2010-06-01 09:49 pm (UTC)
Frazetta used himself as (photo-)reference for a lot of his work. For example, this photo of Frank, taken by Al Williamson at Jones Beach, was only one of many utilized for his only solo story for E.C., "Squeeze Play."
Now look at the standing figure in panel one; it is a reversal of the photograph.
If you own the oversized UNTAMED LOVE reprint, you can see drawings based on photo reference of Marilyn Monroe and Burt Lancaster in the title story in at least one panel each (MM is made into a brunette) and BL is uplit in one panel), as well as Frank himself, and Al Williamson as the villain. Al appears as a doctor in a panel of another story, and even Roy Krenkel shows up in an early panel of "Werewolf" (FF once again is the principle character).
2010-06-01 09:51 pm (UTC)
Almost forgot a few Betty Page pix in a comics story where Cary Grant (with a ship captain's hat and a mustache added) is the villain.
2010-06-03 09:04 pm (UTC)
Archibald Leach in last panel with an anchovie across his upper lip:
Thanks for the tips re. which actors to look for.
Except for the Werewolf story, all of this comics work was done in the early '50s, a decade before Frazetta began the phase of his career I was describing in my post. As a painter, he occasionally relied on reference, but far less than his contemporaries.
2010-06-04 08:43 pm (UTC)
Jesse, the truth of the matter is that Frank Frazetta photo referenced almost all of his figures in the book and magazine paintings, using himself and his wife as models. You might remember a thread on The Comics Journal forum a few years ago in which his burning of thousands of photos on his estate property was lamented. A few of these have seen print, too: remember him posing with the pistol for "The Gauntlet" movie poster in THE LIVING LEGEND book, published circa 1980? There's another b&w photo of Frazetta wearing a metal band around his right biceps and nothing but a loin cloth, holding a spear or some similar weapon; he wasn't going to a costume party---this was reference for one of the Conan or Tarzan covers.
It's no coincidence that almost all of his male protagonists---in comics from THUN'DA onwards to the romance stories, and in his later paintings---look like glorified self-portraits. They are.
In the spring of 1985 I was 20 years old, and went on a field trip to the Frazetta museum with my Kubert School classmates (2nd & 3rd year students). At the time the museum was located in downtown East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, right next to Bill Frazetta's costume shop. Amongst my classmates (so anyone can corroborate my story, if so desired) were future comics industry professionals Amanda Conner, Tom McWeeney, Grant Miehm, Rich Hedden, Jack Pollock, John Floyd, etc., and 3rd years students Mark Pennington, Mark McNabb, etc.
Ellie Frazetta told everyone that Frank used photo reference, but "only for the lighting." Mark McNabb happened to be standing next to a painting for a Burroughs paperback cover which I believe is called "Moon maiden" (so-called in the Ballantine FANTASTIC ART OF FRANK FRAZETTA vol. 2, anyway). Mark asked Ellie who was the model for the bare-bottomed woman riding on (the centaur character's) horseback, and she smiled a bit, almost blushing, and said, "I did." Of course, Frazetta told artistic liberties, and used photo reference only as a point of departure.
The fact is, it's pretty easy to see what he has drawn without reference and what he has: the former is usually a bit simpler, sometimes even cartoonish, whereas in the latter he explores a lot of abstraction of form and a subtler interplay of bone and muscle, flexion and extension, and the effects of gravity.
Frazetta obviously used photo reference when obtaining the likeness of the Hollywood celebs for the movie posters he did in the '60s and '70s.
Two other factors that reveal the influence of photography in his work: a camera sees in 'mono' whereas human beings see in stereo (assuming both eyes are functioning correctly). A camera often forces perspective which can be an asset to a dramatic scene. Furthermore, Frazetta was quite the shutterbug, having upwards of a thousand cameras in his possession. He loved to take photos! Secondly, indoor, spotlit photo reference is not at all the same as forms in outdoor lighting which falls in parallel lines (the sun being so immense and distant from the earth causing that, and moonlight likewise having the same parallel line effect). That being the case, most of Frazetta's paintings, on closer inspection, reveal a type of lighting that is radiant from a small, local source, and fall across the planes of the body in that fashion---despite his mostly outdoors settings in the paintings.
His work reveals an immense talent and a great genius on many levels (some of which you covered in your initial post). I guess what peeves me a bit is the latterday insistence on his (and his immediate circle's) part of not using photo reference. It just isn't true. And he really shouldn't try to hide that; it takes nothing away from the quality of his images.
