Friday, October 05, 2007

Rough Work


My second book purchase this week truly was Phenomenal. Frank Frazetta: Rough Work. Most artists make small sketches, known in the vernacular (it's a doiby!) as roughs or thumbnails before they begin a painting. Some of these roughs are indeed thumbnail size. I've seen some of Roy Krenkel's roughs that were about the size of a postage stamp. On these roughs an artist may work out composition or color schemes, or solve any number of small problems that it's best to get out of the way before stepping up to the canvas. These roughs are rarely seen by anyone but the artist himself. They aren't meant as finished works.
Frank Frazetta's roughs are better than most artists finished paintings. This isn't surprising. Frazetta, a child prodigy and an artist of amazing talent and prodigious influence never does anything halfway. Most of his roughs, executed in pencil and toned with water colors, aren't that different from his full scale paintings. The man is amazing, especially when you consider that he rarely uses any models or photo-references. Most of his paintings were done at a sitting, and most of them spooled right out of his imagination. If you draw or paint, you know how incredible that is. Most artists need somewhere to start. Something to look at. But for the most part, Frazetta's powerful visions come right from inside his head. Only Jack Kirby can match him for pure power of imagination, and obviously Jack was working a different room.
As I mentioned, Frazetta was a child prodigy, seemingly born with the ability to draw, but he honed those skills over the years, working hard to develop the talent he'd been given. I remember an interview with comics artist Gil Kane who mentioned that a young Frazetta would take the anatomy books of legendary figure artist George Bridgeman, and starting on page one, copy every single drawing in the book. When he was done, he would do it again. Eventually he had such a firm grasp on human anatomy that he never had to worry about how to draw anything, merely what to draw. One can still see the influence of Bridgeman in the weight and stances of Frazetta's figures.
Rough Work has the thumbnails for most of Frazetta's Conan covers. These are the covers that made his career and sold millions of Conan books. Great to see the beginnings of these archetypal paintings. There are also some roughs for the early Ace covers Frazetta did for the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. For a sword and sorcery buff, this is the mother load. Sketches of Conan, Tarzan, Brak, John Carter of Mars, Thongor, Kane, Jongor, David Innes, Tanar of Pellucidar, and many others. There's a ton of stuff here that I've never seen. Heck there's stuff Cliff had never seen and that's saying something. In case you can't tell, I was very impressed with this little book. And it's a bargain at a mere $19.95.

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