Tuesday, May 11, 2010

When Giants Walked the Earth.

Frank Frazetta is no longer with us.

Let me say that again: Frank Frazetta is no longer with us. And we are the worse for it.

The man's reach was enormous: movies, music, comics, novels, hot rods - he left his mark everywhere. Growing up in the 70s, it was hard not to know who he was, even if you didn't know the real extent of his talent. The handful of paintings you probably know on a subliminal level are just the tip of the iceberg. Google the word "barbarian" and 90% of what pops up is influenced by Frank Frazetta, even if he didn't draw or paint it himself.

Ever see a picture of a guy holding an axe over his head, standing on a pile of dead bodies? Maybe a half-naked, extremely curvy woman at his feet? Of course you have; those images are everywhere. Among many, many other things, that archetypal illustration is Frazetta's invention. He did covers/posters/etc. for Conan, Tarzan, John Carter (Warlord of Mars), Vampirella, Eerie, Mad, and Creepy magazines, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Clint Eastwood's movie The Gauntlet, King Kong, and more Edgar Rice Burroughs material than you could shake a stick at. Even his signature was iconic.

The man was indomitable. A giant. Until very recently most of us felt that he was invulnerable. Here's an example of what I mean: a few years back he had a series of strokes which almost paralyzed his drawing arm. So what did he do? Retire? Sit back and live off the proceeds of his mind-blowing career? Get old?

No, he did something else altogether: he taught himself, while he was in his 70s, to draw with his other hand. And still drew better than any of his imitators. I'm not sure if the enormity of that really sinks in with non-artists, but think of it this way: assuming you're not ambidextrous, try writing your name with your non-dominant hand. Now, how'd that work out?

Rest in peace, Frank. Thanks for everything.

1 comment:

R. Bishop said...

Well said. Some of my first exposures to art in general were Frazetta covers to Conan books which were sold at the local supermarket. I didn't know that he taught himself to draw with the other hand. That is truly the stuff of legend. We'll miss you Frank.