Sunday, December 11, 2011

Frazetta's Christmas Snowman Tale

This is my last post until the new year. I thought it would be fitting to post a few images from Frazetta's very early Snowman booklet. It has a Christmas theme where Snowman rescues a village from an evil giant and restores Christmas to the community. The pages are rather modest in size, no more than 4x6 inches or so. I would date this from 1946 or 1947. It is a very young Frazetta at his charming best. This is a 28 page story. Many other booklets like this were drawn by Frank including a very large full-color 60 page story featuring Snowman. None have been published.

Frank told me that he tried to trade this story to George Roussos in an effort to acquire one of his Foster TARZAN originals. George refused to accept it saying that Frank should keep it and give it to his mother or grandmother at Christmas time. Frank did ultimately get the TARZAN pages from George and he kept them for over 50 years.

Ultimately, Frazetta traded this booklet to Roy Krenkel many years ago. Krenkel had two of Frank's early sketch books. Roy sold this one and it has remained buried and unseen for years.

A very Merry Christmas to everyone! A safe, happy, and healthy New Year to all!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Frazetta: Warming Up

These are consecutive pages from an early 1970's sketchbook. Actually, the first two images come after the others in the line of creation. The blogger site mixed up the sequence. In these pages Frazetta was warming up to do the large King Kong oil where Kong battles the huge snake. These pages lead up to that final watercolor study. Unfortunately the study was clipped from the book and sold before I could capture it in its integrity as a full sketch page.

This gives an idea , once again, of Frank's working methods. In this case he used these slight pencils as simply a warm up to get a "feel" for the kind of line he wanted and the type of pose. Notice all the clipped pages in the first photo of the open sketch book. I wanted to preserve the authentic look of these "butchered" sketchbooks. Ellie sold it all for quick cash and Frank didn't think it was important enough to save images for posterity. I told him time and time again, but he wouldn't listen. He thought I was nuts to be so concerned about studies.

I recall my earliest visits when all his sketchbooks would be lined up on his cabinet shelf. You could follow the flow of Frank's creative juices year by consecutive year in those books. Now, they are ALL gone and pages resting in collectors' closets, and under their beds, and in their trash cans, and god knows where else. Am I bitter? You bet I am. What a loss to art history. Not being able to preserve and document the nonstop creative flow from such an artistic genius is a sin against art history. I was hitting my head against a brick wall. I saved what I could. It wasn't easy getting any of these photos. I had to wait until Frank was in the right mood and make sure that Ellie wasn't around to stop me or start a fight with Frank. I thought it was important enough to make some serious efforts in this regard.

This highlights another issue for Frazetta collectors, namely, authenticity. Sometimes a real Frazetta doesn't appear to be by Frazetta because it is simply one of these very minor warm up pieces. As I said, Ellie sold everything, both the good and the minor. Other times, there are faux-Frazetta pieces out there that give a hint of Frazetta and easily deceive the uninformed eye. There are a LOT of forgeries out there, some very sloppy, some rather skillfully done with the direct intention to deceive for profit. Pages are carefully torn, stains are added, and loose lines abound in all these phonies. Many of these are laughable in their over earnestness to deceive. Others take a trained eye to spot. All I can say is: be VERY careful. At the end of his life even Frank had a hard time figuring out what was his work. Ellie, of course, was hopeless. She simply dismissed many authentic pieces as forgeries. I have story upon story about these encounters with collectors. They all ended-up calling me to try and get the real story. I have seen 99% of Frank's sketchbook work, so I have a real good idea about what is what. I collected samples of all the types of paper Frank worked with. I used to do all the forgery analysis for Frank and Ellie, but I have now given up. I'm not getting paid and there is more and more in the marketplace. It's not a good situation. I cringe when I hear about people paying 2-3K for a forged piece of nonsense.

