Monday, August 09, 2010

ARTISTS IN LOVE, part 17



Many of Frank Frazetta's fans had trouble understanding why the "master of fantasy" couldn't fantasize a better lifestyle than a home in the suburbs with a wife and kids.

Frazetta was able to conjure up vivid worlds of savage barbarians and wild harem girls. He painted eyewitness accounts of magic spells on alien planets and colossal battles with dinosaurs.



How could such an imagination possibly be satisfied with middle class domestic life?

But Frazetta made no apologies for his choice, shrugging, "I got married, had kids, did my thing."

Frazetta said he picked his wife Ellie over all the other girls because "I sensed that she would be forever loyal and I never had that feeling about any other girl I'd been involved with." Apparently her ability to pilot a space ship was not even a consideration.



They started out with very little money, but you don't need much when you're young and hot blooded. Ellie recalled that when they moved into a small apartment in Brooklyn,
we used to have water pistol fights in our apartment in the dark. Have you ever been squirted with water in a pitch black room? Oh, it's creepy! We did all sorts of silly things when we were young. I had to clean up the mess in the morning, but so what? We had fun and it didn't cost a dime.
Years later, a more matronly Ellie tried to keep the evidence of their early frolics under wraps, saying "I don't want my grandkids to see their grandmother like that."



As the couple matured, Ellie primly scolded Frazetta for paintings she now considered "too sexy" or "sacrilegious."


"I really didn't care for... the alien crucifixion.... when you start messing with people's core beliefs, that's when the joke's gone way too far." --Ellie

When his art offended her, she threatened to destroy it. She pestered him into altering a painting when she thought a woman's rump was too large. To please her, he would paint pictures of Jesus.

Frazetta fans watched aghast: would married life tame their hero?

Outsiders can't always appreciate how marriage provides its own version of magic spells and alien planets. Marriage can introduce you to the true meaning of life-or-death stakes; you think a giant lizard with a ray gun is daunting? Try bringing new life trembling into the world, and taking permanent responsibility for it.

And of course, marriage also provides you with an opportunity to do your own version of that barbarian-and-harem-girl thing.

A couple must get beyond what poet Eavan Boland calls "the easy graces and sensuality of the body" and face life's true challenges before they understand "what there is between a man and a woman. And in which darkness it can best be proved."

The Frazettas stayed together through thick and thin, through lean years when assignments were hard to find, through vicious quarrels and illness and a stroke.

After Ellie died, Frazetta's publisher J. David Spurlock visited him alone in his studio. Spurlock discovered that Frazetta had taken down his world famous illustrations from the walls and replaced them with pictures he had painted of Ellie over the years.



Spurlock reported that even when the face wasn't an exact likeness, it was obvious that Ellie had been the inspiration for each picture Frank selected.



In case there was any lingering doubt about the role Frazetta's marriage played in his work, Spurlock spotted Frazetta's famous painting, "Adventure," on his drawing board.



Frazetta was carefully repainting the face on the girl as the face of his late wife.

163 Comments:

Blogger Charles Valsechi III said...

Great post. Definitely some pieces I haven't seen before.

8/09/2010 1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Joe Vicas's Frazetta fantasy art forum there have been quite a few revelations both positive and negative coming out concerning the Frazetta's relationship.

Al McLuckie

8/09/2010 2:09 PM  
Blogger Michael Fraley said...

Frazetta's art tends to remind me, in some ways, of Peter Paul Rubens. That strong element of fantasy, the full bodied sensual figures that in one way or another reflect the men's wives, and the weak nature of their religious pictures. To me, this is no indication of faith or a lack of it. I think it's a matter of playing to your strengths, and when Frazetta painted his Jesus pictures, he just wasn't ... but he did it for the woman he loved. A "good" painting of Jesus that isn't sappy and sentimental on one hand or empty propaganda on the other can be a darn hard task.

8/09/2010 5:17 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

David,
I admire much of Frazetta's work and appreciate your positive, thoughtful posts. I do not intend to be trollish. But in the comments section of "Girls Gathering Flowers", Mellie referred to Bouguereau's "Cupid and Psyche" as "most dreadful kitsch" to which you responded, "No argument there!" Could you please elaborate why you feel the the Boug is kitsch yet Frazetta's painting of the nude rider on the beach is not?

8/09/2010 6:04 PM  
Blogger Donald Pittenger said...

Not an original thought, but I've believed for some time that Frazetta's depictions of women were mostly of his wife: note facial structure and the snub nose one finds time and again when leafing through books of his art.

8/09/2010 6:05 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Al McLuckie -- thanks, I was not familiar with Joe Vicas's Frazetta Forum but it looks like there is a lot of interesting discussion going on over there. They seem to think that Frazetta's sexually explicit story, "The Adventures of Toolonga" was already destroyed at Ellie's direction, but Doc Dave's blog on Frazetta, which usually offers the inside scoop (http://frazfritz.blogspot.com/2010/06/frazetta-and-toolonga.html) suggests that most of the story still exists.

Michael, I don't disagree with you. And Rubens and Frazetta aren't the only ones. After Tolstoy had his great religious conversion, he complained that so many artists liked to paint the temptation of St. Anthony so they could lavish attention on the nude woman whiile giving only cursory attention to the saint himself.

Etc, etc: I agree with you that the Frazetta picture of the nude rider is quite kitschy. I also think Bouguereau's "Cupid and Psyche" is a far superior painting. But to clarify, I don't take offense at kitsch in artwork the way some people do. I kinda like it, especially in pulp magazine covers.

Donald Pittenger: I think you're right. I see the same features.

8/09/2010 6:49 PM  
Blogger docdave said...

Dave: I lost your email over a year ago when my hard drive crashed. I want to compliment you on your superb site.

Yes, as for Frank's porno stories, he told me during our second-to last conversation that he did NOT destroy them. He circulated that story because he was getting a lot of pressure from many sources to publish them. He wanted to shut everybody up!

As for Frank/Ellie, there are many, many myths that have grown around them over the years. All of these things are in the process of being clarified. One of the myths is that Frank used Ellie a great deal as a model. Not true. Not true at all. I would put the number of instances at less than 10, that's it. If people understood the overall dynamics of their relationship, then it would become very clear why this is the case. Their marriage was far, far from idyllic. All these things will gradually emerge.

Again, thanks for all your efforts with this site, Dave. It is sensational!

Cheers!

DocDave

8/09/2010 9:28 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

DocDave: Welcome, it's good to hear from you. I have especially enjoyed your expert blog over the last several months as you have been freed up to write on more and varied subjects.

Thanks for your thoughtful comment here. You note: "One of the myths is that Frank used Ellie a great deal as a model. Not true.... If people understood the overall dynamics of their relationship, then it would become very clear why this is the case. Their marriage was far, far from idyllic."

Yes, Ellie herself has said that she did not pose for Frank after their early flirtatious days, although because she was the woman he "knew" and the relationship of his life, she seems to turn up regularly in his artistic prototype of women.

Personally, I didn't know either of them well enough to have insight into their private lives. (I met Ellie only once when I made a pilgrimage to the Frazetta museum in my youth. We had a long and delightful talk. She held her bible in her hand the whole time, but it was clear that behind her sweet smile was one tough old bird.)

As for their less-than-idyllic relationship, that's one of the parts that interests me. Every couple makes their own deal. Who knows why people stay together for 50+ years? Frazetta certainly had enough money and worshipful fans so that he could have lived in a sultan's tent with twelve adoring concubines in leopard skin sarongs if he wanted. Yet, he chose to stay and bark it out with Ellie.

The poem I cited explores this very point. It talks about an ill-fated couple that clung together and died in 1847, and tells us to put aside all the mushy and superficial love poems because we are all on a journey alone through the night under the freezing stars, where there is only "this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and a woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved."

I know a lot of Frazetta's fans despised the idea that their hero could be henpecked. Some of them have written into your blog, indignant about Ellie. But the heart wants what it wants, and ultimately we act upon that with our feet. Frank stayed.

8/09/2010 10:46 PM  
Anonymous Raihan said...

Of course there is nothing wrong with traditional marriagebay area wedding photography has to be unique. Its approach has to be creative and documentary. And there has to be a natural approach in bay area wedding photography. It is a lovely concept. With all of the single parents in society today, however, this idea of “till death do us part” needs clarification.

8/10/2010 5:02 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Frazetta is a great example of the chemistry of a genius. He paints great pictures of the most powerful heroes in the world while his wife yells in his ear.

8/10/2010 7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ellie Frazetta played a major role in her husband's artistic success. Like your earlier "Artist in Love" Charlie Russell, she cleaned up his act and sold his work. If she hadn't dragged him off the ball field we wouldn't have half the masterpieces we have today.

8/10/2010 8:39 AM  
Blogger Lucas Ferreyra said...

Great post!

8/10/2010 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Tony Soprano said...

Why is it so difficult to understand FF's relationship wih Ellie. Italian society has two good female prototypes the Virgin Mary and Mama.You have fun with 'the other kind' of girl but you marry the VM/Mama type who then treats you like a son.Very strange, eh Goombah.

8/10/2010 10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks Frazetta wasn't inspired by his wife should take another look at that painting of her on all fours.

8/11/2010 4:19 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Browsing the Frazetta forums, I never realized he had such rabid fans, many of whom take issue with Ellie. Personally I feel Frazetta, master/creator of the genre though he was, could have taste issues and absolutely needed someone to help him filter and edit his impulses, many of which may well have had a negative effect on his commercial success.

8/11/2010 8:57 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Etc, etc: the reaction of Frazetta's rabid fans was much of the premise for this week's post. There are a lot of fans out there who believe that without Ellie's censorship, Frazetta would have done more of the lurid work they craved. Also, when Frazetta generously wanted to give work away to fans, Ellie blocked him (and sometimes when he slipped one picture through, she would chase them down and reclaim it). Some fans are convinced that if it weren't for Ellie, their hero would have spent more time chatting with them. Combine that with the fact that fans witnessed her chewing out their idol, and it's no wonder many resented her.

I suspect that, as with a lot of married artists, Frazetta was often secretly grateful for the protective wall that his spouse built around him, and would not have had nearly the career that he did without her.

I have seen lots of married artists where the spouse ends up as the business manager who plays the "bad cop," taking a tough line when negotiating prices or royalty deals, holding fans at arm's length, and generally freeing the artist to get on with his work without worrying about paper clips and taxes. This enables the artist to maintain his easy going demeanor with fans and clients by shrugging his shoulders, pointing to the ol' ball and chain, and whispering, "What can I do?"

This timeless symbiotic relationship is a very effective distribution of responsibilities, and I suspect that Frazetta must have understood that, regardless of what he told fans. The ferocious natural urge of a mother to see that her children have a roof over their heads and food in their mouths has been one of the greatest forces for the creation of art in the history of the world.

8/11/2010 11:44 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"A 'good' painting of Jesus that isn't sappy and sentimental on one hand or empty propaganda on the other can be a darn hard task."

Isn't the story of Jesus supposed to be inherently sentimental? Isn't that one of the major draws to the Jesus myth?

Also, how would you distinguish between a portrayal of Jesus as 'empty propaganda', and a portrayal of him as... not 'empty propaganda'? I would love to see examples if you could provide.


"I've believed for some time that Frazetta's depictions of women were mostly of his wife: note facial structure and the snub nose one finds time and again when leafing through books of his art."

Isn't it just as likely that Frazetta had a failed relationship or unrequited love for a woman with these features when he was younger and thus idolized those forms in his art and in his relationships?

I see this time and time again; men dating women who looked like a previous ex/first love -- not because they preferred this look aesthetically, but because it was somehow ingrained emotionally in their psyche.

