Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Wednesday 9th February 2011 - Artist in Focus – Frank Frazetta

So yeah, took me slightly longer than expected, but here’s another bit on a specific artist. 

 Frank Frazetta was almost single handedly responsible for bridging the gap between the golden age of American illustration and more modern, fiscally directed illustration. He drew upon the draftsman works of J. Clement Coll, and was a formidable pen and inker, but was better known for his paintings. His oils used a vibrant, loaded palette, similar to Rockwell’s and N. C. Wyeth’s work, although he also took the subject matter in a darker direction, creating contrast like Frank Schoonover. 
Galleon - Howard Pyle
Frazetta mentioned himself that he was a great fan of Pyle’s work: “I love Pyle… The influence and my knowledge of Pyle’s work are evident if you know what to look for!” The dynamic compositions, opposition of tones in positive and negative space and the implementation of the rule of thirds are unmistakable. 

There are two key, intertwining design principles that I feel are integral to Frazetta’s work, and which are one of the main contributory factors to his success as a groundbreaking fantasy artist: This is balance and Colour. 

The Death Dealer, the first piece I ever saw, at the ripe age of 8, of Frazetta’s work, and the turning point where I realized colour is key to any good composition. The painting, under dissection, is also a paradigm of how he created and equilibrium in his paintings, and how he uses a triangular composition (this is recurring) to allow some elements to maintain higher dominance; figuratively and literally. The colour used reinforces this principle: The characters colours are dark and earthy, maintaining an air of mystery and neutrality, whereas there is a sharp, high value spot light focussed behind him, creating an area of high contrast, drawing focus to it first. The eye is drawn, from all corners of the canvas in to the bloody axe and the red eyes at the centre, which has been rendered as the darkest part of the painting; a masterful execution of subtly guiding the viewer’s eye around a painting.  

A prime example of Frazetta’s penmanship: Here, as well as the triangular composition again, there is a sense of rhythm instansiated through the pen strokes. A sense of movement is always accounted for by rendering in paint: The accentuated brush strokes of how Frazetta used his oils show this, and, in lieu of paint, a mass of carefully rendered hatchings in ink provide a similar result to focus on. To add to this Frazetta himself said: “I can paint as realistic as any of the guys working… I like there to be a certain amount of mystery in my work… If parts seem unfinished it’s deliberate.” Here he’s addressing the eternal paradox of art: Works contain the most evocative and rhythmic lines when drawn with abandon and no thought of the outcome, but to render to a finished piece which is acceptable, the whole image becomes static and loses the spontaneity of a sketch. An illustrator recently said “if you want to see someone’s skill; look at their portfolio. If you want to see their vitality, look at their sketchbooks.”

(C)All images are from

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