Frank Frazetta Book Review – Rough Work: Concept Art, Doodles, and Sketchbook Drawings
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It’s been a while since I published a book review and I thought I’d do another Frank Frazetta book review. This time, I pulled Rough Work: concept Art, Doodles, and Sketchbook Drawings by Frank Frazetta off my shelf. I have a bunch of Frazetta art books, but this one ranks high among my favorites. It’s a great look into Frazetta’s process. Most artists, myself included, enjoy looking at other artists’ sketches and doodles. This book is our chance to do that to Frank Frazetta’s sketchbooks.
The book is about 128 pages and a smaller format than some other Frazetta booksat 6 x 9 inches. It has a padded soft-touch cover that features one of the more famous paintings of Kane, a legendary character from Author Karl Edward Wagner. (If you haven’t read the Kane stories, check out this eBook collection or click here if you want used paper books. Sadly, much of the Karl Edward Wagner stuff is long out of print. )
Almost the entire book is just pictures. The introduction consists of about 8 pages of text. After that, it’s all artwork. Most pages are a combination of full page illustrations or roughs, to random sketchbook pages and doodles, to more finished drawings.
The Good Stuff
I really like Frazetta’s ink drawings. Here’s an example of a great, dynamic male with a typical, voluptuous Frazetta style female.
These color roughs are fun to look at. For Frazetta these amount to basic sketches, but for many of us they’re complicated examples of light and shadows and palette choices.
I’m a huge Frank Frazetta fan. I’ve been a fan of his work since i was a teenager and bought my first Frazetta art, the art plate set from Ralph Bakshi’s Fire and Ice animated film in ’92 with $50 borrowed from a friend. If you haven’t seen it, you can stream it on Amazon Prime and I highly recommend it. In the intervening years, I’ve built up a collection of Frank Frazetta art books like this one–The Sensuous Frazetta (hard cover) from Vanguard. I will review my book collection on this blog and hopefully help readers make buying decisions.
So far, I don’t have any regrets about the Frazetta books I’ve bought, but I do have my favorites and this book is one of them. This book focuses on Frank’s work from the 1960s when he was illustrating for risqué paperbacks and men’s magazines. Frank wouldn’t achieve popularity for his barbarians and other fantasy work until years later. However, one constant in Frazetta’s work, is the appeal and sensuality of his figures, particularly his women. With that in mind, It’s important to remember this was the 1960s and the intent was for publication in men’s magazine’s of the time and much of this work might not be commissioned today given modern norms.
Chapter One “Between The Sheets”
This chapter focuses on his paperback interiors and features multiple full page reproductions as well as behind the scenes material. The full page reproductions are very well done. Additionally, I appreciated the section about Frazetta’s use of photographic reference. Frank had a well known visual encyclopedia in his brain and could create very dynamic illustrations from memory without the aid of photographic reference materials. Therefore, it’s nice to see that he did, once in a while, use photographs. It gives the rest of us artists hope.
Chapters Two and Three, “Romance & Cigarettes” and “Pretty Funny Women”
The chapters spend their pages on Frazetta’s sequential artwork. These sections are fantastic if you like sequential art and give you a glimpse at Frazetta’s early work that you don’t often see or read about. The chapters are a reproduction of sequential stories with inked pages and colored pages opposite each other. This is great if you want to analyze Frank’s line work without the effects of early comic color reproduction. For most Frank fans, this will be a study effort well spent.
Chapter Four “Saucy Stories”
This chapter contains sketches and full page reproductions of Frazetta’s illustrations for men’s magazines of the time. I particularly like the pen and ink illustrations. Frazetta had a great sense of humor and, of course, the characters in his drawings are magnificent. The man resting on the giantess’s breasts on page 157 pictured below is one of my favorites for both the humor in the illustration (which is for a story by Charles Baudelaire published in Cavalcade magazine, November 1964) and the expression on both faces, but also the exquisite line work and details. I looked at this illustration many times before I noticed the cow and farmhouse in the frame. Did you?
Chapter Five “From Casting Couch to…”
This chapter is only seven pages, but full of illustrations that Frank did for movie studios. These are easily some of my favorite Frazetta works. His ability to catch perfect, slightly caricatured likenesses of the biggest stars of the time was marvelous.
Chapter Six “Stars in Her Eyes”
Chapters Six is very brief at a total of eight pages. The good news is each of the eight pages is more illustration than text with each of the zodiac signs imagined as a woman.
Chapter Seven “On Top of the Covers”
Sadly, I don’t have the slipcased edition and therefore don’t get Chapter Seven “On Top of the Covers” — this edition is out of print, so if you’re a die hard fan, take a look around the used market. At the time of this writing there is a new, unopened copy on eBay for about $110. The extra chapter isn’t worth it to me, but might be to you.
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