artists, comics, nudes, obituaries, paintings

RIP Fantasy Legend Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta died on the 10th May 2010 from a stroke, and I for one am one of the millions who were saddened to hear this news. Like many, my childhood was heavily influenced by his art… on fantasy-genre book and comic covers, his artwork provided inspiration (and for some: titillation) to many my age. Whether you liked his work or not, it was always memorable… and often promised much more than the book content oft delivered.

For someone of my age, it is impossible not to think of Frank Frazetta when we think of fantasy. Frazetta was ubiquitous and his paintings adorned the bookshelves with their unique blend of realistic painting, with wholly unrealistic idealised men and women with ne-er so much as a chain to hide their nudity. Un-PC it might have been, but it was probably thanks to his art that we still remember Conan the Barbarian, and the rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger. And are able to continue to enjoy the likes of 300, Game of Thrones, Thor, Tarzan, John Carter of Mars etc. on TV and film.

Aged 16, he started drawing for comic books that varied in themes: westerns, fantasy, mysteries, and histories. Some of his earliest work was in funny animal comics, which he signed as “Fritz”. During this period he turned down job offers from comic giants such as Walt Disney. But in the early 1950s, he worked for EC Comics and several other comic book companies. Through the work on the Buck Rogers covers for Famous Funnies, Frazetta started working with Al Capp on his Li’l Abner comic strip.

Frazetta was also producing his own strip, Johnny Comet at this time, as well as working on the Flash Gordon daily strip. In 1961, after nine years with Capp, Frazetta returned to regular comics. Work in comics for him was hard to find, as comics had changed during his period with Capp and his style was deemed antiquated. Eventually he joined Harvey Kurtzman doing the parody strip Little Annie Fanny in Playboy magazine. But it wasn’t until 1964 that one of his magazine ads caught the eye of United Artists studios. He was approached to do the movie poster for What’s New Pussycat and earned his yearly salary in one afternoon.

He did several other movie posters and started producing paintings for paperback editions of adventure books. His cover for the sword-and-sorcery collection Conan the Adventurer by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp caused a sensation. Numerous people bought the book for its cover alone. From this point on, Frazetta’s work was in great demand and became the standard for the fantasy genre. During this period he also did covers for other paperback editions of classic Edgar Rice Burroughs books, such as Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. He also did several pen and ink illustrations for many of these books.

If you want to find out more about the man and his art, here are some links to sites where you can start:

And just to illustrate how popular his work is, here’s a piece of his that sold for $1million:

RIP Frank… you’ll be sadly missed but not forgotten

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MND, nudes, obituaries, paintings

Walking thru Fire

Nude study in digital paint

Finally got round to finishing a nude I’d been planning to paint for a very long time, although by the time I’d finished I had diverged from what I had originally intended… but I think it still works. This piece was a long time coming… I’ve been having serious problems with my computer… then my health… then back to the PC…  and then my brother died.

Rysz’s death was not unexpected (he did have MND after all) but it still came suddenly and as a shock. I had wanted him to see the painting and I was getting frustrated at not being able to finish it. Just as things started coming together (better health, new OS, new software) and I was finally able to start the work… I got the phone call that Rysz’s health was declining fast.

A day earlier, Rysz had gone to hospital for a chest infection. The next day I was told that he was responding well and would be home the following day… but that the infection had taken its toll and shortened Rysz’s life expectancy to just a few months. I thought I’d create the painting to cheer him up.

Just as I was about to begin, I got a second call… this time saying that Rysz had deteriorated and might not last the night. I stopped the painting and set off ‘up North’ to be with him.

It was late and the motorways were pretty clear. I was fretting that I might be late but my other half had her foot pressed firmly against the metal. We were doing well… until…

Ahead of us was a huge tarmac lorry heading up to the M6 roadworks when suddenly he lost control and went into the central partition, spilling its load across both sides of the motorway. This new ‘wall’ immediately began to harden (a very cold night) sticking the lorry and us on an impassible road.

We were stuck there for hours.

Tragically, by the time I got up to the hospital (3:30am), charging through the door, my brother had died just a few seconds earlier. I can’t begin to tell you how I felt.

Anyway, this was 2 weeks ago and we buried Rysz on Wednesday (strangely, to the tune of ‘Popeye the Sailor Man’ from a phantom icecream van), and were re-united with his estranged son.

It’s several days later, and I am back with the painting. Finally got it finished, and I’m sure that Rysz would’ve liked it. I hope so.

If you’d like to more about Rysz, check out his memorial website (rysz.muchloved.com) wher you can also contribute to the MND Association.

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