8/11/2010 1:22 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

David, "This timeless symbiotic relationship is a very effective distribution of responsibilities, and I suspect that Frazetta must have understood that, regardless of what he told fans."

Yes yes yes.

8/11/2010 1:25 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>fans out there who believe that without Ellie's censorship, Frazetta would have done more of the lurid work they craved.<<<

Fans, trolls, delusional characters like John Hinckley...what's the difference? They dislike prosaic realities like their's. They have difficulty understanding that artists (in any art form) are separate from their subject matter or the roles they play. Doubtless, the poor deluded fans believed that Frazetta was heavily muscled, wielded a sword and was surrounded with pneumatic sloe-eyed beauties.

8/12/2010 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Lynell Ingram said...

This is a great post. So many things influence our lives and our work that it's interesting to think of it from the viewpoint of someone who was such an influence himself.

8/12/2010 4:26 PM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Rob, are you trying to suggest that Frazetta didn't have girls swinging from his testicles? Watch out, the fanboys will get ya!

I don't actually get the whole fanboy thing. Frazetta was a damn fine painter of barbarians swinging bouncy buxom dames in one hand and sword in the other, but it doesn't really seem to go beyond that. And I suspect we have him to thank for hacks like those muscle pumping twits Julie and Borry whatchamacallits.

And word verification today is fantypo, which I am sure is a derogatory term for fanboy

8/12/2010 7:46 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Frazetta was a damn fine painter of barbarians swinging bouncy buxom dames in one hand and sword in the other, but it doesn't really seem to go beyond that.

Something about the above comment reminds me of a fan typo... something written by a dweeby admirer than is so clearly wrong it could only have been written accidentally.

8/12/2010 8:18 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

"A "good" painting of Jesus that isn't sappy and sentimental...."

Did someone mention Boris?
http://tinyurl.com/db3k4m

8/12/2010 8:38 PM  
Blogger Steve Fastner said...

David,
It's inevitable that people will gossip about Frazetta's art because his fame,and his life because it was usually mentioned in books and magazine articles about him,but in defense of the fans,they're not art scholars.They come into it as an enjoyable hobby.They don't obsess about illustration history and some critic's search for psychological meanings in a paperback cover,even though they obsess about other stuff like inking styles and mint copies.
The choice of 'henpecked' is questionable because it implies that he meekly went along with Ellie's every suggestion.I think he was smart enough to go with the good ones.I realize you've touched on this point.Many of her ideas were damn good.Holding on to the original art and selling reproduction rights,starting the poster business,etc...They probably argued,most married couples do,but Frank probably gave as good as he got.
He was a good athlete in his youth.He had an offer to join a pro ball team.There's a photo of him on a Harley that shows bulging arm muscles that would rival Rob Howard's.Maybe that sparks a little envy from fans and critics alike.His health declined after a series of heart attacks and strokes,but that's life.
I think that most fan opinions about Ellie were actually complimentary, because she encouraged them.I can't recall reading an insulting comment about fans from her,has anyone?I don't think the fan's opinions ever reached the level of Yoko Ono resentment,or even came close to it.I don't think fan opinions were ever a big problem for the Frazettas.They knew they prospered from their fan base.
When I visited the Frazetta Museum she was the tour guide,and she answered every question graciously,no matter how off the wall it might have been.I realize that's also good salesmanship,but she treated fans with respect,and they mostly thought well of her.

8/13/2010 2:49 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Etc, etc: I love that Boris painting of Jesus. It's hard to avoid bursting out laughing every time I see it. That just about says it all, don't it?

Steve Fastner: As I have said, I didn't know either Frank or Ellie Frazetta well enough to speak with authority about their love life. (I met Frank only once, when I was 16). But even if I'd known them for 20 years, nobody really knows what goes on between a couple. Every couple makes their own deal, for their own private reasons.

My experience with Ellie was the same as yours; she was very gracious when I visited the museum. However, it is also hard to avoid the fan rage on the internet. A good example is this recent comment on Doc Dave's authoritative blog about Frazetta:

"I strongly feel that she actually lacked basic respect for him and for his greatness beyond the lowest moneygrabbing opportunities concerning his artwork. I don't doubt this story with the 'hide the drawing in your pocket' [Doc Dave's post related how Frazetta had asked Doc Dave to hide a drawing Frazetta had given him so Ellie wouldn't see it and get mad] explained detail nor the one where she serves the lunch to Mr. Frazetta and nags him for not churning out abstract paintings, ruining him his meal...."

These young worshippers are probably comparing the Frazetta relationship to a Hallmark Valentine they saw once, and don't appreciate the depth or intricacies of a 50 year relationship. That's why I thought Spurlock's revealing story deserved a wider audience.

8/13/2010 6:23 AM  
Anonymous Rex said...

You know I dont think Frank married Ellie for her art knowledge or indeed her love of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The fact that she took a proprietorial role in her husband's career was probably due to 'having her feet on the ground' as wives of creative people so often do.From this point of view her commercial ideas were ,expectedly, somewhat mundane, but so often the advice of family members, however well-intentioned, is usually pretty useless. Once these fanboys grow up and get married they'll see how stupid their ideas are.

8/13/2010 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David - out of all the thousands of paintings Boris has done his bodybuilder/Jesus oil is my favorite - in fact it's the only one I can stand to look at ! To think he probably painted that in all sincerity , perhaps feeling he was capturing some transcendent concept - he in fact transcended kitsch with that effort . Frazetta's nude beach rider by comparison cannot be defined as kitsch.

8/13/2010 1:54 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

I suppose the floating cross suggests it is an allegory, probably with the theological message of Christ being victorious over the cross and therefore death.

"he in fact transcended kitsch with that effort . Frazetta's nude beach rider by comparison cannot be defined as kitsch."

From that perspective, indeed very little would be defined as kitsch.

8/13/2010 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a rare interview one of my favorite artists , Alex Kanevsky , said that someday he would like to do a painting of kittens , and Elvis , and attempt to transcend the ascribed sentimentality attached to those two kitschy subjects .

8/13/2010 4:01 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I think what is most impressive about Frazetta's best works is how he transcends the kitchiness of the subject matter. Which, I think, proves that there is no subject matter that can not be great art, given enough talent, taste, craftsmanship, verve, and daring.

That Boris is priceless. Laugh out loud classic.

8/13/2010 4:11 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Perhaps we are being unfair to Boris about that Jesus painting. Just as Rene Magritte painted his famous "Ce n'est pas une pipe," perhaps this is Boris' way of presenting the same kind of surrealistic contradiction: "ce n'est pas the lamb of god." (Or in the alternative, perhaps Boris was exploring the notion that following his crucifixion, Jesus reverted to a wrathful, old testament god and is coming down to kick butt?)

Must we rush to judgment that this is the most comically dumbass painting of the 20th century? Well... if we must, we must.

Etc, etc wrote: "From that perspective, indeed very little would be defined as kitsch." True. That would truly be setting the bar too high.

Kev, I agree that Frazetta usually transcended kitschiness. It's not surprising that the rider on the beach turned out to be sentimental slop, given the subject matter and the time of his life. He was entitled.

8/13/2010 4:52 PM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Kev, i was imagining it more as fanty po.

8/13/2010 5:31 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Yeah, I never cared for that painting (or most of the other pieces you posted this time out.)

What is interesting about that "wild ride" picture, and some of the other stuff that he was doing after 1980 was how he was changing his palette, moving away from heavy dark shadows towards pastels, and finding inspiration in other artists, like the seascape artists often discussed on Stapleton Kearns' great blog, guys like Waugh and Vickery. Their influence seems evident. It is very sad that soon afterwards, he was struck with the thyroid problem, and wasn't able to pursue this line of interest.

Your remarks on dada brought to mind this recent masterpiece, which demonstrates that
photoshop, dada, and kitsch seem to go hand and hand.

8/13/2010 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>Once these fanboys grow up and get married they'll see how stupid their ideas are.

These fanboys will never grow up. When they're 40 they'll still be masturbating to the women in Frazetta's illustrations, with no better sense of the "real" woman behind those illustrations.

Good post about fantasy and reality.

8/13/2010 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another great post David. Considering the subject, I expected no less than that.

Kev, good observation on the palette. I also noted a more 'smooth' application of paint, softer edges and a general lessening of that rough energy we see in all the earlier paintings. Perhaps that is just because those earlier paintings were done quickly, to adhere to strict deadlines and an overabundance of work (and possibly, a less structured management of time).

I have a feeling, judging from my own experience, that Ellie brought, among the usual personal pluses and minuses, some objectivity in business dealings. As artists, we so easily fall prey to the complimenting fans and give in to lesser prices, free art, too much social time, etc etc. Many times, a wife can help by interceding and injecting some control and common sense into the dealings.

And maybe I am a philistine, but all I see in the beach/horse/ellie painting is a beautiful work of art.

-ken meyer jr, still google account challenged

8/13/2010 9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The beach/ride oil was painted right after recovering from the thyroid ordeal and was , I believe , a sincere expression of elation from feeling alive and vital again - I can't imagine him second guessing or worrying that someone might find it sentimental/kitsch .

Maybe Boris will do his version of this piece someday , with a female bodybuilder plastered with tats veins and gold serpentine body jewelry astride a horse with tusks .

Al McLuckie

8/13/2010 9:57 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Al,

Frazetta states in the 1994 Groth interview that "The first symptoms happened about 1986" and went on for eight years.

In the Comics Interview with Frazetta, Steve Ringgenberg indicates that the interview was conducted upon the opening of the museum, which was in 1985, (although the interview was published in 1987). There are several references to "Wild Ride" (which Frazetta calls "a beautiful painting of a girl riding a horse along a California Beach") in the in the interview, which would place its creation in 1985 or earlier... and it certainly has the soft look of paintings like Huns, which appeared on the cover of Frazetta book 5 and is dated 1994. Since this would be about the time they were coming back from Hollywood after Fire and Ice wrapped, the California subject matter seems apropos.

Am I missing something?

8/14/2010 12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kev - Al

I need to reread that interview and the one with Groth - have you read the interview in which Frazetta describes , as a teenager , being rejected by a girl and her family , then walking alongside an old iron fence and tearing off the rungs in a state of rage ? Can't recall who conducted it but it was a good one .

At a winter '86 visit which ended up in their home , with Frank in the hospital , I recall Ellie relating his illness and being in and out of the hospital and that Wild Ride was done after what turned out to be one of 2 or 3 temporary rallies from his condition , not the final one which was unfortunately followed by his strokes .

The conversation began in the museum then in their home , probably 6 hours of speaking , but that is what I recall .

8/14/2010 1:07 AM  
Blogger Steve Fastner said...

David,
I checked out the DocDave site(which is a lot of fun,by the way) and found exactly one negative Ellie post on it,which hardly constitutes an unavoidable'wave of fan rage'.My point was that the majority of Frazetta fans had a mostly positive opinion of Ellie.I can even see how the guy came to his conclusion(totally off-base that it was)from Dave's 'Frank's abstract art',and the 'porno Tarzan and La'stories.I was impressed that Dave replied"no offense taken" also.
I also waded into Joe Vicas's Frazetta site,checking out the RIP Ellie posts and skimming 3 pages of the general topics sections and didn't find any damning Ellie posts,other than some comments about her having strong opinions and such.
I have no doubt that there are some Frazetta fans that are cranks and are insufferable,just as there are movie,music,political, sports,and illustration fans that are wacky,but I honestly believe that MOST Frazetta fans had a positive opinion of Ellie.
Your comments about"a lot of fans believed.."seems to be based on a small sampling,unless someone can point me to other anti-Ellie stuff.

