I think like a lot of people, my first exposure to the art of Frank Frazetta was the old Lancer/Ace Conan paperback book covers. I think I was around 12 or 13 and had never heard of Conan and bought one of the books, I think Conan of Cimmeria, just because of the Frazetta cover alone. This was the kind of art I had never seen before...I mean it was obviously painted are done on canvas but up until that point, when I thought of paintings it was usually of portraits of sour looking people or perhaps some flowers or other pastoral setting, not anything like this dynamic painting. Here was this incredibly muscled warrior going toe-to-toe with two red-haired giants. I was hooked. I bought all the Conan books I could find and then found out Frazetta's art was sometimes on magazine covers like Eerie. When I got older I purchased Frazetta portfolios and posters, anything I could. And yet the man himself remained an enigma. I had no idea if Frazetta still lived or not...I had never even seen a picture of him. And that name...FRAZETTA! I mean it was like some ancient, mythological being. There was this incredible air of mystery about him. It wasn't until just a few years ago when I saw the outstanding documentary "Frazetta: Painting with Fire" that I finally learned about this renaissance man and about his long career that was still going strong despite suffering a stroke.
Now even if you've seen every piece of published art that Frazetta has ever done, you've never see the pieces that are contained in the pages of "Rough Work" published by Spectrum Presents. This book lifts the veil on Frazetta's work and shows how even the legendary master didn't just sit down at an easel and create his well-known fantasy masterpieces...it took many hours and practice tries to reach the final product and that's what you get to see in Rough Work. You get the unique opportunity to see the art BEFORE the final, published product. The sketches, the concept drawings, the preliminary and un-revised paintings as Frazetta carefully perfected each piece. Despite approaching his 80th birthday and retraining himself to draw and paint left-handed after his right side was partially paralyzed, Frazetta continues to turn out wonderful art.
As you browse through Rough Work, you'll see paintings that you know very well but you'll also be seeing them for the first time. You'll see Franks pencil sketch for "Back to the Stone Age" for the cover of the Edgar Rice Burroughs book that includes his hand-written notes. One of Frazetta's most famous Eerie magazine covers was the Egyptian Queen from issue #23. If you can, Google the cover and compare the preliminary painting in Rough Work, to the finished product. It's really amazing how much detail was put into the concept painting although it pales before the completed work. The basics are there but you'll note how Frazetta would add the subtle effects of lighting and shading to make this a true classic cover. This is a treasure trove of work that collectors would probably give anything to get their hands on...I mean imagine owning the rough to the cover of the great Karl Edward Wagner fantasy novel "Bloodstone" depicting his anti-hero Kane.
All of the great characters that Frazetta worked on over the years are covered in Rough Work including Conan, Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, Thongor, Kane, and even Battlestar Galactica. The work is presented in a variety of styles from rough pencil sketches, to watercolors, pen and ink, and oils. This is truly a whole new way to appreciate the art of Frank Frazetta
REVIEWED BY TIM JANSON