Friday, March 26, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 51 (3/26) -- Rough Work by Frank Frazetta

More than a decade ago, Cathy and Arnie Fenner began a project to present all of the major works of the quintessential heroic fantasy artist, Frank Frazetta, in handsome large-format art books. After editing three gorgeous and essential books -- Icon, Legacy, and Testament -- from 1998 to 2001, they were done.

But then, another six years later, they also edited this smaller, less comprehensive book, Rough Work. As the title indicates, it's a collection of Frazetta sketches and roughs, from throughout his career (with an emphasis on the '70s, as far as I could tell), in a 6x9 book with a puffy paper-over-boards cover. (Don't ask me why it's puffy -- I haven't seen that style outside of childrens books -- but it definitely is puffy.)

The three big books also included a lot of Frazetta preliminary drawings and sketches, but Rough Work includes, mostly, pieces that aren't in any of those three books. So completists will want it -- though they likely bought it in 2007, when it was published.

There's an introduction by Arnie Fenner about Frazetta; it's more of an appreciation or a celebration than an attempt at even a capsule biography or a critical view of his work. And that's just fine; the audience for a books of Frazetta's sketches and roughs knows just fine who he is.

There are a few relatively finished pieces here, such as a short section of Frazetta's designs for an aborted mid-70s animated Dracula, and plenty of fully-developed drawings from sketchbook pages, but the color work is generally very loose and indicative rather than finished; Frazetta liked to leave himself a lot of the work (and the exploration of the image) to be done in the final art, so his roughs were always clearly roughs.

And the matter of the art is the usual for Frazetta: a little Tarzan and Conan and John Carter (not much, since most of that work was in the other books), plenty of dinosaurs and big cats and spaceships and axe-wielding Vikings and other thinly-clad barbarian types, and a whole lot of fleshy undressed Frazetta women. A lot of that art is loose, but all of it is energetic and just right; this is all art from Frazetta's mature years, so even the sketchiest pieces are the sketches of a smart, talented working artist who knew just how to see and to draw.

This book isn't nearly as essential as the big Frazetta books are, but it's a pleasant look at the minor works and pre-works of one of the best illustrators of the late 20th century, and that's good enough.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Be Your Own Pet - Bunk Trunk Skunk
via FoxyTunes

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