Frank Frazetta: Rough Work


I own quite a few books about the art of Frank Frazetta, but Rough Work just might be my favorite. It's such a treat to see pages from his sketchbooks, as well as roughs of his most famous illustrations. For some reason, I usually like an artist's sketches for paintings more than the paintings themselves. They are looser, and in Frazetta's case, brimming with vitality.

Frazetta also knew his roughs were often better, and he eventually started submitting roughs to his clients (paperback book publishers, and Creepy and Eerie) as finals.

From the forward, written by Arnie Fenner, There's this quote from illustator Roy Krenkel, who shared a studio with Frazetta:

At first we did roughs on everything and got them approved. Often the roughs were superior to the finished art. The roughs had more charm, more color, more everything. Then, finally, I gave up doing the roughs altogether. Frank would say, ‘The hell with roughing this thing, that’s doing it twice! You know I can do it. They’ll take the final painting and like it - the hell with the rough!’ And it worked.
Here are some sample pages (click for big):






Frank Frazetta: Rough Work


  1. I can has NSFW warning please? My boss would be ok with those pics, but I’m sure a lot of others wouldn’t approve.

  2. Couldn’t have a cool apartment in the seventies, without a Frazetta poster or two. Still have most of the posters that covered the walls of my first few apartments, usually rented for about $100 a month.

  3. frazzetta is one of my very favorite illustrators! his work was def. an early inspiration. i even have a t-shirt he painted (airbrushed) that i got at mardi gras back in ’79! he was painting shirts on the street to pay for his trip! super nice guy. gr8 post.

  4. I used to work at a games company, next to a bunch of graphic artists. Their preproduction roughs were invariably more interesting and exciting than their polished final work and I used to spend ages digging through them.

    I’m very glad to see a trend towards publishing sketchbooks and roughs – there’s pretty good stuff from the Hernandez brothers and Mike Mignola out there just for starters.

  5. One of my favorite things about Frank is that after his stroke his dominant hand was severely impaired. so he switched hands! and still creates amazing work. Though I’ve noticed slight style change… could be that he his utilizing different parts of his brain now.

  6. Conan’s Pizza, Austin Texas, Guadalupe streed 1982.

    every wall, table, horizontal surface was covered with frazetta ink.

    i think their original shop on 29th is still open

    but the “drag” store was the one. Frank ink everywhere

  7. Frazetta’s the man. He really set the pace for all fantasy illustrators to follow, from his work with Williamson at EC, all the way into the depths of his sword and sorcery paintings. Can’t beat him, even with a stick.


  8. Oh god, I remember when his stuff was all the rage back in the 70’s. I hated it. I hope it doesn’t make a comeback. I’m still cringing from the return of flare-bottomed jeans. Ugh.

    1. Clearly, all your taste is in your mouth. Even if you don’t care for the subject matter in Frank’s work, if you have any appreciation at all for fine art, you have to appreciate his color sense, composition, dynamic anatomy. This guy can draw anything!

  9. that’s a very narrow minded view, Pip. How can one not help but appreciate such an appetizing view of all that protein? To say nothing of how those so proportioned are frequently slow and clumsy swimmers.

  10. I was very drawn to this kind of art when I was a kid (ha ha). I remember how much trouble I got into when I started sketching my own naked women. My 4th grade teacher and mother really beat me up over it. “Where did you see this sort of thing?” the women demanded. “In my father’s Playboy,” I responded. The Playboy that was hidden so well. Anyway, I love his work.

  11. I always preferred Frazetta’s black and white line art to his paintings–he had such a delicate line. I’m not sure if he got that feathered look with brushes or pens, but it was gorgeous. He’s a great craftsman, though like most fantasy art there’s not a lot going on besides really pretty figures in motion. It’s the same old repetitive fantasy tropes, drawing on guys like Virgil Finlay. There’s a lot of grace in those figures though. A lot to be said for just pure, gorgeous craft.

  12. Jed Alexander@16: “He’s a great craftsman, though like most fantasy art there’s not a lot going on besides really pretty figures in motion.”

    That’s an interesting observation. Robert Crumb once said in an interview that Frazetta’s work was nice, but “basically brainless.” That may be true. It’s still gorgeous, like you said.

    1. Ahh, Crumb’s just a sour old curmudgeon (brilliant draftsman though he is). Frank’s work may not be deep, but it’s so well done you have to appreciate the man’s technique, storytelling, and good taste in usually picking just the right moment of action to depict.

  13. Frank’s always been the Man. Rough Work is a nice look at a lot of rare stuff. Glad this was published.

  14. A NSFW warning? It’s Frank Frazetta, what did you expect? Unicorns and victorian era people fully clothed?

  15. Lot of ppl often compare Boris to Frazetta, while both extremely talented in their own right Frazetta was just more versatile, with cartoons, inks, paintings, etc and his work had so much savagery, rawness, and power ,something Boris sorely lacked

  16. I always liked Frazetta,Boris,Julie,and many others that I saw in Heavy Metal Magazine.But my all time favorite is Vaughn Bode.These great artists inspired me to put pencil to paper,and learn to airbrush.I never got as good as them,but I have done a lot of work locally on cars,posters,T-shirtsand murals.I got quite a reputation where I live because of them,and my renditions of some of their works.Thanks for the inspiration Mr.Frazetta

  17. Admire Crumb enormously, but his comment about FF’s work being brainless might be better said that the part of the brain that was functioning in the art of FF and Crumb were different, but I’ll bet the venn diagram would show they intersect… fundamentally…if you know what I mean.

  18. It is sad to say frank is not with us any-more. What is really sad is some of the negative replys I read. Frank opened the door to many artists who saw that art comes from within the mind and heart truly the man was far beyond most artist of his time who tried to only mock and copy the old style of traditional art. But that’s just my opinion. But I’ve been a fan some odd forty years. God rest his soul and always be remembered.


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