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Frank Frazetta was an American artist known primarily for his fantasy-based artwork. His work has graced the covers of many books and magazines, as well as movie posters. While he didn’t do much work surrounding Tolkien, he did produce a series of illustrations for The Lord of the Rings (which are some of my all-time favorite pieces of artwork).
He was born in 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, and when he was younger than three years old, he sold his grandmother a crayon drawing for a penny (which was enough for him to buy a handful of candy!). Through this, she showed him that there was money to be made in art and encouraged him and always showed an interest in his work.
At eight years old, his parents enrolled him in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts (which only had about 30 students, with ages ranging from eight to eighty). After his professor, Michele Falanga, died, many of the students got together and paid for the school’s rent, and the school remained open for another year before it eventually closed.
While Frazetta still continued to draw and paint a little during his teen years, he became interested in other things, such as athletics, and was offered a contract to play for the New York Giants’ farm team, which he declined.
It wasn’t until he was 16 when he had his work published for the first time. This work was called Snowman, and later that year he completed a feature called Captain Kidd Jr. He got a break three years later from Graham Ingels, an illustrator, who gave him a feature called Judy of the Jungle, which led Frazetta to do others such as Thund’a and Dan Brand and Tipi.
For a long time, he wanted to be able to do the Tarzan comic strip, but didn’t take it when he was finally offered; the idea of becoming a comic strip artist had lost its appeal at that point. He met lifelong friend Roy Krenkel in the late 40s and admits Krenkel was one of his inspirations and the reason he became interested in painting covers for books and magazines.
He created covers for paperback books such as Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and Barsoom series. My father has many copies of these books sitting on his bookshelves, and admits the main reason he bought them was solely for the cover art. One of my favorite covers is from a novel called The Reassembled Man (NSFW) by Herbert D. Kastle. In addition, Frazetta created artwork for magazines like Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella, as well as movie posters, a couple examples of these being What’s New Pussycat? and Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet.
In 1975, the Middle Earth Portfolio Publishing Company in Denver, Colorado commissioned Frazetta to create a portfolio based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It includes seven ink illustrations, and in addition, Frazetta created an oil painting of Gollum for his own enjoyment. When the portfolio was released, many Tolkien fans didn’t have the best reactions towards it. In the book, Testament: The Life and Art of Frank Frazetta, it’s stated that “it ignited a firestorm of criticism from the legion of Rings fans who took issue with Frank’s liberal interpretation of the story. Accustomed to his versions of fantasy characters becoming definitive, he was somewhat mystified by the controversy surrounding the folio.” Frazetta responded with, “Wow, I thought the Burroughs fans were particular, but the Tolkien fans were really picky.” (Sadly there is not much information surrounding Frazetta’s interest in Tolkien.) One thousand sets of the portfolio were printed, numbered, and signed by the artist. Unfortunately, while I don’t have an official set from the signed 1000, I do have prints of the portfolio, and they’re one of my favorite parts of my Tolkien collection. The artwork is different from how we are normally used to seeing Tolkien’s world, and I admit that the armor he created for Éowyn probably isn’t the most logical choice for battle, but I personally love Frazetta’s take on it.
In 1983, he released a movie called Fire and Ice with Ralph Bakshi, and a lot of the story and characters were created by Frazetta himself. (Many Tolkien fans will recognize the name Ralph Bakshi, as he directed the animated version of The Lord of the Rings in 1978.)
Frazetta had a few museums, the first one originating in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, but according to the Frank Frazetta Museum website, it is currently closed. As he got older, photography became a larger part of his life; he owned several cameras and used his own darkroom to develop his work. In 2003, a film documenting his life and career called Frazetta: Painting with Fire was released. In it, artists such as Neal Adams and Bill Stout, director Ralph Bakshi, as well as former late editor for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Forrest Ackerman (along with more people), discuss Frazetta and his influence in art.
Frank later suffered from several strokes, causing him to lose ability in his dominant hand, but eventually switched and taught himself to use his left hand. For him to be able to paint beautifully with his non-dominant hand is absolutely amazing! That takes a lot of determination and practice and I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of work that took.
On May 10, 2010, Frazetta died from a stroke at the age of 82, and a month later one of his original artworks for Weird Science-Fantasy No. 29 issue was sold for $380,000. This set the record for the largest amount of money paid for a comic book page by an American artist. Additionally, during San Diego Comic-Con in 2012, Frazetta’s original 1971 oil painting called Conan the Destroyer was sold for $1.5 million!
While Frazetta very rarely talked about his work, Dave Winiewicz, a Frazetta historian, asked if he could put into words how he felt about his career. In response, Frazetta wrote in The Burroughs Bulletin:
“I would consider myself to be a creative artist, not just a fantasy illustrator. I work purely from my imagination with swipe flies or photographs sitting by my easel while I paint. I stress good composition and a sense of design that borders on the abstract in spite of the subject matter. When people look back on my art, no one is ever going to say that I was the best draftsman who ever lived. And they’re not going to say that I painted the most beautiful women or the most heroic figures. But I think they’ll say that I made the most unbelievable things believable: that standing in front of one of my paintings caused a suspension of disbelief. Achieving that wasn’t done with style or color or technique; it was achieved with attitude, with a look, with a gesture. Imagination is all of it and I firmly believe that is what I’ll be remembered for.”