8/14/2010 1:22 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/14/2010 9:13 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

endsp>>>Frazetta was a damn fine painter of barbarians swinging bouncy buxom dames in one hand and sword in the other, but it doesn't really seem to go beyond that. <<<

As a practical working artist, what impresses me is not the subject matter, that's for fans. What impressed me most was his firm grasp of early 20th century composition precepts like Jay Hambidge's Dynamic Symmetry. He put thos concepts to work very nicely. That's the brainy part of picture making.

It's important to realise that an illustrator seldom can do a "wall-to-wall" illustration, as an easel painter can. He has to leave large areas open for type. Thus the originals can look somewhat blank and lacking in emotion. Where Frazetta was admirable was in controlling the weight of those open spaces. That's no mean feat and it one of the more thoughtful and intellectual aspects of picture making.

Despite the subject matter, he was not anything like a crude barbarian when he had a brush in his hand. He knew how to design for the medium it was meant for...the printing press. Fans think that they are done to be framed on gallery walls or for posters. But that's the difference between fans who operate on the obvious surface and those trained to look a bit deeper.

Fans want to know the intimate aspects of his life, as though that gives any insight into his art, yet they will never spend the time to educate themselves past the obvious name-dropping and star-f***ing. Actually learning about that boring art stuff is, well like ya know...like majorly boring, dewd.

8/14/2010 9:16 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

I was just looking out the window, over the gardens and the tennis court, down to the lake and thinking about the importance of an anti-fan woman like Ellie Frazetta. It's difficult to concentrate on making pictures if you're buried in dunning phone calls.

Like many artists, I've always been a good money maker but not so good as a money keeper. Having someone by my side to inform me that the future can stetch more than 15 minutes long and that I needn't buy every toy on the market, gives me an ease that allows me to concentrate on making pictures that make money. That puts me in a better position to help young artists.

I'd hardly call prudent behavior that builds a comfortable life hen-pecking. It's all about playing as a team.

8/14/2010 9:33 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Al,

I've dug out the '85 interview and Wild Ride is said to be "nearly finished" and sitting on his easel. He also mentions that, by that time, he had painted the girl on the horse 10 different way, and still wasn't sure he was satisfied. He certainly worked on that girl more through the years as I saw it in several different states myself on the museum walls. But the bulk of the painting was clearly done before he had his first thyroid symptoms. Ellie may have been referring to him finishing the painting up (temporarily, anyway) during an early, temporary remission.

Either way, I believe the point stands that Frazetta's illness prevented him from developing a body of work in the more lyrical mode of his early 80s style.

Rob, Frazetta talks about Dynamic Symmetry in just about every interview. Frankly, I think he was obsessed with it. He was particularly fond of Maxfield Parrish's use of it among illustrators and always cites Parrish as an influence. You can see three different size golden ratio calipers hanging on the wall in many of the photos of his studio and he reportedly drove Ralph Bakshi crazy by demanding that every scene in Fire and Ice have that certain mathematical something that gave his pictures such life and dynamism. You can also see faint tracing lines in Frazetta's preliminary comps where he was working out the dynamic symmetry of his picture before proceeding to final. As usual, you know your stuff.

8/14/2010 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kev - Al No argument , the painting was in a flux state for awhile and I agree that it's sad that so many productive years have been lost with his art - 9 yrs. with Capp , 8 with the thyroid and the rest from strokes .

Used to grid Franks art and see that he did employ DS , but always wondered if he did it instinctively or intentionally .

8/14/2010 11:47 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Steve Fastner wrote: "I checked out the DocDave site(which is a lot of fun,by the way) and found exactly one negative Ellie post on it"

Steve, I don't want this to turn into an inventory of fan grievances against Ellie. My whole point in this post was that there are things that transpire between a mature couple that don't make a lot of sense to youngsters who have not yet been tested by life's stronger winds. Many of these fans have romantic misconceptions about how Frazetta's art is produced. Some are jealous that they didn't get to marry Frazetta themselves.

If you return to Doc Dave's site, I'm sure you will easily find the various posts saying Ellie "berated" her husband for not producing more work, that she second guessed his subject matter (not just the racy bits, but arguing he could've made more money if he painted abstract pictures), that Al Williamson refused to call Frazetta for 10 years because he didn't want to take the chance that he would have to talk to Ellie. You'll even find quotes from Frazetta saying that Ellie was going to "break his balls" over something, or saying, "I don't want Ellie to find out. I don't need the grief." These are the kinds of stories, from a wide variety of sources over the years, that made Frazetta fans indignant. (I'm sure fan resentment toward Ellie subsided after she died, and was transferred to Frazetta's two new "marketing representatives." There was even a "Ghost of Ellie" blog for a while, attacking the people who it claimed were mismanaging Frank's life.)

I think "Artists in Love" are a fitting subject for this blog not because I am trying to compete with People Magazine as a clearinghouse for gossip, but because I think the overlap of two such elemental forces can be very illuminating. Despite the friction and the harsh words that surface over a lifetime together, the way that Spurlock described Frazetta alone and thinking about Ellie was quite touching, and the way she influenced and surfaced in his pictures, quite worthy of note.

8/14/2010 3:53 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rob Howard wrote: "Like many artists, I've always been a good money maker but not so good as a money keeper. Having someone by my side to inform me that the future can stretch more than 15 minutes long and that I needn't buy every toy on the market, gives me an ease that allows me to concentrate on making pictures that make money."

Rob, I have seen that again and again. It sounds like Richard, Rex, anonymous and a few other commenters are familiar with the syndrome as well.

And as one commenter remembered (which I had not) I previously wrote about cowboy artist Charlie Russell who would have died an anonymous dabbler if his new wife hadn't dragged him out of the back of a saloon, cleaned him up and started charging reasonable prices for his art. I'm sure his drinking buddies resented her for it.

There is often some friction because of the two different roles of the artist and the caretaker, but quite frequently the artist ends up the net beneficiary.

8/14/2010 4:05 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Ellie was incredibly generous a couple of times with me, for which I am grateful.

All the other times I found her straining. In some weird way, I think she thought of the museum as her performance space. I think she really wanted attention in her own right. Like many desperate social performers I've met, I think she was frustrated that she couldn't control my attention. I had a sense that she was accustomed to getting what she wanted and manipulating minds. I often would notice that Heidi, who would assist her mother on occasion, seemed very intimidated by her. Internally, Ellie was volcanic. You could feel it palpably.

When I would politely and without emotion rebuff Ellie's attempts to get me to buy some print or book or other, I would invariably notice a look of shock on Heidi's face.

The second to last time I visited the museum, I brought along some friends, and when it became apparent that we were only there to look at the paintings, and not to buy posters or books or what have you, she wildly overcharged us for admission. On the ride home, I heard just as much, "I didn't like that lady," as I heard praise for the art.

It must be understood and appreciated that Ellie was under phenomenal pressure as the grand matriarch of the Frazetta Kingdom. If the Frazetta marriage was a kind of war for control, her victory came with a price. Not just because her husband's sickness and her controlling "emasculated" him (my impression). But I vividly recall her talking early on about the massive expense of keeping the whole Kingdom going and how much money their kids required and how everything was so bound up with the business. The fissures that appeared in her psyche under pressure, only seemed to widen as time wore on and expenses mounted.

The first time I met Ellie at the earlier museum, all she talked about was how the paintings reflected that "Frank was an ass man." The last time it was all "Sinners in the hands of an angry god."

And then she had to deal with the fans: I still laugh at one guy who stared at the same painting for like a half an hour only to finally turn away to say to Ellie, "I bet Frazetta is really good at Math." Ellie replied, "I'm sure he'd be good at whatever he put his mind to." She then turned away from this guy, looked at me, and rolled her eyes.

I once called the museum early one Saturday to make sure it was open before undertaking the long trip out to East Stroudsberg. Ellie's first words to me were, "Are you the same guy who called the house last night at one o'clock in the morning?"

Ultimately, she has my sympathy, qualified as it is.

(Just in case: I'm sure most are aware that the paragraph I wrote on Frazetta using Dynamic symmetry was a joke... all nonsense.)

8/14/2010 4:53 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Frazetta talks about Dynamic Symmetry in just about every interview<<< I confess to being a poor quality fan. I never read any interview with Frazetta. The only time I ever met him was when he was working for Al Capp and I saw how he diluted his ink...(dark grey reproduces as well as pure black), without the hassles. Past that, he was just another bullpen artist to me. Who knew that he would have spawned a legion of people sifting through his dumpster for information about who and what he was. He struck me as tough kinda guy who has a sensitive core. I probably struck him the same way. So much for the sacred meeting. I was far from being a fan.

Knowing that he was into Hambidge was just a guess on my part. Doubtless there are documented treatises on his annoying mentioning of Dynamic Symmetry (along with the meals and intimate postures he most enjoyed with his wife). All I know is what I see and the Hambidge influence in Frazetta's compositons are as obvious to me as Hokusai's influnce on my compostions would be to any student of art history.

You grab ahold of something that works and you use it. But first you have to know about it before you recognize it. And that's where the fans come a'cropper. It's a foreign language to them. They really don't know what's going on in the picture and think that having a pair of Ellie's autgraphed underpants will hold a secret for them.

Unless you've ever gone hungry...really, really -- navel to the backbone hungry, you'll never understand.

8/14/2010 7:18 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Rob, I have seen that again and again. It sounds like Richard, Rex, anonymous and a few other commenters are familiar with the syndrome as well. <<<

The only reason i bring that up is as an encouragement to others. As my unnamed detractors have pointed out, I'm a no-talent hack (all of them can claim to have a six year-old at home who can do as well as I have). The reason for me posting anything about my personal life is to show that even a no-talent hack can have what they only dream of having. And, with their talents and drive, why shouldn't they have it?

It's all there for the taking. If a hack like myself can get it, then truly talented, knowledgeable and intelligent humans like them can EASILY leave their cubicles and reach much greater heights than I could have dreamed of.

I post those facts only as encouragement for those truly talented anonymous posters who feel that they are condemned to...well, posting anonymously. I hope to encourage them to assume their rightful identity and their place in the pantheon of artists who (unlike me) really make a difference...the ones whose names they drop.

I also hope to guide them toward taking on their spouse or insignificant other as a partner...a team mate and giving control of the checkbook over to them.

Judging from the tenor of what I have read, this forum is teeming with towering talents just waiting to be directed out the of shadows of anonymity and into the bright lights. If the example of this lowly paint smearer can help those potential masters to emerge. I will feel that my life was not in vain...actually, I don't feel that at all.

8/14/2010 7:38 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Rob,

I indicated further down that, in that paragraph you quote from where I cited "evidence", I had been joking. To my knowledge, there is no evidence at all that Frazetta was interested in Dynamic Symmetry.

Odds are good Frazetta either, on occasion, used informal methods of gridding (which he may have found in Loomis), or that he simply intuited whatever geometries geometry-seekers "recognize" as "obvious" in his works.

But it would take a more learned Frazetta-chronicler than I to confirm or deny the above.

8/14/2010 10:35 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev-- thanks for an insightful and sympathetic treatment of Ellie's plight. I found it most interesting. Fending off those swarming fans calling in the middle of the night must have been enough to drive anyone crazy. I suspect they treated her worse than she ever treated them.

Rob Howard-- I don't know nothing about no tennis courts; the one indicator of success that resonated with me was that your wife of many years still lets you know daily that you were worth waiting for. As far as I'm concerned, can't get more successful than that.

8/14/2010 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Michael Stern said...

