The world has lost another of its legendary painters, and one that so strongly influenced my young artist’s life. Frank Frazetta passed away yesterday, having released more passion on canvas than might be humanly possible.
I used to ride my bike to a Cincinnati bookstore in the 60’s. There, amidst the incense-infused lower level, tucked away in the corner, they kept the science fiction books. I was probably about ten when I first recognized the outstanding mayhem on a paperback cover as a Frazetta. The painting stood out immediately because it was so bold, and the light in the painting felt so damn real. I didn’t care that it was a barbarian, or some giant beast, or some curvaceous half dressed goddess. (ok…maybe a little on that last one). It was so believable, all I could do was stare, and absorb.
It was different from the covers around it because in the 60’s, most of the science fiction covers had a strong, colorful graphic approach, and occasionally, manipulated photos. But this was painting. This was museum painting. Classical painting. Sunlit flesh popped off of dark mysterious backgrounds. And all of it applied to my favorite subjects.
I was one of those guys that didn’t care about what was in the book. Who cared with a cover like those? I rode my bike home with my mind spinning up all kinds of crazy stuff. That was all I needed.
Frazetta touched those male nerves waiting skin deep to leap into life; he sparked the very visceral painter lurking inside me. Power seethed under my Cheerios-induced boyhood muscles. Those paintings inflamed my head and drove my energy forward into art camp.
I returned to that bookstore month after month to see more and more. I, like many, bought the book for the cover. But as a budding painter, I studied them. I stared and stared. I dreamt. My heart pulsed waves of creative maniacal wicked wild storms of expression. Charged. Intense. I burned up miles on that bike like a super collider in full swing.
I read about legendary heroes of folklore, myth, and history, in school. I understood the heroes and the legends, but Frank could make you feel it. He wanted you to feel what he felt. He let you have it, too, right in the guts.
I believed legends are created, not born. So I read about Frank, the man. Hard to separate the art from the artist, he lived out his worlds in paint, from humorous movie posters and ink drawings of Middle Earth, to that crazy barbarian and planets in peril.
Frank Frazetta was one of those guys that informed my work, influenced me no end. Not to paint like him, but to paint as bravely. To paint from the gut.
He was legend.