My own father is a huge fan of Frank Frazetta, and over the years I’ve become very familiar with his art. Frazetta was able to create such incredible worlds within his paintings and illustrations in such an original way; he went above and beyond. His work has an incredible impact on today’s concept of fantasy-based artwork. When Frazetta died, A Song of Ice and Fire’s author, George R.R. Martin said, “One of the giants of SF and fantasy art. In his heydey, it is said that having a Frazetta cover on your paperback would double your sales… Frazetta had a profound influence on many artists who came after him as well, some of whom went on to become giants in their own right.” I’d consider Frazetta to be one of the best fantasy artists of the 20th century, if not of all time.
For more information about Frank Frazetta and his art, visit the Frank Frazetta Museum website.Read More
Authored by Middle-earth Network Founder Mark Ostley.
Hollywood. The name evokes images of glitz, stars, red carpets, and jaded studio executives who sit in ivory towers. Meet Mark Ordesky who turns that image upside down when it comes to studio executives.
Ordesky was a convincing force inside New Line Cinema that swayed the studio to take on Sir Peter Jackson’s epic vision of bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s works to the big screen. Because of his friendship with Jackson, and his passion for Tolkien, New Line appointed him Executive Producer of the films. The rest is history.
Ordesky is featured in the appendices of the three films, and if you look closely, you can see some of his passion for the genre overflow.
Before 2001 and the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, we were confined to watching remastered releases of Star Wars, and E.T. Since then, 38 of the top 40 all-time grossing films have been either sci-fi or fantasy related. A windfall for fans everywhere, due mainly to people like Sir Peter Jackson, and Mark Ordesky, supported by a host of professionals who shared that passion—the passion which sent Hollywood a loud and clear message. Fantasy films can make money. Lots of it.
It’s worth remembering that if it hadn’t been for these pioneers, we wouldn’t be enjoying The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey today.
We were fortunate enough to catch Mark for an early morning interview to candidly find out about someone, who, in my opinion, has been one of the people behind the scenes who has arguably changed motion picture history for fans of the fantasy/sci-fi genre.
In the interview you’ll discover a person who, like the rest of us, really shares the same passion and excitement when it comes to Tolkien, D&D, Narnia, Michael Moorcock, etc., and miniscule content details that every self respecting aficionado of the genre knows.
We track Mark’s journey from a high school teenager who discovers D&D (he still meets with his original D&D group), to his work with New Line Cinema, and some inside background and anecdotes on becoming Executive Producer of the Lord of the Rings films.
In a surprise twist though, you’ll also discover one of the most genuine people I’ve meet. Unassuming, intelligent, excited, and as Mark describes himself, “One of us.” He is, as we would say, the real deal.
You can also catch Mark reading his favorite passage from The Hobbit for us, and many other great videos at Middle-earth Networks YouTube Channel.Read More
Announcing LOTRO Quest – Episode #02
From Tolkien to Tinnudir
LOTRO Quest is back for another epic adventure! We’ve been to Rivendell and followed Frodo to the Prancing Pony, and now we’re off on another majestic journey! This time, we’ll be setting off from the the Rabbit Room inside the Bird and Baby in Michel Delving along side the Inklings themselves! We’ll be travelling down long-trodden roads, into the pages of the past and even into the presence of the of the Sub-Creator himself!
After a quick drink at the bar, we’ll set out to the reminant of the Kingdom of the North, to the very borders of its capital. The ruins of Tinnudir that look upon the Shores of Annuminas and the Tomb of Elendil will be our final destination, but not before a stop in Dwaling to see the Professor himself, known as Ronald Dwale in-game!
Be sure to come along on Thursday, June 21st at 8pm, Eastern Standard Time in Lord of the Rings Online on the Landroval Server! We’ll be meeting inside the Bird & Baby, in the Rabbit Room! Epic adventure and fine fellowship abounds! It’ll be a night to remember!Read More
How much walking does it take to ‘simply walk into Mordor?’ Is it the action of setting your feet down there, or crossing the border on foot, or is it absolutely essential to hike from an Elven settlement? (or at least from the Anduin!) We’ve all dreamed of being able to say we simply walked into Mordor, and on the Long-Expected Journey we plan to do just that. Day Three takes us to Mount Ruapehu and the Pinnacle Ridge, where scenes of Mordor and of the vast Gorgoroth plains within Mordor were hosted.
—“Do not speak that name so loudly!” said Strider.
—“But now Frodo often met strange dwarves of far countries, seeking refuge in the West. They were troubled, and some spoke in whispers of the Enemy and of the Land of Mordor. That name the hobbits only knew in legends of the dark past, like a shadow in the background of their memories, ominous and disquieting.”
Within Jackson’s version, Mordor is memorably a desolation, and even from afar can be seen as a smog-infested fortress of a landscape, protected by dark mountains and backlit with a maliciously glowing red sky. Jackson didn’t have to make anything up there – as the Third Age drew to a close and the War of the Ring was in motion, Mordor actually looked exactly like that. Tolkien describes to us Mordor as seen by the Ringbearer, his gardener, and his guide as they approach from the western edge. “In the East there was a dull red glare under the lowering cloud: it was not the red of dawn. Across the tumbled lands between, the mountains of the Ephel Dúath frowned at them, black and shapeless below where night lay thick and did not pass away, above with jagged tops and edges outlined hard and menacing against the fiery glow.” The red glare above Mordor is mentioned a few other times, and while it does on occasion fade away, it just as often returns.
Take the challenge. Dare you simply walk into Mordor?
…Actually it may be best if you prepare yourself first. Read the full article here.Read More