This may seem a strange question to ask, but why is Frazetta so highly regarded? I see a reasonably talented artist overworking one particular idea and everyone is in raptures.To be honest it seems a bit like the Emperor's new clothes to me.A stereotypical 'barbarian' hero an implausibly shaped and odd looking maiden and some kind of predatory beast.A thousand variations follow.Why does this resonate so much with those old enough to know better? I just don't get it.They're well enough painted, but after that?

8/15/2010 4:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why does this resonate so much with those old enough to know better? I just don't get it.They're well enough painted, but after that?"

Men never grow up. He Tarzan, Me Jane.

(Oddly the word verification is "childen")

8/15/2010 5:11 AM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Mike Stern, what is the prescribed subject matter for those "old enough to know better"?

8/15/2010 6:47 AM  
Anonymous Michael Stern said...

Isn't there a point in life where anyone sensible moves beyond magic crystals, demonic elves and shape-changing wizards.I'm not sure which is worse a talented artist ploughing this banal furrow for most of his artistic life or a legion of demonic cowering fangoblins-of varying ages- lapping it up like ambrosia.
It seems to me a legion of great artists like Zorn, Sorolla, Homer,Sargent etc were able to produce beautiful images without ever needing to render a serpent tressed Sorceress or giant axe- wielding Vikings.

8/15/2010 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Stern, one reason is that Frazetta invented that "stereotypical 'barbarian' hero" along with lots of other "stereotypes." Also, people love sexy paintings irregardless of the subject matter and Frazetta's paintings are very macho and sexual in a timeless way. His energy and potency transcend his subject matter.

8/15/2010 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Michael Stern said...

Yes, I can see the energy.But unfortunately I also see a kind of 'wish fulfilment' element which makes me think you should be out fixing your car or something else grown up rather than this kind of fantasy role-playing.
Don't get me wrong FF is ok but surely all this adulation is well...a bit odd.

8/15/2010 10:00 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Mike,

Are you trolling?

If you think subject matter matters to great art, then you are the immature one. Do you think Zorn's subject matter is interesting or innovative? Rich guy in a suit.... nude bathing... By thousands of other artists these subjects are cliche. By Zorn, it is great. It isn't the subject matter.

As Dean Cornwell said, no matter what the assigned subject, the goal of the artist was to make the picture seem the culmination of your life's one ambition.

If it bothers you that a bunch of fans do like fantasy subject matter, what are you going to do about it? I mean, besides whine. Are you really that interested in seeming more mature than them by announcing your superiority to them on this blog?

Color me impressed.

8/15/2010 11:52 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi Kev

Who did the trolling picture? Frazetta or maybe Burne Hograth?

8/15/2010 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Michael Stern said...

I wasn't aware that I was whining. I was merely posing a question as to what does Frazetta do to inspire such adulation and why do grown men succumb to such childish fantasies.
However you want to dress up Mr Frazetta's oeuvre, his work in no way deserves to hang next to those 'serious' artists I mentioned earlier.
Yes, as a paperback cover artist he was very successful but for some reason a commercial artist producing variations on the same theme for years seems to arouse such blind devotion.
Maybe its something to do with Harry Potter, which is also lost on me,but I do find this phenomena interesting.

8/15/2010 1:18 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

If you say so, Mikey. You're the big grown up around here that looks at "adult" subject matter... people in suits, nude women, people on the beach...

If you want to really be mature, why not just put on a suit, hire a nude woman, and take her to the beach?

Why are you looking at art, anyway, given that all art is a kind of fantasy?

Or didn't you realize that all those pretty pictures in paint you like aren't photos?

8/15/2010 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Michael Stern said...

You were discussing the nude horse rider on the beach earlier, to me it isnt some peculiar anomaly of taste that he could create such an image. It was exactly the kind of thing that this guy could do, and yet you express surprise that he could somehow come so close to kitsch.Well,you know, maybe that other stuff is walking a similar line.And when he expressed right-wing views you somehow detatch those from the creator of your fantasies. It's all linked Kev, I'm just surprised you can't or won't see it.
That's why you have to fall back on silly reductive arguments or sarcasm.

8/15/2010 4:58 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"It isn't the subject matter"



if you dismiss subject matter then aren't you saying that art is simply all about technique ?

for me, Sargent had the most perfect oil painting technique, yet i can't help but wishing he'd painted something a little more personal. something that dug a little deeper into his own inner world instead of another swagger portrait, however deftly executed. Edward Hopper, who looked behind the facade of modern life to produce some of the most prescient, influential images of the 20th century... had a rather lacking technique. with some artists it's quite easy to separate technique from content, but Frazetta's a bit trickier. i'd certainly be interested to see what he might have done had he moved away from his usual subject matter, but i strongly doubt his technique would have been better suited to anything else. or to put it another way, without the buxom wenches and muscled barbarians, Frazetta wouldn't be Frazetta.

8/15/2010 5:32 PM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

I honestly don't get why "adolescent" is a derrogative term in this context. We are discussing illustrators here. If Frazetta was a children's illustrator who made paintings of really funny characters doing silly things, and if such paintings were highly successeful among his target audience, and highly accomplished technically, would we feel the need to distance ourselves from the subject matter? I think not. Then why do it when we substitute "adolescent" for "child"?

Maybe its insecurity. We don't fear being mistaken for children just because we admire the work of a children's illustrator. But perhaps we are less secure about having ditched adolescence?...before someone starts feeling offended I'll be the first to admit that I have some adolescent remnants, hell I'll even confess to some remnants of childhood...

I was looking just now at a book on "lifestyle illustration in the 60s". It's almost all about illustrations in women's magazines. Do I care? No, I care about the illustrations, the technique, and so on.

I won't even go into the fact that the basic themes of adolescence (sex and violence) that fuel Frazetta's pictures have a far greater reality to them (even when turned into gnomes and faeries fantasies ) and are much more eternal constants of human life than most of the nonsense that is illustrated -hell, that is lived up to- in the "grown-up" world: coca-cola ads, the latest gizmo, perfumes, the face of some rich asshole, whatever...Frazetta's stuff is not much more infantile than, say, the norse myths, and just a bit more than the greek ones, while the crap that fills the life of the grown-up idiots I see around me (especially the ones who spend too much of their time washing their car - God, i swear some would blow it if they could, and I do not mean blow-dry either) is far more depressingly retarded than any thing Frazetta drew. At least a good arse is a good arse, "dynamically symmetric" or not.

8/15/2010 5:41 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Mike,

Not sure I know what you are talking about. Did I express the surprise you assert I did? Nope. Did you come up with any answers to my so-called reductive arguments? Nope.

Did I ever say that Frazetta's fantasies were my fantasies? Nope.

You think Frazetta's work is all kitsch? Congratulations, you have an opinion.

And as far as Frazetta expressing right wing views... so what? I hold some right wing views myself. And some left wing ones. And some libertarian views. Mostly the view I hold is that people who can't tolerate an opposing viewpoint, who fall back on calling people right wing fascists or some such label at the drop of the hat, are the real problem in the world. My lone bigotry is against ideological robots programmed with righteousness by various media sources.

Laurence, subject matter is just the clothes over the scenario, the language used to express something. An artist who has something to express can express it through any scenario or subject matter put before him. But, of course, the artist, if possible, will often prefer to choose subject matter according to his interests. And the joy taken in the subject, leads to an expertise in drawing the elements associated with that subject, which often leads to an enormous facility in expressing the chosen idea through the particular milieu of the genre.

Antonio -- good post!

8/15/2010 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Michael Stern said...

"Why are you looking at art, anyway, given that all art is a kind of fantasy?"
This is the kind of stupid reductive argument you use.Is for example a Lucien Freud portrait a work of fantasy,or a Sutherland portrait of Somerset Maughm? Is an abstract piece by Pollock a fantasy? Clearly not and only a fool would try to stretch such a definition to breaking point.

And you either think the beach rider is one of his great works that 'transcends kitschiness' or it is in fact kitsch and out of step with his other work which would be a 'surprise' to an ardent believer such as you.

"If it bothers you that a bunch of fans do like fantasy subject matter"
I think you would have to include yourself as a fan given that you have archive Frazetta interviews and made frequent pilgrimages to the Frazetta museum, I would say if you buy into all that then a great many Frazetta fantasies would also be yours.Or else why?
Maybe you just like his brushwork.

8/15/2010 8:47 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Is it likely kev has a softspot for some of FFs subject matter? Probably. Does that detract from Frazetta's skill as an illustrator? Derp, no.

Didn't NC Wyeth still kick ass when he was illustrating Santa? Didn't DaVinci still kick ass when he was illustrating the last supper?

So, we can forgive the great illustrators of the Renaissance for their ridiculous subject matter but not those of the last century?


When deciding whose work to be effected by there are two methods -- subject (that of the lay audience) and technique (that of the craftsman).

8/15/2010 11:58 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I still can't tell if you're trolling or not, Mike. You keep avoiding answering questions... its a pretty boring tactic.

On the assumption that you aren't pretending to be dense, but just are unable to understand cogent argument and can't help but get emotional about it in the most predictable fashion, I'll answer your points...

1. Aestheticization is a kind of fantasy, which includes the kind of work that Freud et al create. This is not a reductive point, but an insight about art which you should dwell on. If you are unable to understand this point, please stop posting and go read Walter Pater so at least you can have a background in the topic when you come back to say "unh-unh... no it isn't, you stupid dum dum head" as you are wont to do.

2. To assume I am a sword and sorcery fan because I am a fan of Frazetta is the same as assuming I am a fan of men in suits because I am a fan of Zorn's portraiture. You simply aren't getting that everything is genre. I really shouldn't need to explain these obvious points. Furthermore, you clearly have only the most superficial knowledge of Frazetta's work, if you think its just about barbarians. You're wasting my time.

3. I'm undecided as to whether Wild Ride is kitsch or not. (If that's okay with you.) I'm certain however that Frazetta's best works are not kitsch, but rather iconic works that, like all great art, transcend subject matter... except for people who can't see beyond subject matter... like fantasy fans, and fantasy detractors like you who demand Margaret Dumontian staidness in subject matter or else it offends your refined sensibilities.

If you are indeed a troll, Mike, why are you wasting your time being a troll?

8/15/2010 11:59 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I'd also like to note that one of the greatest pioneer works of film, D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, was a white supremacy propaganda film.

It pioneered deep focus, jump-cut, cross-cut and facial close-ups -- among a number of other effects now considered standard.

Subject matter vs. technique.

8/16/2010 12:10 AM  
Blogger Steve Fastner said...

David,
I returned to the DocDave site to review the postings and have to point out that the pushy-Ellie quotes you're citing are from DocDave's stories,not from the replies.Dave wrote that he'll do a balanced post on her some other time.With the exception of the one negative fan post,which I agree was provoked by those stories,the other replies were mostly'great blog dave,great stories...'.I found one other that said 'Ellie reminds me of my wife,she kicks my ass sometimes' and a Russ Cochran reply about his friendship with the Frazettas cooling over the years,but he didn't specifically zero in on Ellie.
As for the Joe Vica site,I noticed the deleted Ghost OF Ellie notice.I can only guess as to the overall content,so I'll guess that the the title implies that it was done after she died,and that the theme might be that things started to fall apart without her guidance.
My only point to this was that I think the vast majority of fans had a mostly positive opinion of Ellie.
But reading the comments on your blog causes me to fling out another opinion.Your posts indicate that you consider Frazetta a talented illustrator,but you tend to lump Frazetta fans into the category of 'liking it for all the wrong reasons'.Tom Wolfe,in his book The Painted Word,tells the story of the Mennonite who watches his television on a post outside his kitchen window,because his religion forbids watching television in the home.The point being:your posters who try to separate the painting from the content can secretly enjoy the sex, violence,and fantasy of Frazetta's art without losing their snob license.I'm not implying that good composition,technique,inventivenes and other virtues aren't there for pointing out,and Frazetta deserves recognition for those too,but doing sex,violence,and fantasy well requires intelligence,skill,and inventivness.Many have attempted it and many have fallen short.Those that succeed are exceptional,and deserve praise.
I agree that Spurlock's anecdote was touching and appropriate.