By the way, did you know that Roy Krenkel did the compositional/color roughs for a number of Frazetta's early Warren covers? I've seen a few (the cover for CREEPY #7, for example, with the hero fighting against a swirling mass of wraithlike pterodactyls). I suppose he was returning the favor, since Frank sometimes touched up Krenkel's paperback cover paintings (helping with a figure here and a face there) of the early '60s.
2010-06-04 08:45 pm (UTC)
Ah, can't edit comments. One phrase in the above post should read "took artistic liberties" rather than "told."
Alec, as I said, Frazetta did occasionally rely on photo reference for his paintings. The three examples you cited demonstrate this, but you'd be hard-pressed to argue that he referenced "almost all" of his paintings. Consider:
*If photos were so integral to his process, he'd probably have said so. Sure, he liked to brag about avoiding photo ref, but I can as easily see him bragging about the thoroughness of his process, and his expertise at snapping just the right photo, and his ability to mimic and/or "plus" photos, if indeed they were a regular part of his routine.
*If he had considered photo reference a dirty secret, he wouldn't have included several of his reference photos in his art books, and identified them as such.
*Avid Frazetta disciple Ken Kelly doesn't appear to use photos. Kelly visited Frazetta's studio for years; he would have noticed if Frazetta relied on photos, and would surely have done likewise. (Instead, Kelly's website says: "Frazetta stressed how important it was ...to let the action on the canvas come from the imagination. Ken took those words to heart and has lived by them ever since.")
*Frazetta's figures have such exaggerated proportions and body language that photo ref seems unlikely -- especially in case of his monsters, which never appear incongruous next to his humans (indicating that both were painted from his head). His women are much more busty and thin-waisted than Ellie, and tend to have dark hair and Asian features -- never her short, fair hair and Irish features. Most of the men he painted are far more beefy than he was. (By contrast, artists like Vallejo, Rockwell, and Flagg mimicked their own physiques closely when they modeled for themselves.) His own facial features show up in his males, but that's true of most artists whether they use photo ref or not, since we learn to draw faces by looking in a mirror.
*He probably did use photo ref for the likenesses in his movie posters, but those constitute a small fraction of his work, and even indicate that he rarely used photos elsewhere. Notice how distinctive the (referenced) likenesses are in his movie posters, compared to the more uniform (un-referenced) faces in the rest of his oeuvre.
*I don't recall the TCJ thread you mentioned, but even if we grant that he burned thousands of photos, there's no reason to think those were reference photos, unless we already grant that he relied heavily on photo reference. He loved to snap pictures, so the pics in question may have featured any number of things. (Maybe he'd taken lots of racy pics of his wife that he didn't want his kids to find after he was gone? Maybe he just took lots of lousy photos? Serious photographers throw out the majority of their shots.) In any case, the notion that he was trying to hide his reference pics is sunk by the fact that several of them appear in his books.
*Regarding the points you raised about lighting: Frazetta learned to paint light & shadow in a studio setting, so his approach to painting light would look more "indoor" in any case. He was no plein air painter. Also, spot-lit lighting is far more dramatic than the more uniform, horizontal lighting you describe, so it's likely that his spot-lit approach was determined by his well-known preference for drama, rather than the limits of studio lighting. And he could have overcome the latter by simply stepping outside, had he wanted photo reference for an outdoor scene. He was surrounded by plenty of private land.
*Regarding the forced perspective of photographs: forced perspective is commonly used to increase the drama of a scene, and doesn't necessarily indicate photo usage. It shows up often in Jack Kirby's work, and I think we can all agree Kirby didn't rely on photos!
2011-07-15 09:21 am (UTC)
Frazetta Used Photo Reference for Sure
Frazetta has published some of his photo references
in his books, but as he has gotten older he has gone
with the idea that using photo references is "cheating"
in the art world. So he has
denied his use of photos and models to some degree
(as in his interview in Painting With Fire).
But it's too late to retract reference photos of himself
as the model, pointing a gun, in "Frazetta: The Living Legend".
It's VERY easy to exaggerate proportions and muscles
from a photograph...just make things bigger! Also, it's
very easy to paint someone else's head on a body that
was modeled by Ellie ("Vegas" is clearly modeled by Ellie,
likely many times over). Noticed many of the women actually
look like Ellie!
And just look at the hundreds of cameras the guy had.
