Friday, February 14, 2014

The Canaveral Pens of Frazetta


During my absence from this site I had an opportunity to look around in my files and storage boxes. I found some things I had completely forgotten about. This includes two pens that Frank used when drawing the famous Canaveral plates in 1963-1964.

The story starts in 1982 during a summer visit. Ellie was shopping and the kids were out of the house (some were still living at home during this time). Frank was looking for a sketchbook where he taught Roy Krenkel how to draw cats. He was frustrated in his efforts. This was before the new large studio was added to the rear of the house and everything was crammed into a very small studio space just off the living room. We went upstairs and Frank literally dove into the hall closet. He came out with several sketchbooks of varying sizes. We brought them downstairs and placed them on the dining room table. I always make a note of what is on the walls every time I visit. The walls were always changing. Today we were surrounded by a couple of Kubla  Khan plates, a Warren oil of the Lady with Scythe, the two page  Cindy is Saved comic book story, a Wally Wood robot illo, several Nina panels, and a large Krenkel cityscape of Old Aquilonia (which Frank received from Roy as a wedding gift). Frank quickly flipped through the books. One book contained two dipping pens/crow quills. Frank looked at them and started to ponder why they were there. He quickly remembered.  He told me that these were two of his favorite pens and that he used them to draw the Canaveral plates. He wanted to preserve them in case a special project came up. He completely forgot about them.  The sketchbook had a few pages containing very loose pencil/umber thumbnail studies for some of the later Canaveral drawings. Frank said that a lot of pens had nibs that fought him as he worked. They were scratchy and had a harsh feel in the hand. These, he said, were like oil being spread on glass.silky smooth. He used brushes as well, of course. But he said that brushes didnt give him as much trouble as long as he bought good quality. Pens were just more finicky, he said. In later years Frank would constantly complain at the deterioration of quality in art materials, especially the paper and ink.

I was in stunned silence at the table. The  Canaverals have always been my all-time favorite Frazetta pieces. They are unmatched and glorious. Each one is a little piece of perfection. I have written about them extensively over the past  twenty five  years. Most people have never seen one in person. The three Frazetta Museums never had one on display. They are rare and highly coveted. It was a joy to discover and see these pens preserved by time and hidden upstairs. A pure serendipitous discovery.

After a few moments, Frank took a sip of coffee and simply tossed them at me. "Take them", he said. "Let me clean them up a bit for you." Not a chance, Frank, I quickly said. I want that ink left on them for posterity. This is real history. The tools of the greatest draftsman who ever lived. It takes ones breath away. I love that these pens have Franks fingerprints preserved in ink on the surface. They have all those wonderful marks of use all over the surface. The nibs are encrusted with dried ink. Just glorious.

(C)2014 DocDave Winiewicz




PS: Of course, careful readers are wondering if Frank found the sketchbook he was looking for. Yes, he did. It contained pages of Frank showing Roy how to draw a cats body, then his head, then his whiskers and ears. Very detailed. Roys efforts were on the adjoining page. The book also contained some quick Krenkel cityscapes. I believe one is included in Frank Juniors book, but it is improperly credited to Frank. It is a Krenkel. Another sketchbook was loaded with pencil studies for the Lord Of The Rings plates. There was a great scene with Smaug the dragon that never made it as a finished plate, just an unused idea. Where is all this stuff now?

12 comments:

  1. The nib is probably the Gillott 290 (I mentioned this in another blog entry of yours a year or two ago). They stopped being made in the mid 1980s, and only recently have come back on the market. Still, the old ones are the best. I agree about the quality of art supplies taking a nosedive, especially in the past decade. The new Bristol board out there is terrible, even the 'high end' stuff. Most commercial artists are doing it all digitally, so the paper companies are cutting down quality even more just to try to stay afloat. It's tragic.

    Best regards,

    Alec

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comment, Alec. I looked for a number on the nib but it is covered by ink. I'm sure you are correct about that.

    Dave

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes! Where are those Lord of the Rings sketches! They would be fantastic to see.
    Good to have you back Dave, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Dave,

    This is a great story. I can just imagine your elation when Frank tossed the pens your way! What a moment that must've been. I hope to see one of the originals one day...a man can dream!! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post Doc! What's amazing is that, although these pens channeled magic from a master, in the hands of most anyone else they are just regular pen nibs! I had a brief visit in his studio and as I stood there I noticed he used some of the same tools and brands of medium, turp, brushes etc. that I did! Only ONE can pull the sword from the stone. That was him!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I recognise the pen featured in the third picture is a Gillott 404, I still have I've a few of 'em in a box. I recognise the other pen as a Gillott too but can't recall the number, Anonymous's 290 sounds familiar. He was right about them being excellent pens, I used the 404 exclusively for pen work with a Mitchell reservoir, the reservoir gives greater control over ink flow, allowing you to use thicker ink, the drawback being is that you lose finer line control. It's interesting to learn that, I settled on the same tools as the man himself, after battling with a -lot- Pens that didn't like me, his "Oil on glass" description is very evocative.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for the additional info. I am not an artist and my knowledge of these tools is minimal. I do have a couple of later pens that Frank used which I will photograph at some point.

    Thanks.

    Dave

    ReplyDelete
  8. Really nice to see you back - I know a lot of people besides myself have checked back here frequently in hopes of this .

    On a completely frivolous note - if dead actor resurrection is ever perfected and a Frazetta biopic is made , my vote is for Ray Danton - late 50's early 60's to play him .

    Best Al McLuckie
    Best , Al McLuckie

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, indeed, Al. That would have been perfect casting.

    Dave

    ReplyDelete
  10. Best bets are the Hunt 22 and Hunt 56 School nib.

    Pg 114 of Doc's Frazetta Catalog (12/11/15) shows a better pic where the brass nib, which looks exactly like a Hunt 22, has the number 22 stamped right on it.

    The crusted nib is not a Gillott 404. The 404 has tine grooves parallel to the vent hole. These grooves are not parallel and their angle matches those of the 56 School nib. The only visual difference between the picture and the 56 is the shape of the vent hole. Given the pic quality I can't determine if the difference results from machining or encrusted ink. On a physical note the 56 glides more than the scratchier 404.

    ReplyDelete