8/16/2010 2:22 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"But, of course, the artist, if possible, will often prefer to choose subject matter according to his interests. And the joy taken in the subject, leads to an expertise in drawing the elements associated with that subject, which often leads to an enormous facility in expressing the chosen idea through the particular milieu of the genre"


Kev, that is quite a large 'But'. i understand your point, but i think without being moved by subject matter many artists would have fallen by the wayside very early on. it sounds like you're saying how an artist HANDLES or INTERPRETS subject matter is key, rather than the subject matter itself. i agree that interpretation is invaluable, but still, without the muse to ignite the artist's imagination in the first place, much great work simply would not have happened. i see great art more as the result of a strong three-way relationship between content, interpretation and technique.

8/16/2010 5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Impressions made during our youth can have lifelong impact. I once heard a young woman sincerely expressing the opinion that Ariel from "The Little Mermaid" was the most beautiful creation in the entire history of art. I still have a soft spot for the Brothers Hildebrandt, whom I've yet to see even mentioned on internet art forums (hope I'm not inviting an attack on their work).

8/16/2010 6:58 AM  
Blogger Jesse Hamm said...

I have no firsthand knowledge of the Frazettas' marriage, but I have to wonder how many of those who deemed it troubled are married themselves. It's easy for someone "unburdened" by marriage to view a marriage's frictions as nightmarish, not realizing that such frictions may be dwarfed by the joys of lifelong companionship, which are harder to observe. I'm reminded of conversations I've had with friends who never drive. "How can you stand to own a car?," they ask. "With the expense of insurance and gas and parking and registration and repairs, and sometimes it breaks down anyway! And you have to keep it clean, and worry about theft and collisions... I would go crazy!"
"Yes, but I can drive wherever I like."
"SO?"
Try explaining to someone a benefit they've never enjoyed, especially when you have to weigh its ongoing convenience against more visible troubles.

On the other hand, it's possible that the Frazettas did have an awful marriage. But the accounts I've seen so far are pretty minor, such as Ellie complaining that Frank should paint abstracts, or that he shouldn't paint the jewels of Greystoke.

Dave A. said,"There are a lot of fans out there who believe that without Ellie's censorship, Frazetta would have done more of the lurid work they craved." I think this explains a lot. Note that the fan who complained about Ellie on Doc Dave's blog has a blog called "Tit-illation matters."

8/16/2010 9:24 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Michael Stern wrote: "This may seem a strange question to ask, but why is Frazetta so highly regarded?"

Michael, I am not one of those who thinks Frazetta was perfect; his quality was erratic and he could be lazy; some of his images were obvious. But when he was good he was a brilliant, powerful artist and it would be hard to overestimate his impact. I don't think you can fairly assess his work by trying to figure out what percentage of the fan enthusiasm is attributable to sex or violence. If you ever had the privilege of inspecting his great originals up close in his museum, I think your question would answer itself. They are truly amazing.


Antonio Araujo-- excellent point!

Steve Fastner-- I see where we divided. I was viewing Doc Dave as a Frazetta fan, not just the commenters who posted on his blog. (By the way, it would not be fair of me to create the misimpression that Doc Dave is the main source of anti-Ellie stories. I have read or heard far more from others, and I'm sure I would feel the same way if Frank personally gave me a drawing at his home and then Ellie came up and snatched it back as I was leaving.)

You also wrote, "I think you tend to lump Frazetta fans into the category of 'liking it for all the wrong reasons'.."

I hope not. If there are fans who are immature, or who don't understand their hero's marriage, it's not the fault of the artwork. Pictures are not responsible for the people who drool over them.

8/16/2010 9:28 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>why do grown men succumb to such childish fantasies.<<<

Because most grown men are adolescents who refuse to grow up. Hey, this isn't any big news flash. It's just applying the Pareto principle to people who said "we are the people we've been waiting for."

8/16/2010 9:51 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>This is the kind of stupid reductive argument you use.<<<


Umm, perhaps you failed to notice that all you have posted are non-sequiturs. The subject of this discussion on the ILLUSTRATION Art blog is that of the ILLUSTRATOR, Frank Frazetta. Every example you posted of of a FINE ARTIST. Why not a neirosurgeon or a lumberjack, for all the two fields have in common.

You are completely off-base and display an appaling lack of understanding of what the goals of an illustrator are. They have very little to do with the goals of an easel painter. Some of the techniques and materials coincide but what you are addressing...the very purpose of the art, misses the point entirely. Sargent, Sorrola, Freud and all the other names you wish to drop, have nothing whatsoever to do with illustration.

This isn't even apples and oranges.

8/16/2010 9:59 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/16/2010 10:08 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"This isn't even apples and oranges."

Really, you see Illustrators and Fine Artists as distinct?

I've always thought that it was a false dichotomy propagated by the modern school so that they could debase those contemporaries they deemed "too commercial" while still getting to claim all the greats of the past, who were essentially just the illustrators of their time.

The only big difference I see is that pieces of illustration get reproduced, but that has more to do with what was possible at the time, than it does with what were never actually distinct art forms -- any more than Music and Film-Scoring are distinct art forms.

So again, where and how do you draw this grand distinction?

Was Michelangelo an illustrator or a fine artist?

You say Sargent wasn't an illustrator, is that true of all his work or just the majority?
You don't see "El Jaleo" as a piece of Illustration?

8/16/2010 10:24 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Or what about with Andrew Wyeth and N.C. Wyeth?

Is Snow Hill really different enough from Old Pew to warrant the distinctions they are given?

8/16/2010 10:30 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Huh, for some reason my last message disappeared.

I asked, is Old Pew really so different from Snow Hill to warrant a distinction?

8/16/2010 10:40 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

i agree that interpretation is invaluable, but still, without the muse to ignite the artist's imagination in the first place, much great work simply would not have happened.

The muse is controlled by the great artist. Dean Cornwell was always saying that each picture assignment, no matter what the subject, must look like it is the "consummation of your life's one ambition." This is a tenet passed down from Pyle... that every subject is great if you can only find a way inside it. The idea is, by discovering something you find fascinating and relevant and dramatic and poetic about whatever subject is at hand, you can make it fascinating for everybody else. The scene is transformed by a poetic imagination that wills itself to love and appreciate the milieu.

Some of my favorite artworks are illustrations from the 1920s and 1930s of melancholy women sitting in well-appointed, but dimly lit interiors... a visual subject that would seem as far removed from "inspiring" as could be imagined. But the great illustrator finds a way to be inspired, and thus to inspire us... the more challengingly dull the scenario, the more the imagination of the illustrator is marshalled to create life and drama and transform the work by the application of aesthetics.

Frazetta is just such a great talent. He has done many dull-ass boring subjects and made them magnetic by the force of his personality; A backstage romance between actors, a lonely cabin in the woods, a safari love affair, a man sitting motionless on a horse looking at the viewer wearing a helmet and holding an axe, a nude leaning against a tree in the deep forest... Each of these scenarios, done by a weak talent is weak... (the massive volumes of professional quality, but instantly forgettable work influenced by Frazetta is the ultimate testament to this fact.)

The same subject, tackled by Frazetta results in magic.

The scenario isn't the source of artistic power. It's just a loose bit of fashionable clothing thrown over the radioactive engine beneath.

I bet Dean Cornwell, J.C. Leyendecker, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell, could each have given us a "Death Dealer" to knock our socks off. And each would have been different from the other. Meanwhile, there are twenty thousand other artists who could never produce a Death Dealer of interest no matter what.

8/16/2010 1:18 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard, the main difference is that illustration is done to sell an idea or a product, so the message must communicate clearly and effectively.
fine art can exist simply to evoke higher feelings / states of mind and can be as vague as it likes. of course there is much cross-over, especially pre modern era, before the genius cult really got going, and artist's work was almost solely commissioned by church and the rich.


"The muse is controlled by the great artist."


J D Salinger once said the opposite: "the true poet has no choice of material. the material chooses him"

Kev, that degree of adaptability in an illustrator sounds wonderful, but in reality you see artists returning to the same subjects and themes again and again because they happen to be better at those than others, and because they are inspired by those themes. you also see illustrators tackling different themes in a similar way... i.e. with their familiar 'take'. i don't think there's anything wrong with having a niche and sticking to it, as long as you don't become TOO repetitive.

8/16/2010 2:33 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"the main difference is that illustration is done to sell an idea or a product"

When you say sell I assume you don't literally mean the exchange of currency?

"so the message must communicate clearly and effectively."

Communication should be considered ideal in Fine Art and Illustration. If it is not being communicated it is merely the failure of said artist and their work -- in the same way that a good poem should communicate just as much as it should be beautiful. Only a fool would think they need to choose one over both.

"fine art can exist simply to evoke higher feelings / states of mind and can be as vague as it likes"
Isn't this evocation an illustration of a feeling or state of mind? When does the ability to express/illustrate an emotion/state of mind become no longer Illustrative?

"of course there is much cross-over"
Are there any that don't cross-over?

8/16/2010 3:45 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Laurence,

Yes, certain illustrators are better at some things rather than others.... and editors assign them that stuff if they're smart. However, great illustrators get good at whatever subject they are given and give it their special "twist" by filtering it through their aesthetic personality. That's why they are great. That's why they get hired. That's the whole reason we had a golden age of illustration.

I seriously dispute Salinger's take on what a real poet is, given we have all the evidence we need "in reality" that shows that Cornwell, Pyle, Rockwell, Dunn, Frazetta, Wyeth, Brangwyn, Walter Everett, Leyendecker, Coll, Booth, etc could take any subject matter at all and hit a home run with it.

If Salinger was waiting for inspiration to strike... he apparently had the royalties to wait from 1965 until the day he died for the Muse to call again. I wouldn't recommend the practice. I prefer my poets to actually produce poems.

8/16/2010 3:49 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

... to that end, the Pyle ethic is the far better philosophy to strive for.

8/16/2010 3:51 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"Are there any that don't cross-over?"


i think Rob should answer that one.

8/16/2010 4:26 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"but in reality you see artists returning to the same subjects and themes again and again because they happen to be better at those than others"

OR because they've already built a fanbase in that milieu and thus have fiscal pressures not to radically explore new territories, territories that they would likely be equally as capable of excelling in.

Do we think less of the great Jazzmen because they didn't also write Bluegrass?

8/16/2010 4:31 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>"Are there any that don't cross-over?"
i think Rob should answer that one.<<<

As an illustrator, there is a comfort in having one's options limited by the assignment, the client or manuscript. Removing infinite choices makes it easy to concentarte on the mechanics...composition, color and creating an appropriate emotional impact. Make no doubt, that requires a helluva lot of skill, but it's basically problem solving.

The illustrator is like the virtuoso classical or jazz musician interpreting a composer's song. There's a great deal of artistry, skill and even soul involved in that interpretation.

Great easel painters, like Picasso, are composers. There will always be performers who can blow their doors off, but they can't create the main part...the composition, the melody, the tune.

Looking at painters like Freud, Close and Saville, I see a rarity (as I saw with Picasso). They are uniquely in tune, as was Mozart. Decent enough performers but the emotional and intellectual depth of their work marks them as very special composers.

I come to the party with more than enough skill...I can do impressive riffs but the question I have to ask is, can I play in the same league as those truly special painters? Unless a magical thunderbolt hits me just right and, like Saul, turns me into Paul...I rather doubt it. Give me a problem to solve, a challenge that you come up with and i'll do a fine job of it. But leave me to my own...well, I have the limitations of an illustrator.

