The Grand Old Master is dead. It is sad, indeed.
I have always been fascinated by the different, the exotic. I read everything I could find about old and forgotten civilisations, about the Aztecs, The Egyptians, Sumerians, Ancient China and that sort of thing. There is a very special thrill I feel when I come across something that awakens this fascination, this sense of awe.
Good Fantasy can do that. (Notice, I use Fantasy with a capital F, meaning the genre (or genres) in art and writing and film.) A good Fantasy story, or picture, evokes that kind of excitement. I don't mind the heroes, the monsters, the beautiful damsels in distress, I love it. But one thing that really gets me hooked is if I get that thrill of the exotic and different.
There is so much mainstream Fantasy that has lost it, that only repeats what has gone before, that are repetitions of old themes. It is nice, beautiful and even exciting at times but it never gives that impression of peeking through to another world.
The undisputed master of Fantasy art was, in my opinion, Frank Frazetta. He had that ability to transport you to strange places, primeval forests or enchanted lands. His heroes weren't necessarily the strongest and his damsels not always the most beautiful but he always had a unique style that gave me that sense of awe.
I guess that is why his style was so widely copied. Some did it through and through, while others picked out details, some did it well others not so well.
Modern Fantasy art owes a lot to Pre-Raphaelites and Symbolists, and, like some of those styles, it is not accepted as Art, generally, but seen as illustrations and poster art. I truly believe there is a lot of powerful imagery and symbols in commercial art, in illustrations and that sort of thing. It is not deliberately put there as in High Art but it is there, all the same, and sometimes in a very rough and unpolished way.
I will stop this rant and just say that it is sad that the one true Master of Fantasy Art has left us.
(Frank Frazetta, 9/2 1928 – 10/5 2010)