When HERITAGE bought the 3 big Frazetta sketchbooks from the Alexander Gallery, their intention was to break them up, cut them up, and sell the extra originals for enhanced "cut up value" as they called it. I contacted Jim Halperin and asked him if he could send me scans of all those pages before the knife hit them so I could possibly reassemble them for posterity in their full integrity. Jim owed me a favor. I was writing the Frazetta descriptions in those early auction catalogs and I had introduced Ed Jaster to Alex Acevedo of the NYC Alexander Gallery in San Diego and gave Alex his first HERITAGE catalog. Jim Halperin and Alex hit it off and HERITAGE bought Alex out, including tons of Crumb and the Harvey Warehouse art archives. They had also bought the 1952, 1954, and 1962 Frazetta sketchbooks almost in their entirety. Jim asked one of his assistants to provide me with the images. Lo and behold I received a CD in the mail several days later. Quick work. I was ecstatic. The pages would be preserved. I stuck the disc into my computer and my heart sank.....EVERY image was small and blurry. They photographed the pages and, whoever did it, royally screwed up. I gave up. It just wasn't meant to be. Jim tried to help, but we were thwarted by someone just not paying close enough attention to his job.

The pages got cut up and sold. I managed to buy 4 complete pages to rescue them. I posted three of them in an earlier essay; they were studies for the men's magazine illo of the floating girl.

It's too bad none of Frank's serious fans in the 60's made the effort to preserve these images. I tried. Failed.

Oh well...

(c)2011 DocDave Winiewicz

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Frazetta: Birthday Card

I just came across this birthday card that Frank drew for Ellie's father. It's never been seen.

Interesting that Frank took it back!


PS: I'll probably post one or two more items and then take a long break for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. It's a very hectic time of year for me.

Frazetta: Underpainting Redux

This photo comes with a story. I photographed this one at the same time I shot those LORD OF THE RINGS studies. I saw these ONE time and never saw them again. I preserved this discussion word for word.

DW: What is the story behind this oil, Frank? I've never seen it before.

FF: I don't like it. It's a failure. I started painting it right after drawing that graveyard picture for the Kubla Khan drawings. That one [Frank points to the kubla khan death scene hanging on the wall of his studio.] I really like that drawing. I worked hard to get it right. Do you remember all the comps I did for that? All the other drawings came pretty easily. My other favorite is that Lord Of The Rings Black Knight drawing. I got the weight and the forward movement at just the right moment. Perfect balance, perfect motion. That really turned out well. No effort. I remember being excited to see how it would turn out. It just flowed onto the paper like I wasn't even holding the brush. I guess I was in a zone of some sort. That happens when I really get excited about an image. Like that Buck Rogers cover I did for Gaines. Same feeling. I did little studies in pencil for most of the other drawings. That death scene design took me longer. I toyed with different ideas. I must have run a hundred ideas through my head.

DW: Yes, you did more than you did for any other plate in those portfolios. Why? What were the problems you wrestled with? You went from something highly dramatic to something almost spiritual and prayerful. Those early studies were kind of obvious and stale, werent they? The final solution is PURE Frazetta. The idea and execution are perfect. I never tire looking at it. It stops me in my tracks every time I walk by it. Its as good as anything, isnt it?

FF: Exactly. I couldn't get a clear idea of what I wanted. I would do a study, look at it, then realize that it wasn't me. Images kept spinning in my head. I was thinking of world war II movies, cowboy movies, all sorts of death scenes. I wanted something subtle, but still have the emotion and the power, the energy. Its been done so many times that it was tough to get a new take on it.

Less is more. How many times have I said that? I kept simplifying it in my mind. I finally got it. I did a very elaborate pencil. Did you ever see the pencils? Cochran flipped when he saw them. He thought they were better than the final inks. No, the inks were better. Who cares about a pencil? Too easy. Make a mistake and just erase. No big deal. Why do these kids make such a big deal about pencil drawings. If you cant do a decent pencil, then get out of the business.