Jenny Saville can't do what I can do and I damned sure can't do what she can do. She can deal with an infinite number of possibilties and not get distracted and lose track of where she is going. That's like being in the woods without a compass and always knowing where to go.

8/16/2010 10:05 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Picasso absolutely sucked at composition; that's why he had to resort to ruses.

8/16/2010 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Picasso absolutely sucked at composition; that's why he had to resort to ruses."

Seriously? I saw his 30 or so paintings that were a gradual deconstruction / re-interpretation of "Las Meninas" and found them pretty impressive.

I wasn't even a fan until that point but I came away with a healthy respect for the guy..

-Steve (no Google ID)

8/16/2010 11:04 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I think Picasso was one of the great cartoonists of the 20th century with very strong graphic design abilities. I think he can easily hold his own with the likes of Cliff Sterrett, Willem De Kooning, George Herriman, Modigliani, Milt Gross, Basil Wolverton, Hirschfeld, Paul Klee, John Held Jr, Saul Bass, John Kricfalusi, Harvey Kurtzman, and Cy Twombly, just to name a few.

Richard, your last few posts have been solid in thought.

8/16/2010 11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He interprets the original, he cranks the colour, he crops it, he simplifies it,the source is obvious but they mostly work as compositions in their own right.

I like it,it's an exploration and while it's absolutely not in my usual "things that I would totally like" comfy zone I dig it..

Bonus points for the chap.

This is why I question "Picasso sucks at composition" because he obviously spent a lot of time not sucking at it.

In my opinion, naturally.

8/16/2010 11:52 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Richard: "When does the ability to express/illustrate an emotion/state of mind become no longer Illustrative?"


well, try summing up the state of mind you think Freud is 'illustrating' here:


http://tinyurl.com/3y78mzv


or which emotion you think De Kooning is 'illustrating' here:


http://www.ckplus.nl/Kooning.jpg



"OR because they've already built a fanbase in that milieu and thus have fiscal pressures not to radically explore new territories, territories that they would likely be equally as capable of excelling in"


that type of 'if only things had been different' speculation could go on all day. i'm more interested in what artists have produced than in the hypothetical work they might have produced. if that's partly down to demand for a certain style well, that's reality (sorry, rude word).

8/17/2010 4:57 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>or which emotion you think De Kooning is 'illustrating' here:<<<

An artist does not illustrate an emotion, that's melodrama or reportage. A skilled artist can create emotion. In audiences capable of understanding opera and symphony, the composers are able to create a precise emotion in the audience, on cue.

If you know La Boheme, after the intermission, the composer has the job of crowd control. The audience is filtering back to their seats, waving at friends, jabbering and commenting on each other's clothes. The composer gets everyone quiet and back in their seats, facing forward and listening attentively in less than 15 seconds.

Bringing tears to the eye is something dramatists regularly do. A skilled visual artist can do similar things without ever resorting to depicting an emotion. You can depict an ongoing emotion with the camera in your cell phone...photograph someone in an emotional situation. That's the art of the perpetual fan. They treasure those little forays into The Art of The Fan and send them to fellow fans via YouTube and Facebook. Somehow, pics of the grandkids and the cute kitty cat don't seem to get the same response from stranger. Hence the all-purpose fan excuse for the flop..."you hadda be there."

8/17/2010 7:48 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"An artist does not illustrate an emotion..."


Rob, i trust you realize that's the point i was hoping to make with those examples above.

8/17/2010 8:06 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Those pieces seem to illustrate the feeling La Nausée as described by Sartre.

8/17/2010 12:28 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"Isn't this evocation an illustration of a feeling or state of mind?"

Richard, if you can see the difference between evocation and illustration you will answer your own question.

8/17/2010 6:04 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

The only difference between illustration and fine art is that illustration is done on assignment and gallery work is done on spec. Every other quality or aspect that you can think of as belonging to one faction or the other you will find isn't exclusive.

Since I could give a damn less whether an artwork was done on assignment or spec, there is no difference to me at all. A work of art is either great or it isn't.

All the usual distinction drawn between illustration and fine art are attempts to separate out one from the other for commercial purposes, using political means.

Laurence, Howard Pyle stated that the purpose of his work was to "illumen"... to illuminate. Evocation of a subject is always a necessary part of illuminating it, whether we are talking about a setting, an emotion, or a character.

8/17/2010 6:29 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev, you have to do a damn lot more work to 'illuminate' a subject than to 'evoke' it.
the difference i was trying in vain to explain to Richard above, was that much fine art is created with no attempt to 'illustrate' anything. the impetus to create it is often purely formal. e.g. "i wonder what happens if i chop the figure into segments and isolate it against a pink background" (that's my impersonation of Francis Bacon at work). what the piece subsequently evokes is open to interpretation. i could use more abstract art to illustrate my point but i'm hoping i don't need to.

8/18/2010 4:34 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>The only difference between illustration and fine art is that illustration is done on assignment and gallery work is done on spec. Every other quality or aspect that you can think of as belonging to one faction or the other you will find isn't exclusive.<<<

Kev, that's like saying that men and women are exactly alike except in the very small difference that women can give birth and men can not.

Yes, both illustrators and painters use brushes and paint. So do sign painters, house painters and the skilled hands that paint faces and details on plastic dolls. What you blithely discount is the intent. Think of a kitchen knife. Now think of it in different scenarios and used with different intentions.

When a sweet young thing asked the great cornet and trumpet player, Louis Armstrong, what jazz was, his reply could be used here..."If you've got to ask, you'll never know." Some people just can't swing.

8/18/2010 7:38 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"much fine art is created with no attempt to 'illustrate' anything."

And what of that Fine Art that does illustrate something? Is that work being improperly classified as Fine Art?

Or the illustration that heavily evokes a feeling outside of its illustrative material? Is that not really illustration?

Any attempt to define them that doesn't actually separate them will fail.

If you can't find an element that belongs to Illustration or Fine Arts exclusively, do you have a true separation?

Kev introduced one -- how they're sold. This is a good definition because it can be exclusive.

Evocation/Illustration cannot be exclusive. Referring to elements that both Fine Art and Illustration can contain is a really bad method of definition because for every piece you find that sits far to one side or the other I can find the 10,000 pieces that create a continuous spectrum between them.

8/18/2010 10:43 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 10:48 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Rob, are these intentions exclusive to one or the other? Is there a continuum of intention between Fine Arts and Illustration?

If there is a continuum, than the two are a false dichotomy.

8/18/2010 10:51 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

I can understand how a cartoonist would appreciate Picasso. However, I see no evidence that he understood the traditional formalism and compositional structures of fine art beyond a very primitive percipience.

http://tinyurl.com/3773mo4
http://tinyurl.com/yc55eux

8/18/2010 11:56 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Laurence, you can see exactly the same, "why not" ethos at work in some illustration. I've seen a whole lot of illustration that doesn't illustrate anything in particular and has no drama whatsoever... just some modernist looseness, a piece of torn paper, and an ink stain. The kind of thing you see in ArtForum or Art in America. The barn door really is wide open.

If a characteristic is associated with "fine art" but also appears in illustration, then it isn't a defining characteristic of "fine art." A lack of illustrating no longer excludes something from being an illustration. (It happens that any image associated with text will be flavored by that text and will seem to be a metaphor for it in some way. Just like a Rorschach ink blot, which I've also seen used as illustrations, btw.)

The reverse is now also true that a great many classically fine art paintings end up as covers of penguin classics and the like. I've seen a pollock used as a cover of a novel, the new york times has illustrations influenced by Koons, Klee, Miro, Hockney, and Twombly all the time.

Graphics are graphics. Whatever works... whatever sells... anything goes.

If I wanted to be more specific I would say, in principle, Fine art is done on spec for a gallery situation where it is intended to sell itself. Whereas Illustration is done on assignment for a print situation where it is intended to sell something else.

But any fine art piece can be used as a cover or illustration, and any illustration can be sold in a gallery. So all that is left is the initial commercial impetus that began the life of the piece. And such a question is only important to people who think commercial print work is inherently corrupting and the gallery world is inherently saintly.

Rob, your post didn't contain any points to respond to. If you have an argument to make, make it. Trotting out that over used Satchmo quote is as ineffective here as the first five times you've used it on this blog.

8/18/2010 12:35 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

etc, etc...

Picasso did this painting when he was 15 years old.

This may not be an exciting painting, but it shows a very serious and precocious talent at work.

8/18/2010 12:40 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Kev,
Do you actually believe that's painted by a 15 year old? Would it not have been far more profitable for his father, an accomplished painter, to sell his work in the name of his son as a prodigy?

8/18/2010 12:50 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

etc,etc... I considered that point. But I see every evidence that Picasso knew all the information used to create this piece, by the way he used graphics and compositional ideas throughout his career.

He also painted this picture when he was 16 years old. A case can be made that the picture he did at 15 is a bit more refined and less awkward, and maybe his father did help him. But it is impossible to know the answer to that question so it should be left aside.

I think what is obvious is that Picasso would have been a boring realist painter, and would have sank under the shadow of Sorolla, his fellow countryman a generation older, if he had remained a realist. I think Picasso knew that he was stifled as a realist and thus made a smart choice to break out and become a great cartoonist. That a popular political movement was underway to undermine academic art in favor of cartoon radicalism further validates the wisdom of his decision.

8/18/2010 1:07 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Kev Ferrara said...
"I think what is obvious is that Picasso would have been a boring realist painter, and would have sank under the shadow of Sorolla, his fellow countryman a generation older, if he had remained a realist."

If one assumes Picasso painted your first example at age 15, then I don't think that's obvious at all. Regardless, the thread is about Frazetta so I'll drop it.

8/18/2010 1:31 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Now I get it!

Rubens, Frazetta, Guercino~Illustrators

Zorn, Sorolla, Sargent~ Poortrite painters

Bacon, Saville, Picasso~ Fine artists

""So all that is left is the initial commercial impetus that began the life of the piece. And such a question is only important to people who think commercial print work is inherently corrupting and the gallery world is inherently saintly.""
~ The M.O. of the Modernist Manifesto

What is it D.A. says? Anything but Norman Rockwell.

~all images courtesy of the Met

8/18/2010 1:36 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

etc, etc... I think picasso had an awkwardness to his realistic drawing that he only defeated when he became purely a graphic artist, around the time that he became a cubist in 1907 or so. I think he didn't have the capability of being an expressive realist of Sorolla's caliber. Or, he at least didn't show the evidence that he had that ability. (IMHO)

अर्जुन, was that an attempt at sarcasm, more non-sequitors, some attempt at an argument, or just gibberish with links?

8/18/2010 2:01 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

"attempt at sarcasm"~Attempt?!
"more non-sequitors"~More?!
"some attempt at an argument"~With who?
"or just gibberish with links"~Well there's links!

~That's the last time I agree with you! War!!!

8/18/2010 2:44 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

War?


Can’t we be reasonable?

8/18/2010 2:59 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Kev, you might not believe it but I sincerely love that film. Doesn't this portrait by de László ~Queen Marie of Romania, resemble Margaret Dumont?

8/18/2010 4:04 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 4:38 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I've been a Duck Soup fan forever. I think its the purest Marx Brothers movie ever made.

And yes that portrait does look suspiciously like Margaret Dumont. She looks like she just saw Groucho hitting on a chambermaid.

Dynamic Symmetry Addenda:

Two longtime Frazetta fans who actually asked Frazetta personally, have replied that Frazetta told them he didn't use any system at all to grid his pictures.

