His mythology is a huge part of Frank's image, and far be it from me to want to besmirch that, but certain things have come to my attention that I believe call for a reconsidering of some of his claims. I'm not concerned with the claims of his incredible athletic feats - but I do want to set the record straight about his fabled refusal to use photo reference (to draw or paint from photos) and his ridiculously short period of training as an artist - both of which set up unrealistic expectations in admiring young fans who then believe they should be able to do it the way he did, and are in for a rude awakening when that proves impossible. If an art student refuses to work from photo reference or believes that just a few short years of formal art training in childhood is enough to turn them into a word class artist, then they're likely to really botch their training and come out the other side without necessary skills and knowledge, thus sabotaging their chances. And yes folks, I used to believe the claims - in fact I have promoted some of them on this blog.
One of his well known claims is that his only formal art training consisted of a few years under Michel Falanga, I believe between the ages of 8 and 12. But this item from Roy Krenkel's Wiki page indicates otherwise:
"After WWII, he (Krenkel --- Darkmatters) attended Burne Hogarth's classes at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School, which became the School of Visual Arts. There he met a group of young cartoonists, including Joe Orlando, Frank Frazetta and Al Williamson."--- From Wikipedia's Roy Krenkel page
So it seems the maestro was concerned with creating his own legend. Playing the same game of self-promotion that big name fine arts gallery painters are known for - the ones who sell themselves rather than letting their work sell itself. Of course Frank's work is easily strong enough to sell not only itself but countless paperback fantasy books, and to literally redefine the heroic fantasy painting genre permanently. I don't know exactly why he felt compelled to self-promote so strongly - maybe he was insecure about his ability to get by strictly on his undeniable talent, or maybe he just thought every little bit helps - or maybe it was just a part of his nature to mythologize himself. I suspect that's at least a large factor.
And here's a comment I ran across recently on David Apatoff's Illustration Art blog (yes, I seem to be mentioning it in every post lately - hey, it's currently my mainline for info and edutainment, ok?):
David Apatoff said..."One of the things I really enjoyed about Comic-Con was the discussion of photo reference by working artists... in a panel about Jeffrey Jones, one artist (correction - not an artist; it was Louise Simonson, Warren editor and former wife of Jeffrey Jones, later married to Walt Simonson --- Darkmatters) talked about how Frazetta traumatized a generation of artists by claiming he never used reference.
This artist(Simonson) said, "I know for a fact that Frazetta used reference. I don't know why he would say a thing like that, but a lot of younger artists who looked up to him, such as Jeff Jones, thought they were supposed to be able to paint like that from their imaginations, without any reference. It set back their work, as they tried and tried. They thought there was something wrong with them. And gradually they all went back to using reference."
"I am one of those who sees no problem with the use of reference, as long as it is kept in proper perspective (like all other art tools). I agree there are many types of pictures best created by relying on memory. We see them, for example, in Frazetta's loose and free flowing pen and ink drawings or his simpler, monolithic figure paintings. However, there are other pictures that will inevitably look stilted and artificial without the benefit of reference. I've seen about half a dozen instances where Frazetta used photo reference, and he seemed to have a good sense for when it was required (for example, with the tighter drawings for the story, "Squeeze Play"). But every once in a while, you can see pictures where he tried to fake his way through without reference (The Disagreement, for example, or Conan the Destroyer before he went back and repainted it, or Conan the Indomitable) and you can see the limits of memory, even for a master."
8/01/2011 1:55 AM (< direct link to the comment)
It isn't that I want to discredit Frazetta - he's a hero of mine - it's just that I was one of those artists who were lead to believe you could get results like Frazetta's without needing reference. I want to try to stop the damage to what small extent I can through my little blog - maybe some other artists can learn the truth before they waste their training period trying to do without reference or skimp on training.