“I just couldn’t sit there when the sun was shining outside and grind out artwork. I never understood other artists who spent 100% of their waking hours at the drawing board. How could you draw for an audience without getting in the world and experiencing life?” –Frank Frazetta
Frank Frazetta has achieved iconic status as an artist with a cult-like following for his heroic fantasy and science fiction work that extends its popularity into mainstream America and abroad. He is considered the most important and influential artist in this genre since Virgil Finlay in the 1940s. His paintings’ combination of action, violence, sex and exotic settings made him the king of sword and sorcery illustration in the 1960s through 1980s.
A child prodigy, Frazetta began drawing his own comic books at age six and by age eight was studying at the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts under the instruction of classic Italian artist Michael Falanga. At sixteen, Frazetta became a comic book art assistant and continued in this field from 1944 to 1964. His comic book and comic strip career included working on DC Comics, Thun’da, Buck Rogers, Li’l Abner comic strip and Mad magazine.
In 1964, after comic book opportunities were shrinking and his work was ironically considered too old fashioned for comics, Frazetta entered the world of book illustration with the encouragement of his friend, artist Roy Krenkel. Two book publishing companies were reprinting the classic works of fantasy author Edgar Rice Burroughs for a new audience and employed his skills for their cover illustrations.
Lancer Books approached Frazetta to do their covers for the Conan the Barbarian series by Robert E. Howard. Frazetta’s depiction of the brawny barbarian was a hit with fantasy fans and contributed to the success of the books as best-sellers selling over 100,000 copies due of the cover art alone. The casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger, then an Austrian bodybuilder, as the lead character of Conan in the 1982 movie was influenced a great deal by Frazetta’s popular paintings of this character.
Soon publishers’ demand for Frazetta covers grew since book sales were always guaranteed to follow. His meteoric rise in popularity with fans created a demand for his work to appear on album covers, movie posters and advertising art. Frazetta is credited with inspiring countless artists and will remain a significant influence in the world of science fiction and fantasy art.