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10 May 2010

The Grey God Passes...

Pause for a moment and recognize that the best fantasy artist of the 20th Century has left the party today; Frank Frazetta is dead.

I've mentioned before how I'm saddened by the passing of a great artist because I know that now I'll never get a chance to meet them.  There is no other person alive of whom this is more true for me than Frank Frazetta.  My earliest fascination with the work of Robert E. Howard came from reading the books for which Frazetta did the covers.  My earliest obsession with fantasy art came from a collection of Frazetta's work.  I cannot count the hours I've spent copying his paintings, reading his comics, cherishing every page of every collection of his art that I've found.  Even now, more than a quarter of a decade after I first discovered his work, I still sometimes pick up a volume of his work and find myself lost for an uncounted time in contemplation of the power, the energy and the mastery of his work.

Frank Frazetta was one of the primary inspirations behind any attempt on my part to ever become an artist, but he was also an inspiration to the way I live.  In photographs of the artist I've seen, he has always appeared as a fit man who could easily be the model for any of the heroes he so often painted, but more importantly, he was always smiling.  No matter how he was photographed, he always appeared to me to be having just the best time in the world, and I always equated that with him knowing --as surely, he HAD to know -- that he was the absolute best in the world at what he did.  That impression gave me the idea early on that true happiness and satisfaction could be found through pursuing work that one loved, an idea that I live by now and try to teach to my children.
More than an enjoyment of his technique, I took from Frazetta's work what Ayn Rand called "sense of life".  There is a scale to Frazetta's paintings, even his personal work like his portrait's of his late wife Ellie, that speaks of a sense of life that is not small or petty or weighed down by monotony, but is instead large, and wide, rich with color and alive with possibility.  That sense serves me as a reminder to sort my priorities at times when things get a little murky.

I know that the work of the heroic fantasy artists like Frazetta is considered corny by many these days, but for me, there was and is a lot of value in it.  I took so much, personally, philosophically and artistically, from the work of Frazetta that it's hard to imagine what my life would have been without it.  It's sad to think that there will be no more of that, but it's great to think that the work is respected enough to be published in such volumes that guarantee that many more will have the opportunity to discover it for themselves.
I can't say I'm going to miss Frank Frazetta, because I've still got everything I learned from his work.  I suppose if anything is really sad for me, it is that I never had the chance to say "Thank you."  I guess this will have to serve as the next best thing.

Frank Frazetta 1928-2010 | The Beat

What of the world
that I leave for ever?

Phantom forms in a fading sight--

Carry me out on the ebon river

Into the Night.

-from "Lines Written in the Realization That I Must Die" by Robert E. Howard

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