April 16, 2010

Frank Frazetta (Part 3)

I've just had my original Frazetta drawing framed and it looks great! How this Conan sketch falls within the body of Frazetta's career is fascinating to me. There are many Conan images to show, but before we go into battle with him, here's a few samples of what Frazetta is also known for depicting uniquely... his women.

They're typically young, gorgeous, naked and waaaay over-developed. They may be in mortal danger, or out hunting with a fang-toothed pet, or clinging to a hero for protection. Sometimes, they're just out having fun, enjoying nature in all its glory, and in all THEIR glory.

In The Castle of Sin, three lovely wenches are shown leading a knight's horse toward the castle, which may be a trick because there seems to be a Death Dealer ducking just inside the entrance. Frank took his time on this one, to happily paint the detail into the knight, the horse and the ladies. The lighting on all of them is exceptionally executed and the expressions on their faces tells you a little about what's going on... if the title doesn't.

Now, if Tarzan the Ape man was a great subject-model for Frazetta's ink pen, his brother Conan the Barbarian was the perfect model for his paintbrush. The sinewy Tarzan was leaner and more adept at swinging the vines of the jungle while Conan was brawnier and more apt to kick your ass for no good reason. The painting of the Ice Giants, which Frank created for the cover of Robert E. Howard's Conan of Cimmeria shows a couple 'o huge red-bearded Norse giants taking swings at the puny Cimmerian. The weight of the battle axes and the weight of their limbs bogged down in the ankle-deep snow is apparent, which gives an edge to Conan in speed and he gets a piece of one of them in the throat. With the lavendar backdrop and majestic ice peak, it's another scene of beauty and beast.

But maybe this is all too cute for a real barbarian. Howzabout a little more blood 'n guts

What happens when you aggravate Conan by accidentally bumping into him at the local bar is shown in The Disagreement. More than a bar brawl, everyone goes for their weapon. The room becomes tense and everyone reacts. One cool item to note is the frothy beer stein in mid air.

Frank must have felt good about Conan's back swing pose as he also used it in The Indomitable. In this painting, Conan has very little expression on his face. Like a pro-golfer, he's concentrating on his swing. And when you want to get close to the pin in just one shot, you need to put a little extra oomph into it.

That's what Frazetta did in Conan the Destroyer, where his enemies must be dying of fright just looking at how far back he winds up his ax arm. The body pile in The Destroyer is more developed than in The Indomitable and Frazetta put more detail into the twisted torsos and helmets.

Now, if Conan actually looks like anybody you might recognize it would be Jack Palance. Palance had played a warrior in several movies in the 50's and 60's such as Attila the Hun and he played Revak in a movie called The Barbarians. It was a good choice. With a square jaw and high cheekbones, Palance had a great face to use for Conan.

Sometimes the battle comes to you and sometimes you need to go to the battle. Below, Conan rides to the enemy lines and when he gets there he must have decided to just dive into it with horse. No wonder he called this one Berserker. It was actually created for Howard's Conan the Conqueror. Not many of Frazetta's original paintings have gone up for auction. Frank and Ellie Frazetta opted to retain ownership of nearly all of his book cover paintings and had them displayed in their own museum in East Stroudsburg, PA. Of those that were sold, one went for $250K. Then just this past November, Berserker went to auction and was sold to a private collector for a cool MILLION, which says a lot about how much some Frazetta fans treasure his work.

Another well-known iconic Conan painting that really grabs your attention is simply titled The Barbarian. Here we see a pensive Conan standing atop the usual mound of dead enemies and looking mean enough to wipe out your entire town. His muscles bulge, his veins are swollen and he is seen scowling while a female admirer finds co
mfort with his calf. Perhaps it was her presence that had him stop the butchering and take a moment to reflect on the day's work. This is Frazetta creating an image of one super badass. A sexy scar on his cheek and a lovely bird skull and fang necklace make great accessories for his weaponry. Once again, certain areas around him are painted with less detail which only magnifies his awesomeness. The background of fire and skulls was poster perfect and imitators went into over-copy mode to try to get a piece of the action.

There is a biography on DVD of Frank called, Frazetta, Painting with Fire and the trailer for it has a cool animation of The Barbarian in the beginning... It is worth a look.

The next posts of this series will delve into Frazetta's drawings and I will soon reveal my Frazetta treasure!

Links to this 6-part Frazetta series by Mark Astrella:
Frazetta Part 1
Frazetta Part 2
Frazetta Part 4
Frazetta Part 5
Frazetta Part 6

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