So whatever complex geometric undergridding one finds in his work, is the result of Frazetta's intuition. He did not use Dynamic Symmetry nor anything similar to create his work.

8/18/2010 4:48 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>> I can find the 10,000 pieces that create a continuous spectrum between them.<<<

I must ask; are you a painter or illustrator and, if so, at what level of skill? The reason I ask is that so many of the things that you say would not be said by many working artists. Perhaps I misjudge your position but you have that wonderfully broad and inclusive view of art that's afforded by sitting in the stands, far away from the grunts and smells that go on on the field.

It's been my observation that those people who know all the player's names and the statistics have never had much "quality" time (if you can call it that) on the field. For those guys, the view is very different and what they see as an easy play is always harder on the field when somebody is coming at you with the sole intent of taking what you want from you.

The view from the stands affords greater use of the intellect (which doesn't work well when sweating and being buffetted by a determined competition that really doesn't care if you ever eat again).

This Bud's for you, bud.

8/18/2010 5:30 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>If you have an argument to make, make it. Trotting out that over used Satchmo quote is as ineffective here as the first five times you've used it on this blog.<<<

Okay. I see where i wasn't clear. For the tons of prolixity, the huge volume of gas you spew in polishing the fine points, the point I was trying to make (and I hope that I am being absolutely clear) is, despite dropping names (actually tossing them up because dropping them implies height) it's clear that you have very little experience except that of a marhianl freelance scrabbling up jobs here and there and trying to gain some gloss from high profile clients for whom you've done low profile work.

Maybe that wasn't to the point enough, Kev. You're not a player. Your one of those fans that populate whatever that risibly named website of Jason Manley's is called. Like those people who have shaken Elvis' hand and talk about the tight bond you had, you toss up some names.

Okay, I can here the the trolls and leatherasses warming up with their inevitable invective, but they come from an even lower place than you do as far as real understanding.

In reading your unending screeds (in which you attempt to sound reasonable so that will lend weight to lightweight arguments)I am reminded of sitting with a preist telling me about the ramifications of sexual activity and wondering...what the hell does this guy know about sex? As for any rejoinder...Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a ratsass.

Was I clear?

8/18/2010 5:44 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>a marhianl freelance scrabbling<<<

Damn, too much time spent drawing and not learning secretarial skills like typing and bookkeeping.

I did not mean to imply that you are the maharajah of freelance. I meant to say 'marginal freelnace' jobs. Could you have worked in any of the studios i worked in...mmm, maybe, but as an assistant/gopher.


Sorry for the typo. I really wanted to be clear on this because (though I rather doubt it) it might cause some introspection ...naaah, who are we kidding! That'll never happen.

Move along, nothing to see here.

8/18/2010 5:51 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Was I clear?

Clearly an asshole, as usual.

You didn't answer any of the questions, because you can't. So you trot out the same old wind machine.

You are a clueless, snarling buffoon with a pathetic ego that constantly trips you up.

Have a nice retirement.

8/18/2010 5:51 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Kev said, "Two longtime Frazetta fans who actually asked Frazetta personally, have replied that Frazetta told them he didn't use any system at all to grid his pictures."

Do you think the fans would have known to ask about the type of informal design systems as described in Loomis' Eye of the Painter?

I'd imagine that if he had answered referencing that sort of 'informal' design, they may be at a loss to understand him, and may merely assume that this means highly intuitive design, where we who know better would consider Loomis' informal design a HIGHLY formal design system by the standards of the last half century.



"I must ask; are you a painter or illustrator and, if so, at what level of skill?"
All of my training has been in Fine Art, but my work invariably tends toward what would be considered illustration work -- and as unpopular as I would imagine they are here; my illustration heroes usually fall somewhere between Quentin Blake and Moebius. Also, keep in mind I am but 23 years old, so my feet have not yet been wetted by the trenches. I speak merely theoretically.

"far away from the grunts and smells that go on on the field."
Fair. I primarily work on personal illustrative efforts, working a contract job in publishing. I prefer illustrative work that is not so directly tied to bringing in dollars; In the worlds of fine arts I prefer the opposite -- e.g. the portrait painters of the late 19th, early 20th centuries.

Perhaps our argument is the result of poor definition. If an artist/writer produces a set of illustrations to accompany his, as yet, marketless poems is he an illustrator or a fine artist? And if he is working a currently unpaid illustration job, as we see many 'graphic-novelists' doing?

In summary, if he is doing illustration with the hopes of marketing his work later would you consider him outside of the Illustration field?

That would suggest there is actually a third definition that lies between Fine Arts and Illustration -- the area of Fine Art Illustration I suppose.

8/18/2010 6:07 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Kev --

Sorry, I actually meant Loomis' text "Creative Illustration", my mistake.

8/18/2010 6:15 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 6:21 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Tanner said...

Rob you need to Learn to say Sorry, I was wrong. Because you are wrong a lot. Just the other week you totally messed up the classic quote "Dean was Dunn before he Started" as "Dean was Dunn before he was Dunn." And then you said Briggs could not have known about the Famous Artists course, even though he was in the founding faculty. And now you are wrong about Frazetta using dynamic symmetry, even though you said "it was obvious" that he was. It all adds up: You are total blowhard who bullshits constantly, and worse, you are a guy who cannot admit he is wrong. And you HATE when somebody points it out, so you flip the fuck out and scream at people you don't even know anything about. Some head trip you must be on. Take a chill pill, bro.

8/18/2010 8:07 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Richard said...
"Why can I appreciate music of post-modernity but not post-modern art?"

Richard,
Provided you are not referring to atonal music, there is a high degree of order inherent in a Western 12 or Eastern 24 note musical system, and further order and complexity is created by meter, scales, chords, etc. It is not necessarily so in pomo art.

8/18/2010 9:07 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 9:58 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 10:01 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 10:04 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 10:04 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 10:07 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 10:17 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Richard,

Not my thing, but I would say the rapping is syncopation, and the accompaniment is entirely orthodox music.

Hyakkei is dissonant but still tonal.

8/18/2010 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kev Ferrara:

"Dynamic Symmetry Addenda:

Two longtime Frazetta fans who actually asked Frazetta personally, have replied that Frazetta told them he didn't use any system at all to grid his pictures.

So whatever complex geometric undergridding one finds in his work, is the result of Frazetta's intuition. He did not use Dynamic Symmetry nor anything similar to create his work."

Kev, I saw your post over on the Frazetta forum, and I thought the responses were interesting. I became curious about why Rob Howard would state that it was obvious that Frazetta used Dynamic Symmetry, despite the assertions, from those who spoke to the artist, that Frazetta didn't use undergridding.

I decided to grid some common Frazetta works to see if Howard's statement was valid to the extent that the paintings actually seemed to fit some undergridding pattern. Now, I've seen some gridding articles\posts in which the author seemed to have 40-50 lines populating the art work in an attempt to show how undergridding was used by a long-dead artist. I reckon that if you use enough lines, you can find patterns in just about anything.

What I found by looking at six common Frazetta works is that his compositions do, intentionally or intuitively, seem to fit well to gridding systems such as Golden Section and Golden Spiral, depending on the particular painting. I do not believe that I engaged in much cognitive stretching to see the patterns of fit.

I must say that taking a closer look at Frazetta's composition was as enjoyable as it was enlightening. Howard often comes off as a combatant in a Frazetta painting, but his observation (and your research) led me to investigate Frazetta's composition. I am better for it, and I thank you both.

Now, back to the war...

8/18/2010 10:44 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 11:40 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Richard said...
"but it still stands true that the music of today does not follow the rules or forms as directly as the works of the past."

I don't quite understand what you mean by rules...are you referring to style? Otherwise you will have to be more specific.

8/18/2010 11:53 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Anon... who are you?

Show me your Dynamic Symmetry gridding on Frazetta and, assuming you know what you are doing in that system, I will show you at least 3 other gridding methods that also work.

Futhermore, if you are familiar with Frazetta's methods, you realize he was not an organized stepwise artist. He did not lay out an organized palette, he guessed on his values, and he liked to work quickly. Dynamic Symmetry, which requires a ruler, compass, patience, and an egghead is for a different kind of personality. This should be evident from the work alone.

Furthermore, it is a typical fantasy among inexperienced artists that the source of Frazetta's power may be found in some kind of geometrical understructure. As if Dynamic Symmetry was a kind of magical formula to create powerful art. This is as clueless as thinking Frazetta had magic brushes or special paints.

It is considered a running joke that intellectual young artists break out the ruler and compass to try to find the secret of art. (There seems to be one jejune artist every month on Conceptart.org expounding on this very theory, always with some jpeg of a masterpiece covered in a mesh of lines using photoshop.) At some point, it dawns on anybody who becomes a pro that it isn't measures that make the artist. Why hasn't this dawned on Dear Leader? Why does he still pontificate on composition as if he were a 20 year old?

Furthermore, Frazetta falls squarely within the Brandywine tradition of romantic illustration that leads through Pyle to his students and grand students. Harvey Dunn lectured his students "To hell with rules and mathematics... the spirit of the thing must rule!" (He said this at the height of the DS cult in the 30s.)

To declare that "it is obvious" that Frazetta used Dynamic Symmetry, given all of the above, and having not investigated Frazetta's methods to see if any shred of evidence exists for this contention, is to betray an utterly slapdash scholarship, complete lack of insight on the whole matter and a noxious self-regard.

That Dear Leader would teach such tendentious rubbish on his forum further indicts his ego and baldfaced nerve. I'm sure his analysis of Pyle's works were equally dubious.

8/19/2010 12:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kev, it's me, anonymous. Thanks for taking the time to reply to my post.

I assure you that my simple use of the Golden Section and Golden Spiral was on target, and I agree with you that the problem with gridding is that one can use alternate grids and eventually end up with one that approximates the composition of the painting. I do not worship at the altar of gridding (or Frazetta for that matter); in fact, I usually look toward in-picture techniques to create a pleasing composition. Nevertheless, it was a useful learning experience to see Frazetta's works gridded. I certainly don't have a habit of gridding artists' works, but in this case I'm glad I did.

I'm sorry if I gave the incorrect impression that I thought Frazetta used gridding. From what I know of Frazetta, mainly from the Frazetta documentary, he did little planning and probably had a habit of working quite fast. As I am not a Frazetta expert, I may be wrong about that, but at least we have similar opinions.

8/19/2010 4:02 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rob Howard wrote: "I must ask; are you a painter or illustrator...?"

Rob, on sunny days I believe in the importance of naming things and the value of definitions. But I confess I've repeatedly been outmatched in my efforts to understand the line between fine art and illustration. For example, I don't know how any definition of "illustration" could exclude Michelangelo's pictures for the Book of Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or Rembrandt's picture of Faust. Yet, the fine art community, which has so much invested in preserving the distinction between fine art and illustration, and is often obnoxiously aggressive about policing that boundary, retreats like a salted leech at the prospect of losing those particular images (or other commissioned pictures depicting a story by artists such as Durer or Rubens.)

If you or anyone else out there has a definition of illustration that will keep all these unruly pictures in tidy categories, I would love to hear it.

Having said that, I have the highest respect for the significance of "sweating and being buffeted by a determined competition that really doesn't care if you ever eat again." I spent just enough time as an apprentice in a commercial art studio as a young boy, and later as a free lancer, to contemplate how I would fare in a test like that. (And as I have consistently said on this blog, I think that the bruising in the arena which takes such a toll on the illustrator has had the side benefit of keeping illustration away from the decadence and self-indulgence that has plagued so much of fine art.)

I guess I feel I have more certainty at the micro level than at the macro level; is it possible that art has a dual reality, like physics at the quantum and cosmic levels, that simply does not meet in the middle?

