Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Frazetta Women

A montage of women’s heads by Frank Frazetta, reveals the pattern of his idealized type.

They all tend to have long hair, bare shoulders, a rounded forehead, thin eyebrows, big cheekbones, a small nose, shadows around the eyes, eyeliner extended outward, up-slanted eye corners, and a pout.

If they’re feeling dressy, they have a choice of hammered bronze headdresses.

The result: A strong-but-vulnerable, exotic, baby-doll type.
Images montage by Walt Morton. Thanks, Walt!
Is the Frazetta female based on his wife Ellie? (see post on “Illustration Art” blog).


Steve Somers said...

The bodily proportions of the females follow a similar formula and it all feeds his narratives.
It would be interesting to compare that study with a similar study of Gil Elvgren's ideal female.

armandcabrera said...


They've always seem like an idealized version of Ellie to me. A nice tribute to his wife from the master of fantasy illustration.

John Garrett said...

Thanks for that analysis of Mr. Frazetta's women. I hadn't realized that they were all a stylized version of his wife, Ellie. Though I can see why as she was a beautiful woman.
Your blog is always a highlight of my day, thanks James.

Fred Fields said...

I think that Frazetta's women most certainly are based on his wife. Just as most of his men resemble Frank himself. I think many artists do this. The people around us are easily accessible (and willing) models. Even artists who branch out and hire models know that in the case of a tight deadline it's not always possible.

Hampton House Art and Framing said...

Something I find strange is the lack of illustrations in most contemporary works of literature. I think back to the days of NC Wyeth et al and see the work they did for the books of James Fenimore Cooper etc. and it makes me wonder why this departure has taken place.
This is not really relevant to Frazetta, it just got me thinking.

Any ideas?

PatternGhost said...

Frazetta Women match the generally accepted comic ideal from the 60's to the 80's. John Buscema lays out the face, almost exactly like your analysis, in How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. The Famous Artist Course on cartooning from the late 50-60's has some of the same ideas about 'pretty' female faces.

Frazetta was in luck that his primary female reference was beautiful and matched those ideals!

I wonder if there is a somewhat more 'modern' ideal being formed out there or if commercial artists are more likely to reject codified standards of beauty these days.

Tyler J said...

I might be wrong on this, but I am forming a theory about one of the things that Frazetta did well, that is unsymmetrical designs. All of his stuff has this uneven, made by hand look to it. Somehow it looks amazing and not clumsy or poorly proportioned.

@Hampton House, I would guess that it's the digital age and Photoshop is the de rigueur flavor of the day (not to say it's worthless, I love the program). Traditional efforts are becoming a lost art, but I know that this topic has been touched on many times here (more eloquently than I could reproduce).

A vicious circle ensues, less supply, less demand feed each other. It's a shame, but I don't think that it will ever go away, drawing is just too basic and universal.

wade_watson said...

It always seemed to me that Frazetta deliberately rendered his femme fatale's faces as more cartoon-like in order to emphasize their other features. His female forms often made a greater impression on the viewer than the monstrous creatures with which they shared the frame.

Hampton House Art and Framing said...

Tyler J.

Not to mention a well done drawing or illustration adds soul to the page it inhabits. Yet another casualty in the faster, cheaper world we live in.

Anonymous said...

I cant believe I never saw this post on your blog before.

ELLIE. All of the women are ELLIE. His wife.

Google photos of her especially from her youth in the 40s and BAM! There she is.

Not that hard, really. Also, most of his men are self portraits. His Comic men, and his Romans. The Lieutenant, too.

James Gurney said...

You're right, Gregory. We visited Frazetta's studio one time and he showed us the R-rated paintings he did of Ellie, the ones he couldn't publish. She was definitely the "Frazetta woman."

Anonymous said...

I havent visited you in a while, glad you're still around. You should be friends with Michael Shane Neal if you arent already.