Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Frazetta Signature

The professional signature of Frazetta underwent many changes over the course of 50 years. It was not an easy signature to draw or paint. The oil reproduced above is an example. Frank said this in response to one of my questions: "You name isn't easy to draw. It takes work to get it just right. See that painting [He points to the HUNTER OUT OF TIME oil hanging in his studio] it took me four times to get it right. Four times! I finally got it the way I wanted it."

Now, that's a perfectionist. The signature on that oil is exceptional. If you get a chance ever to see the original, look closely at that signed area. I marvel at it.

After his first two strokes Frank's professional signature was never the same. It was a supreme effort for him to even attempt it. The results were stiff, labored, crooked, and unnatural. He tried it using both hands. Both hands failed. Please don't ask me to evaluate the authenticity of later items signed by Frazetta. They may or may not be. If it looks bad, then it's probably good. I reproduce a picture of Frank's drawing table which has a big thick board on it. Frank would draw ink drawings and watercolors on this board in the pre-stroke days. After the strokes he abandoned pure ink drawings and relied on pencil. Notice on the surface of this board all the many times Frank began to practice his pro signature. Notice how weak each attempt is. This was profoundly frustrating for Frank. Also notice the tray of Mickey Mouse watercolors that Frank used for coloring. And, of course, the overall Frazetta chaos and visual cacophany jumps out of this photo, even a big blob of dried glue on the board. Imagine all the carefully crafted, life-infused beauty that emerged from this artistic jumbalaya. I hope someone preserved the board. The other side is equally interesting, but I didn't photograph it. I simply forgot to do it. I always thought that an artifact like that takes you right inside an artist's head. I look at that board and I see a thousand images of Frank smiling and a thousand laughs.

I noticed during the times I would take Frank to the hospital for blood tests that he would sign the forms with his right hand cursively. The extra papers I reproduced contain examples of Frank signing his name cursively with his right hand AFTER the strokes. He was practicing before signing some ULTIMATE TRIUMPH books for me. Notice how he achieves a much smoother result. I had Frank sign later books exclusively with this cursive signature. It simply looked better. I never attempted to have Frank sign with his pro signature. It was simply too painful to watch him attempt it and I know he was embarrassed by it.

The evolution of Frank's signature and its many phases is worthy of a big essay by itself.

(c)2012 DocDave Winiewicz

And, of course, I reserve copyright on all my photo images. The Frazetta Estate reserves copyright on all art depicted in any of my postings.


  1. I witnessed Frank's frustration with his acquired left-handedness when I had the great fortune of watching him work(re-work)on his Reign of Wizardry painting the one time that I met him. He was painting with a light yellowish color on the leg of one of the women and doing a lot of smudging around with his thumb, which he would then wipe off on the side of his chair. I should have offered him my pant leg, in retrospect. Anyway, I asked him if that was a common method for him to use and he replied, "It is NOW," and continued on about his lack of dexterity. He didn't seem bitter about it; he seemed simply resolved but frustrated. I wonder, though, if he found it satisfying in some way to have successfully switched over to his left and continued to create great art. Frankly, no other option would have befit his legend...

  2. Thank you for that story. He WAS frustrated constantly. He said that what once could be accomplished with one deft stroke, now required a hundred daubs and dabs.


  3. Hey Dave,

    lovin the blog!!!

    I noticed in at least 2 of the photos you have posted that on Franks
    table is a huge palette of cake watercolours.........was that his main
    palette for them? I have heard stories of him using a "Mickey Mouse"
    kids set, but find the cakes more of a painting thing than the other,
    which might have been used in roughs or some of the doodles.

    Also, did he continue to do some inks even in the latter years? I know
    with the strokes and tremors, ink can be unforgiving, but was just
    curios on those.

    Again thanks so much for doing what you do and keeping the flame burning



  4. Tracy:

    Yes, it was Mickey Mouse for the most part plus some Dr. Martin's Dyes for other things. As for ink, he gave up on that pretty much. As you say, it was very unforgiving.



  5. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the continued treasure trove of Frazetta insights and stories, as a life long admirer of Frank's art and and a fantasy painter myself it's a constant treat to stop by here.
    You talked once of some footage of Frank working on a painting. Any chance of seeing that posted here?

    All the best and Happy New Year from Australia!

  6. Thanks Patrick.

    Yes, I'll get that footage posted as soon as I find it!


  7. Thanks Dave, it would be very much appreciated, and amazing footage to see.

  8. Hi Dave,
    I got Frazetta's cursive signature once by accident. I was at the first museum and as I recall Ellie wasn't set up for credit cards that time. I bought a Fire and Ice portfolio from her and paid with a check. When I got the cancelled check back I almost ripped it up and threw it away but I saw Frank's signature on it! A close call! I also got Ellie's signature and phone number that day. Frank was actually taking commissions for pencil drawings for 2-3 thousand dollars and she asked me to call her about them some time. Boy, I wish I had the money I have now back then!

  9. Timing is everything, isn't it?

    Thanks for the story.


  10. Finally! The mystery of the Mickey Mouse watercolors ends. I've been wondering what the set was like. I found it odd that he could get such rich color and even tone out of a kids set, but the cakes look to be of a much higher quality than the equivalent you can find in today. Hell, even some of the higher end wc sets look cheaper in comparison. Thanks for putting this to rest for me, hehe.

  11. I once saw an old oil painting from the '40s which Frank signed "Frazzetta". It seems in the Snowman art that you posted in December that he had stacked the two z's one on top of the other (before eliminating one entirely within a year or two). As for his signature, wouldn't you say that its original source of inspiration for it was Hal Foster's (on "Prince Valiant" strip)? From there it did indeed evolve into his unique own.

    Alec S.

  12. Yes, I would agree. Foster was the original source for Frank, but he took it further and gave it more rhythm and style and carefully weighted lines.


  13. Ah, the Mickey Mouse watercolor set! Never thought I'd see it, thank you for that photo!

  14. Dave, Having just discovered your blog, I would just like to offer my heartfelt thanks for sharing your insights of Frank's life. Best, Dick Blakely

  15. Thank you, Dick.

    I appreciate it.

    Happy holidays!