The great pulp painter Frank Frazetta died yesterday. His brushstrokes were the literal entrance into the world of pulp novels when I was a kid. A Frazetta cover would herald the different worlds inside those cheap mass market pages, enthralling me as a suburban kid, reading Robert E. Howard and Lovecraft and others.
He may have been the first artist I actively sought out, not to buy paintings or monograms but to purchase cheap Dell paperbacks with those fantastic luminous covers.
Here are some of his more famous paintings. I will post a collection of his sketches, pencil drawings and pen and ink work which I always favored, maybe because the deftness of his hand was so readily apparent.
Rest in peace, Frank. And thank you.
When it came to my art, I went my own way and did not follow the trends.
By the time I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to be an artist. I was a born draftsman and liked all forms of art, so I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving were my big days. I guess I drew more Santa’s, bunnies, and turkeys on blackboards than anyone could count. At the insistence of one of my teachers, my parents enrolled me in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts when I was eight. The Academy was little more than a one floor/three room affair with a total of thirty students ranging in age from eight–me!–to eighty. I still remember the Professor Michele [Michael] Falanga’s look of skepticism as I signed in. He was rolling his eyes and you could almost see the thought balloon over his head, “Oh no! Not another child prodigy!” He sat me down with a pencil and paper and asked me to copy a postcard featuring a group of realistically rendered ducks. When he returned later to see how far I had progressed, he snatched up my drawing exclaiming, “Mama mia!” and ran off waving it in the air, calling everyone over to look at it. I thought I was in some kind of trouble.
He [Falanga] died when I was twelve, right about the time he was making arrangements to send me off to Italy at his own expense to study fine art. I haven’t the vaguest idea of whether it would have really affected my areas of interest. I don’t know, but I doubt it. You see, we never had any great conversations. He might look over your shoulder and say. “Very nice, but perhaps if you did this or that…” He spoke very broken English and he kind of left you on your own. I think I learned more from my friends there, especially Albert Pucci. Falanga would look at some of the comics stuff I was doing and say, “What a waste, what a waste! You should be in Italy and paint the street scene and become a very famous fine artiste!” And that didn’t thrill me! After he died the students tried to keep the school going; we had become such close friends that we couldn’t bear to close up shop so we all chipped in and paid the rent and continued to hold classes. I did nude life drawings and still lifes; we’d paint outdoors. It was all totally different from the way I work now, but it taught me a lot about brush technique and perspective and helped me to develop my own style.
When I was about 15 someone in my family introduced me to John Giunta. He was a professional artist who was working for Bernard Bailey’s comics publishing company and he really wasn’t a very personable guy. He was very aloof and self-conscious and hard for me to talk to, but he was really very talented. He had an exceptional ability, but it was coupled with a total lack of self-confidence and an inability to communicate with people. Being around him really opened up my eyes, though, because he was really that good. He had an interesting style, a good sense of spotting and his blacks worked well. You can see a lot of his influence even today in some of my ink work.
I hope my work has inspired young artists. I have always tried to maintain my freedom as an artist and I feel it is one of the main reasons I have been successful.
When Ralph [Mayo] took over he pulled me aside and said, “Frank, you stuff is great, but you need to learn some anatomy.” When I was in school with Falanga the emphasis was on feeling, not on the nuts and bolts, so I really didn’t understand what he meant by ‘anatomy.’ So Ralph handed me an anatomy book and when I went home that night I had decided to learn anatomy. I started with page one and copied the entire book – everything in one night, from the skeleton up. I came back the next day like a dumb kid and said, “Thank you very much, I just learned my anatomy.” Of course Ralph fell over and roared with laughter. “Frankie, you silly bastard! I’ve been studying for ten years and I still don’t know anatomy, and you went home and learned it last night?!” But the thing was I had learned an awful lot. I had the ability to absorb things and he saw an improvement in my work right away. It amazed him and that meant a lot to me. From that point on I developed pretty rapidly: I started to do things with figures that made sense. I worked for Mayo and Standard for a few years, doing things like “Looie Laziebones” and all the funny animal stuff.
What I do is create images, period.