Friday, October 7, 2011

The Frazetta Female

I like the girls of Vargas. I like the pinups of Elvgren even more. As a matter of fact, there are scores of very talented girlie artists that have drawn and painted females of every race, occupation, and in every setting…and continue to do so. The one common element of all these artists is that they present fresh-looking girls exhibited with little touches of soft-core titillation. They are all so perky and exuberant…it’s impossible not to find them very appealing. It is a growth industry and not likely to stop anytime soon. At any given time EBAY is stuffed with hundreds of female depictions from artists of varying degrees of talent.

Now, let’s add Frazetta into this equation. He is, in a word, different. Why is it that collectors are ALWAYS looking for “babes” by Frazetta? This is the number one pursuit by Frank’s legions of rabid worldwide fans. I get requests every single day from collectors looking for a great Frazetta female. Why is this? It is because of the unique nature of Frazetta’s women. Yes, he has drawn that same type of softcore pinup girl. We can see these girls displayed in the men’s magazines wash illustrations from the early 1960’s. They are beautifully drawn, but for the most part they don’t rise above the norm for this type of subject matter. He was doing a job and doing it well. On his worst day Frank can draw girls better than most other artists. Consider this unique case of the female drawn for this 1962 illustration (from a men’s magazine). The story is unimportant. The man is beautifully rendered, but he is there to complete the story. The crosshatching defining his back is simply sublime. The fantastic machine is there as a bit of an inside joke. It’s looking at her bottom and saying “Va-Va-Voom” (if you can understand machine language!). Delightful.

Frank wanted the woman to be special. He spent 3 full pages in his 1962 sketchbook to explore the composition. This book features large 11x14 inch pages. Frazetta has girls jumping, standing, writhing, rolling, tumbling, and floating across these 3 pages. Is he having fun? He certainly is. Thank heaven that we have these pages intact and we are able too see this great mind at play. Notice that he even includes a caveman on one of the pages. One might think it is out of place here. Not at all. With all those females populating those pages, Frank drew his id onto the page. That caveman is the visual embodiment of Frank’s testosterone. All those women demand a leering male presence! Frank is there. Quite amazing, really.

The final result is a sensational floating female, an apparition in the night with lush, wild hair and a face that defies description. Is this your standard cutesy pie girl-next-door type? Not at all. Her face reveals a woman that is gentle and sensual, strong and erotic. The face has catlike qualities that are unusual and highly desirable. Has Frazetta ever drawn a better female face? I do not think so.

With his women Frank transcends the pinup mentality and all its superficial prettiness and contrived sexiness. His women smolder. There is genuine mystery present and a sense of personal power. He brings a sense of insight and revelation to his depictions that go beyond prettified surface descriptions. That is the realm of Vargas and Elvgren and countless others. Again, they are sensational painters of the female form. But Frazetta brings a new set of very special qualities to his best females. Page upon page could be written about the magic of the Cat Girl, or the Burroughs heroines, or all those other sensual females from the Canaveral drawings or the Doubleday illustrations. The list goes on and on. One thing is sure…collectors will always be searching for the best Frazetta female that their pocketbook can afford. Now, that is ART with all the capitals in place!

A quick update about the 6 panel men's magazine illustration at the head of this essay. It is the only other men's illo known to exist, along with the floating girl pictured above. However, the original is no longer in this format. The current owner decided to break it up into 6 separate illustrations and sell them individually. He owns it; it was his decision. Usually, one can find one or two of these little gems for sale at the San Diego Comic Con. The prices vary from 15K-25K each. Luckily, I have a nice transparency of the original in its full integrity.

Dr. Dave Winiewicz (c)2008


Richard said...

your efforts here are greatly appreciated Dave, I am a HUGE Frazetta fan and I know and respect your expertise on the subject on many, many different levels...

people are watching and reading (probably drooling a bit too but that's another story) so please keep posting.

Richard Friend.

docdave said...

Thanks Richard! Coming from a fine artist like yourself I sincerely appreciate the encouragement.

All the best!


RobertP said...


Thanks for posting such DELICIOUS artwork...truly Frank's work is a feast for the eyes...the astute commentary is a treat as well, believe me you are appreciated! By the way, agreed, NO ONE can touch Frank's feline, seductive girls...!

Kris said...

Frazetta girls are amazing !

Keep posting...

You can see a pencil frazetta portaiti've made here :

Anonymous said...

Frazetta is a great, great artist. Being such, there's nothing wrong with owning up about using photo reference. After all, the old Renaissance masters and those afterwards always drew from life when preparing their figurative paintings. It is easy to distinguish a Raphael drawing that was done before a live model from one drawn from his memory. Frank and Ellie obviously posed for much of his comics and painting work. A camera sees in mono, and a person sees in stereo (assuming both of his eyes are in working order). Take a look at page two, panel one of "Squeeze Play":

and this photo of Frank (taken by Al Williamson) at Jones Beach, where all of the rest of the reference photos for that story were taken:

One can clearly see that Frank reversed the photo and used it for reference. There's nothing wrong with that at all, nor does it diminish his awesome talent one iota. Ellie told me in 1985 that he used photo reference "only for the lighting." He can certainly draw and paint without it, but why reinvent the wheel? There is always more to see, to distill, to impart when viewing life firsthand. Frazetta never fell into the trap of being reliant upon photos. Conversely, he never grew stale relying upon stock 'memory' poses. Many other artists have fallen into these problem areas, but not he. Great blog, by the way! Very informative!

Anonymous said...

What I meant about the camera 'seeing' in mono is that photo-referenced art often has a bit of forced perspective (especially if a wide angle lens were used), even on human forms. While this is not necessarily a bad thing---in fact, it can often heighten the dramatic impact of a figure---the use of such is apparent to a trained eye.

On a slightly different note, it was fun spotting his use of Cary Grant photos (with a mustache added) as the cad in "The Wrong Road"

Frazetta also used much photo reference of himself as the hero and Al Williamson as the villain in "Untamed Love." These are some of the most beautifully drawn comics stories I've ever seen!