Thursday, January 12, 2012

Frazetta: Tarzan And The Antmen




Tarzan And The Ant Men was produced as a spec piece to show publishers what Frazetta was capable of. Vern Coriell, one of the founders of fandom and one of the early passionate enthusiasts of all things Burroughs, first published it as the back cover of the great BURROUGHS BIBLIOPHILES #29 fanzine. It was originally drawn as a watercolor. It ultimately ended-up in the collection of Robert R Barrett, another early fan of Frazetta and passionate collector of all things Tarzan and Burroughs related.

Frank wanted to get the Warren magazine oil from CREEPY #9 back, which he had previously sold to Bob. He offered a deal whereby Frank would get the oil back and, in return, repaint the Ant Men in oil and toss-in another Frazetta Burroughs illustration. Bob agreed. The result is what I think is Frank's first repaint. I have reproduced both versions. I have also included the original sketchsheet. Notice how Frank is playing with the figure of Tarzan to get that heroic walking gesture just right. I think the repainted version is better, but I do enjoy some of the color blendings in the original watercolor. I also like the "eyes open" face of Tarzan. This is the first time that a decent image of the watercolor has been seen. The fanzine version is simply too dark and muddy. It gives no insight into the obvious qualities of the original. However, for its time, we were all glad to see it. BURROUGHS BULLETIN#29 is still the greatest of all the FF fanzines/bootlegs.

Vern Coriell told me he preferred the earlier version because the repaint was stiff and featured a standardized washboard stomach that wasn't as inventive.I told him that I disagreed, but I certainly thought his points had some validity. The second version is simply more 3-dimensional; it has more of that Frazetta "presence" I wrote about earlier. The body creates a visual impact. Tarzan is seeminly striding into your living room. It has energy. It's an interesting comparison to ponder. The question of Frazetta repaints is a heated one. Everyone has their opinions.

What do you think?

(c) 2012 Doc Dave Winiewicz

11 comments:

  1. Frazetta used oil paint over a watercolor? That is pretty unorthodox. I agree that this repaint is an improvement however.

    Dave, has it ever come up in your conversations with Frank about his tendency to bury or hide feet in his art? Clearly he can paint and draw feet superbly, so what is up with that? It has become practically a Frazetta cliché!

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  2. Nice post! To me the newer version shows a more 'rounded' drawing-style, but the original shows a more imaginative use of color.
    Greets,
    Abraham

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  3. the oil version gets my vote but they're both awesome! i really like his use of colors on the figure of tarzan in the watercolor but the oil version is bolder and more fully realized imo. thanks for posting these!

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  4. He once told me that feet get in the way of good designs in many instances. It's just one of his preferences.

    DAVE

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  5. I'm really torn between the two. I quite like some of the watercolour treatment in the original, and the face is quite exceptionally done. But then, his right arm is far better in the oils version.
    I think both have their merit; the watercolour original, to me, draws on nostalgia and vitality, whereas the oils version is technically superior and more polished.
    It's a great example of stylistic progression and skill honing.
    Thanks for the post, very intriguing!

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  6. Thanks for the input guys! It is an interesting topic. Whenever Frank decides to repaint something there always seems to be a loss and a gain implicit in both presentations.

    DAVE

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  7. It is certainly an interesting area of discussion. It seems to me to be almost within the realm psychology. I've no doubt that many artists look back at their work and get a tingle in their brush holding fingers. And wiser men than me would have all sorts of reasons for that, but I think Frank is to be commended for reworking paintings. The way I see it, if an artist has an image in mind, but for whatever reason, be it skill level, time, available materials, they are unable to bring that image to fruition, I see no problem with that image being attempted again at a later stage when circumastances have changed.
    Saying that, it gets rather grey when questioning whether a new canvas should be applied, rather than painting over an existing piece.

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  8. Yes, indeed, Frank has the full right to change any image according to his vision. However, most of us wished he had started a new canvas. Wishful thinking now, of course.

    DAVE

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  9. This blog is amazing sir, thanks so much for posting. The lesser known Frazetta art is very interesting these days, we get to see the range and growth he had as an artist. Frank was more than Conan and Death Dealer.

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  10. I kind of agree with hands and feet. they are quite complicated and hands in particular require detail that can easily detract or distract. Your eyes are automatically drawn to key areas of a composition usually where there is high contrast or detail. Franks work often has a focal point where he wants to draw your attention and uses various techniques to guide you there. Hands have lots of hard edges and surfaces that catch light and cast shadows which would easily distract of break the focus or redirect your eye. To give them too much work would detract from the composition and add unecessary time if they aren't an important part of the composition.

    I wish I could pull off what he did. Feet are always a pain, they can so easily break a composition if the angle is even slightly wrong the whole perspective can lose credibility. Many of Franks paintings do have some distortion but are quite believable because he lets your mind fill in the unnecessary details whilst he gives you everything you need to communicate the power and emotion of the piece and put it in it's proper dimension.

    I learn so much from looking at his work, wish I wasn't so lazy and spent more time painting and drawing rather then procrastinating lol.

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  11. Hi I've just stumbled across your blog, you've got some really interesting stuff here for anyone interested in Frazetta. In answer to your query I've gotta say that I prefer water colour. It's got that same vigorous draftsmanship that first attracted me to Frazetta and the figure has that sublime potency that I associate with his work. The musculature in the repaint is more of a -pumped- look and although Frazetta could execute this look really well, with subtle highlighting that his imitators couldn't emulate. for me that look sacrifices some of the grace of the earlier figure.

    The position of the right arm and hand is a really interesting aspect of this composition because the figure is leading with his right foot, which would put it out of position for a relaxed walking gait. Which might be the reason originally rendered in shadow, who knows but it's interesting to see the sketch and the development of the pose.

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