DW: Frank, I always thought that bicep carried all the emotion. The muscles showed tension, stress, and sorrow. The gesture of the body is simply perfect...respect and sorrow and ultimate loss. He lost his best friend. His world has shrunk and constricted. His body position is the same way.

FF: You got it! The life is there; I caught just what I wanted. I did a quick watercolor of the scene. I wanted to see if I could capture it in color. The watercolor was shitty. I hated it. I looked at it and never looked again. I think Ellie hid it somewhere upstairs. She was afraid Id throw it out. I decided to try an oil. This is it. [Frank picks up the oil.] I wanted to focus on all the muscles. I wanted the muscles to talk. I wanted to feel them, to get some emotion coming off the body. Failure. Nothing. Looks like a goddamn statue. Lifeless. At least to my eye it is.

Didn't work, didn't capture it. I stopped. The more I looked at it, the more I disliked it. I threw it in the back of the cabinet. Why show it? It's not even good enough as a life study. See that black blob on the right? That was going to be a long shock of flowing hair. I was going to make the face more oriental. I didn't know what to do with it. Wasn't worth my time. I wasted enough time on it. Maybe we can burn it in the yard. Put it back in the cabinet, I can't look at it anymore."

I took it outside and shot one quick picture, then I put it back in the cabinet. Thank God the picture turned out. Its not often when Frank expresses such complete exasperation. I thought the original was pretty impressive. I wanted to buy it, but I didn't think Frank would sign it. Also, I didn't want him to think less of me for having such poor taste as to actually want it. I was caught in the web of aesthetic politics, Frazetta-style. Thwarted again.

The original is interesting because Frank took the composition a bit further than the initial umber underpainting. We are here right in the middle of his creative process. He started to add some color highlights, then he just stopped. All the anatomical abnormalities would be corrected in the finishing process. No photos here, just inspiration from the mind's eye. I did snap a shot of the watercolor, but I haven't found it yet. I have it somewhere. Its not that impressive. Frank was right about that. All this came out of a manilla envelope with photos I had completely forgotten about. Thank God I found it. So many trips, so many memories. Rediscovering memories like this is a complete joy.

I wonder what happened to these originals? I hope Frank didn't decide to warm his hands in the backyard.

(c)2011 doc dave winiewicz

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Frazetta: Last NINA panel Discovered

I found this photo of Frank's dining room wall. Notice the large opening panel with the full shot of the airplane. All the panels from both tryout pages have now been accounted for. Let someone put that first page back together!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Frazetta: Underpainting

I spoke earlier about Frazetta beginning an oil with a darker umber underpainting. Here is an example. I found this photo of two LORD OF THE RINGS concepts that were never finished. They are smaller 11x14 inch oil studies executed on canvasboard. Interesting, eh?


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Frazetta: A Dog's Best Friend

Previously unpublished and seen in its entirety for the very first time. I put this story back together many, many years ago. I bought the splash from a Russ Cochran auction, and found page two in a Guernsey's auction several years later. This is the last interior comic book story drawn by Frank. It was supposed to run right after the CINDY IS SAVED story that I posted earlier.

I brought it down to Frank to have him sign the second page. He did. When he finished, he raised a partially wet coffee cup to take a sip and, of course, two big drops of water slid off the bottom of the cup and directly hit the partially wet signature. Such is fate, eh? Frank commented that he was relieved that coffee drops didn't hit it. He said: "Let's leave it. If I try to fix it, it will smudge. You got yourself another Frazetta story, Dave."

Actually, the smudged signature bothered the hell out of me. Frank decided he wanted to get the story back and offered me a trade for the nude bathing girl watercolor from 1962. I jumped at it.

The splash page originally had a big stain right in the middle of the page. It required a $1200 conservation job to remove it. Page two had several paste-overs covering some minor flaws. All in all, the inking and energy in these pages is pure Frazetta magic.

(c)2011 DocDave Winiewicz