurer (Volume 5 which has a variant cover from the one shown)
Frazetta himself, as an artist, totally redefined the look and feel of Conan which was quite a feat.
Some writers that he did covers for include John Jakes, Edgar Rice Burroughs, L.Sprague deCamp, Henry Kuttner, George MacDonald Fraser, Lin Carter and of course Robert Howard.
So, What is his best work?
That is a question that will forever be debated and this is a debate that pretty much goes for any artist. But for my money it is probably cat girl. It has all the hallmarks of his work. A beautiful and sensuous woman, a simple and straightforward composition, danger lurking, and an uncanny lighting. It is a clear and powerful work that pretty much says it all. It is a carefully guarded image and I can't find a copy that I can post but you can find it by perusing this webpage (look for the link: Cat Girl 1984)
Molly Hatchet (Cover by Frazetta) Who also did their other albums.
He also did album covers and the series for the band "Molly Hatchet are his most well known.
MORE FRAZETTA COVERS