The reality is that Frazetta was a GREAT PHOTOGRAPHER,
WHO ALSO PAINTED EXTREMELY WELL.
That being said, he used photo reference mainly for
his human figures. His big cats were done freehand,
in most cases (see video in Painting with Fire).
Also, a testament to his brilliance, is that EVERYONE
has access to photography and Photoshop these days, and
STILL, they cannot recreate his sense of lighting and
composition. So guess what? Frazetta was MAJORLY TALENTED.
Edited at 2011-07-15 06:06 pm (UTC)
"By the way, did you know that Roy Krenkel did the compositional/color roughs for a number of Frazetta's early Warren covers? I've seen a few (the cover for CREEPY #7, for example, with the hero fighting against a swirling mass of wraithlike pterodactyls)."
I knew they had collaborated on one or two of them, including CREEPY #7. But CREEPY #7 was Dracula fighting the Wolfman (Krenkel handled the castle in the background). CREEPY #9 was the one with pterodactyls (or probably Burroughs's "Mahars"). That composition doesn't look very Krenkel to me; are you sure the rough was by him?
2010-06-05 02:31 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's the one, and it was Krenkel's. I'm not dropping a 'bomb shell' here, because it actually saw print some years ago. Do you own any of the hardover ARIEL or ICON books. Not sure which it appeared in, if any of those titles.
By the way, Ellie Frazetta told me that Roy Krenkel, a lifelong atheist, received Christ as his Lord and personal Saviour when she led him in the sinner's prayer on his deathbed.
2010-06-05 03:06 pm (UTC)
I did a bit of looking online, but couldn't find any scans of Roy's layouts except for the one you mentioned, Jesse: CREEPY #7's cover, although #6 credits Roy with the layout as well, as per THE WARREN COMPANION which obtained its info from the actual mags. "Sea Witch" is (mis)attributed to Roy'S layout, but that's probably in confustion with #7 (EERIE, not CREEPY). Thematically, that one was inspired by an old Arnold Bocklin painting.
I hesitate to make a case with the following, but some years ago when Mike Hoffman went on his bizarre anti-Frazetta rant he dug up a number of obscure men's mag photos which did indeed match up with some of Frank's paintings. Here's just one of many:
Hoffman has since deleted his old blog (a good move), but I would have liked for you to see some more of these photo references we've been discussing.
I do very much appreciate Frazetta's talent, and miss him and Ellie greatly.
2010-06-05 03:07 pm (UTC)
Sorry, there's no auto signature on this. The above post was by me (Alec).
So glad to learn of Krenkel's conversion!
I own the hardcover ICON, and it has Krenkel's sketch of Creepy #7, but no mention of him working on the Creepy #9 cover (also included).
I did some reading at the Frazetta forum, and Arnie Fenner, who edited ICON, said there
that Krenkel only provided sketches for two Creepy covers (#6 and #7). He's also called #9's cover his favorite Frazetta painting, so I'm guessing he'd know whether Krenkel had something to do with that one.
He also added this remark, which may solve the mystery of the Krenkel sketch you saw:"HOWEVER, Roy most certainly DID draw copies (in pencil, ink, or ball-point) FOR HIMSELF of pieces that Frank had done because he especially liked a certain illo or because, in copying it, he would learn how Frazetta had done what he'd done. Roy was a constant sketcher and was always drawing things he saw and liked, be they in a museum, a book, or a friend's studio. That is NOT a discredit to Roy, but merely points out that he was inquisitive and constantly trying to improve as an artist (even though he was quite accomplished)."
So I'd guess Krenkel sketched #9 after Frazetta painted it. It's just so different from most of Krenkel's own work: the prominence of the figures, their dynamism, the lack of background elements, and the sweeping arcs of the composition suggest Frazetta rather than Krenkel.
I read Mike Hoffman's rants when they were online, and they were eye-opening. As I recall, he posted one or two photos Frazetta had referenced, plus 3 or 4 swipes from other artists' work. All proof that Frazetta's work wasn't 100% from his head, but still quite a long way from saying he photo-referenced most or all of his paintings.
Interesting about the Sea Witch. Which Bocklin painting do you mean?
2010-06-07 05:15 pm (UTC)
The Swiss symbolist painter of the late 19th century did a few on a similar theme, such as this one:
2010-06-09 04:28 pm (UTC)
Or this one:
The serpentine tail partially submerged in the water probably influenced the one in Frazetta's painting, too.