8/19/2010 8:31 AM  
Anonymous raphael said...

david:
as for dual realities, that wouldnt be very surprising, would it? after all, theres the very obvious duality of the picture as an artifact, having certain physical qualities, being made of certain materials, and the picture as 'whats visible', that certain kind of visual phenomenon of showing something.
the two in a way are categorically different, as in: you can analyze the artifact as long as you wish, catalogue its chemical compounds and try to unbury the sociopolitical situation of its painter, nothing of it will result in a deduction of what it is you see on it.
on the other hand, at least, thats merleau-pontys idea (and i think he was on to something there), the two meet at the pictures surface - the surface is both at the same time, so to say.

so, id say there is a more than valid difference to be made between illustration and fine art, maybe with mongrels inbetween, maybe not, but that difference isnt necessarily of such essential quality that only a sweating illustrator is the ultimate expert on the subject to overrule everyone else. after all, that would be akin to an engineer who built a mechanical calculator being an authority on maths - maths and mechanics "meet" in the innards of the calculators cogs in a similar way that imagery and artifact meet at a pictures surface, but you cant deduce either from the other. at least, you cant do so without good reason as to why either one side has "metaphysical right of way"

8/19/2010 11:17 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

"is it possible that art has a dual reality, like physics at the quantum and cosmic levels, that simply does not meet in the middle?"

Could you elaborate? Do you mean art in a piece by piece sense as compared to Art with a big A?

8/19/2010 11:29 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Raphael,

You seem to assume that illustrations are not real objects, existing only as printed versions of a non-existent original. Only with the advent of photoshop is that so.

If you meet, face to face, a 1905 Pyle, a 1910 Wyeth, a 1916 Coll, a 1924 Dean Cornwell, a 1932 Rockwell, a 1935 Lagatta, a 1943 Sickles, a 1955 Jack Davis, a 1962 Bob Peak, a 1969 Bernie Fuchs, a 1972 Frazetta, a 1979 Ralph Steadman, a 1989 Sienkiewicz, a 2007 Fluharty, (etc.) you will see that it has more visceral reality than you can shake a stick at.

8/19/2010 12:16 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

there are many 'illustrators' who are really 'fine artists' who have been lucky enough to get paid to see their work in print without compromising any of their integrity or personal vision. Marshal Arisman is an example. so is Michael Sowa (usually this ilk have gallery work running alongside too).

there are also many others who produce purely self-initiated work (Rob's 'composers') often for books or comics, again with no compromise, but with a style that resembles more traditionally what we think of as an 'illustrative' style. the late Edward Gorey is an example, as is almost any 'independent' comic artist you care to name.

both of these types could fit into Richard's 'fine art illustration' category, which i think is a perfectly valid category.

the important question to me is; is the work self initiated and is it uncompromising in it's personal vision ? if the answer is 'no' to both then it's probably hack illustration.

8/19/2010 12:20 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/19/2010 1:01 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Laurence said, "the important question to me is; is the work self initiated and is it uncompromising in it's personal vision ? if the answer is 'no' to both then it's probably hack illustration."

What about a very poor commissioned portrait? It is neither self-commissioned or uncompromising in personal vision. Does that mean bad commissioned portraits fall in the category of bad Illustration, rather than bad Fine Art?

8/19/2010 1:02 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"If you or anyone else out there has a definition of illustration that will keep all these unruly pictures in tidy categories, I would love to hear it."

Wouldn't it be rather simple if the Fine Artists just confessed that the "Fine Artists" of the past were actually Illustrators?

I'd be fine keeping Illustration and Fine Art separate, as long as the fine artists kept Warhol on their team and we got to take to take the likes of Michelangelo, Rembrandt, DaVinci, et al.

I'm not exactly sure how you would define the two groups, but I imagine that it would be much easier than making sense of the two wonky groups we have now.

8/19/2010 1:11 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I imagine at the end of that redefinition period you would end up with groups that essentially fall along the lines Illustration, Design, and Conceptual Art.

There would no longer be any need for the term "Fine Art" at all.

8/19/2010 1:14 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"What about a very poor commissioned portrait?"


that would be bad fine art... coming soon to a thrift store near you !

8/19/2010 1:23 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

(And with that, we could cut the ties that aging modes of the sale has had upon our definitions for far too long now.)

I also suppose that Illustration would have to be broken into Accompanied Illustration and Unaccompanied Illustration.

Accompanied Illustration refers to a work with an associated text (Take Blake's work for Roald Dahl books, where the image actually depicts the events of the text).

Unaccompanied Illustration refers to a work of illustration that may or may not be distributed with a text, but the image is never literally depicting the text.

J.C. Leyendecker "Thanksgiving Crest", which doesn't actually depict a story, but merely tries to evoke the feeling/idea would fall in this group.

As would Sargent's Spanish Dancer.

8/19/2010 1:26 PM  
Blogger x_1013_x said...

Great series! I linked to it on Twitter through my Jellybean Tree blog.

http://thejellybeantree.blogspot.com/

Wish I had more followers so more people could find it. :)

8/19/2010 1:37 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I imagine at the end of that redefinition period you would end up with groups that essentially fall along the lines Illustration, Design, and Conceptual Art.

Actually most conceptual artworks function in the exact same way as editorial illustrations. And Design is a global attribute of all art, so it cannot be a separate category of art.

8/19/2010 5:25 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Actually most conceptual artworks function in the exact same way as editorial illustrations. And Design is a global attribute of all art, so it cannot be a separate category of art."

I meant conceptual in the Post-Modern sense; so artworks where the idea is supposed to be greater than the piece itself. Conceptual Art in the Illustrative sense would just belong to Accompanied Illustration.

As for design, I was thinking that myself, but I felt like there should be some way to distinguish between those works which are primarily decorative and those which have stories.

Perhaps I should've used Decorative rather than Design, no?

I just worried that calling many abstract impressionist works "Decorative" plays down their emotionality.

8/19/2010 5:54 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/19/2010 5:58 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Perhaps 'Pure Design'?

8/19/2010 6:01 PM  
Anonymous raphael said...

kev: no, by no means did i intend that - sorry if i havent been clear.
what i mean is that you _can_ look at pictures as artifacts, real-world objects, produced by a person. its just that you dont have to.

when you look at a picture (no matter what kind of picture, for now) there is a visual phenomenon happening: you see something, and you do so in a very special "mode" of seeing, so to say. when loking at an ox in a picture, you are very aware of the difference to seing an ox in real life. still, you do see an ox, and you wouldnt hesitate describing it as covered in fur, with horns on its head, despite neither of these qualities being deductible from the mere artifact-qualities of the picture.

so, what we can do is talk about the picture as "what you see and what happens to you when you look at it". what we also can do is talk about the picture as "an artifact, and who produced it, in how many hours, etc. etc."

in one frame of reference, you can make a clear distinction between illustration and fine art, referring to what were the circumstances of its production.
in the other one, "production" isnt even a category that makes sense, because its part of a visual phenomenon thats consisting of a seeing subject and a perceived object.

the thing is, there isnt one frame more valid than the other. robs assertion that you have to be deeply involved in the creation of artwork or illustrations to make any kind of valuable statements about them simply isnt true. you probably have to be to make any justified statements about their production, though.
to make statements about pictures in the very intimate sense of what visually happens, involving someone seeing a picture and something seen as a picture, you just have to go see a picture.

8/20/2010 4:17 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Returning briefly to the topic of Frazetta fans and mature relationships, if you check out ebay quickly you can find a young Frazetta fan's perspective on his father's relationship with the divorcee next door. He may be a little embittered at having to give up his cherished Frazetta poster collection, but he still offers an interesting perspective on relationships.

8/22/2010 10:42 PM  
Blogger Jesse Hamm said...

"Young" Frazetta fan? Given his parents' four decade marriage, and his reference to Robert Blake, I'm guessing this fella is a stay-at-home 38-year-old.

Which makes his rant all the more charming.

8/23/2010 3:43 AM  
Blogger Steve Fastner said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/23/2010 5:30 AM  
Blogger Steve Fastner said...

David,
I thought I'd make a few more comments in defense of the fans,being I'm a Frazetta fan,and I assume some of your commenters are as well,but your last comment only illuminates my folly.

I realize now that it's time for all of us to pledge never to show or discuss Frazetta's work again.We must cap this offshore well of gushing immaturity,which has pumped millions of tons daily of arrested development into the fragile ecosystem of american male minds.

Only your uncanny insights can clean their seagull-like,polluted, immature minds with a bath of Saul Steinberg,Noel Sickles,and that post about the scratchy line next to Rembrandt's signature.Skill is the great deceiver, and the devil is in the details!When will we all realize that if less is more,than practically nothing is everything?And don't get me started about kitchy art that is merely entertaining!How can we just selfishly enjoy a painting by a superbly talented artist with the state this crazy world's in?

We must all vow to work to forge the tastes of a new generation of art looker-atters.Then,and only then,will we have the kind of mature,temperate,and unclouded perspectives that we usually receive from the comments page of your blog.

But seriously:Your latest link shows his immaturity,but no empathy from you.The dude's mother died of cancer recently(just... like...Ellie).Maybe the He-man show,Frazetta,rap music,video games,the internet,or any of the 'usual suspects' critics blame it on added on to his bitterness,or not.And maybe he'll grow out of it,or maybe not.Actually,I think he's just being a jerk.I never said there were no immature Frazetta fans,I was disputing your"wave of fan resentment against Ellie",which you backed up with "stories you've heard over the years".Well Dave,it ain't much of a wave,it's more like a splash.

I've noticed that virtually all the pushy-Ellie stories I've seen aren't from
the vast legions of fans,but from the few that wanted a favor or could actually afford to buy art,had a lot of contact with her,and were turned down by Ellie,which they considered highly unreasonable.Even they offer conditional respect for her.

When I wrote, "I think you tend to lump Frazetta fans into the category of 'liking it for all the wrong reasons'You replied "I hope not."You never hesitate to snipe at them,and your commenters love to chime in.

8/23/2010 5:33 AM  
Blogger Steve Fastner said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/23/2010 5:34 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Jesse-- Good catch! That certainly adds a layer of meaning to the story, doesn't it?

Steve Fastner-- sorry if my comment sounded too heartless. I have made clear on many occasions that I am a big Frazetta fan, so if I have "lumped all Frazetta fans together" then I must be insulting myself as well. As for Ellie, the whole purpose of this post was to salute the long relationship of Frank and Ellie, and suggest (from Mr. Spurlock's poignant story) that fans don't always appreciate how Ellie and their marriage supported Frazetta's exotic paintings.

I do plead guilty to loving the ebay story about the unemployed Frazetta fan who wanted to sell the wedding dress of his dad's detested girlfriend so he could use the box to ship a framed Frazetta print. I think it was quite funny, especially the part about how he was going to buy beer with the proceeds. I find more insights into humanity on ebay than in any Chekov play. Back when the Human Genome Project was racing to map the human genome with the latest computer technology, I told them that ebay had already beaten them to it.

8/23/2010 9:55 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/23/2010 11:15 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Back when the Human Genome Project was racing to map the human genome with the latest computer technology, I told them that ebay had already beaten them to it.

That's an anecdote I'd like to hear more about. How did you know or happen to meet those fellows?

(And, I agree with you, if by "latest computer technology" you mean "crappy outdated technology" and if by "ebay" you mean "Craig Venter." :) )

Incidentally, Venter was just quoted in Der Spiegel this past week regarding the Genome Project.

I thought that ebay confession was hilarious, especially him calling his mother-in-law Skeletor. I don't there's much philosophical reflection going on anywhere in that family.

8/23/2010 11:24 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home