Monday, May 23, 2011

Beginnings

by Arnie Fenner

The recent Eowyn Vs Nazgul challenge included entries of all levels of quality and ability; while some suffer in comparison to others, I couldn't help thinking optimistically, "Everyone starts somewhere." I was reminded again of that fact while going through some of Jeffrey Jones' early work following his death last Thursday.

It used to be that fanzines were the fertile training ground for young fantasy artists: Jones, Wrightson, Kaluta, and countless others honed their craft drawing monsters and superheroes for amateur magazines like Gosh Wow, Spa Fon, and Seraphim. Then there were the fan club pages for comics magazines like Creepy and Vampirella which included drawings young readers would send in. Fanzines and fan club pages are, for the most part, now things of the past and have been replaced by blogs and websites where pretty much any art can be posted without competition, vetting, or criteria. I think the value of activities like Jon Schindehette's challenges is that they not only excite young artists and make them want to get involved, but also encourages them, via exposure and feedback, to get better—to want to get better—at their craft.

So...everyone starts somewhere (and the "starts" don't always seem auspicious). I thought I'd show some examples of very early works by artists that have gone on to profoundly influence our field.
First up is one of Jeffrey Jones' very early Tarzan paintings,

Followed by his Spectrum Award-winning Tarzan painting 30-some years later:


Next is a drawing by a very young Baltimore fan named Bernie Wrightson that appeared in Creepy's Fan Club pages.

Followed by a masterful Frankenstein illustration by the mature Wrightson.


One of Phil Hale's teenage game card paintings:


Followed by Phil's classic Hellblazer cover for DC.


A Captain Marvel fanzine illo by Don Maitz,

Followed by Maitz's unparalleled cover for The Second Drowning:


One of Frank Frazetta's early sketchbook pages, showing his infatuation with the art of Milton Caniff,

Followed by his stunning "Egyptian Queen" painting:



A fan drawing of Vampirella by a 16-year-old Thomas Blackshear that appeared in the "Vampi's Flames" fan club pages,
Followed by his unforgettable "8th Wonder" painting:


15 comments:

  1. Hn hn. :D I see Your point, but it doesn't help that the early works You selected are still kinda solid/good.

    The evolution here seems to be rather "ok ---> awesome" than "crappy ---> awesome".

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  2. Damn! Arnie. That King Kong painting just ruined my day.

    Why did I not see that before?
    Very interesting comparing-article.

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  3. in full agreement with Jan!

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  4. Arnie, thanks for this post, it really enlightens my day! I get your point, and agree with it a 100 per cent!

    Thanks again!

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  5. Thanks, Arnie. There is encouragement/hope for me yet. :)

    Jesper, I'm not sure how familiar you are with Thomas Blackshear's work, but search for "Night In Day"" and "Beauty and the Beast" — two more fantastic works of his.

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  6. Its always great to see the progression of an artist and where they came from. Perhaps an idea for a future post from the Muddy Colors team? While we've seen early work from some, Id love to see early career works from all!

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  7. Jan & Anon.--
    At the heart of what I was saying, really, is that you can see something interesting going on, rough or not, in the early works of these artists. You can spot the promise, just as you can in some of the less polished works in the challenge. That's encouraging.

    Jesper--
    I love this painting! It was in Spectrum #1 and the original was in the first Spectrum Exhibit at the SoI. Thomas has always been a big Kong fan (I've got a picture of one of his student pieces that's his take on a KK movie poster) and he's said that he has another painting in mind. Can't wait!

    Ruivo--
    Thanks!

    Mark--
    I second your suggestions!

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  8. Blackshear is some kind of god. Always love to see his work. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe he did the poster for the film Legend which was always one of my favorite paintings when I was kid. Hopefully it is by him, haha. Anyways he has millions of other amazing paintings.
    Great post Arnie. Thanks so much!

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  9. Mr. Fenner, nice post. I have a ten-year old son who is interested in art. Loves to draw. I am a hobbyist artist myself, and he's always comparing his ten-year old work to mine. Based on that ridiculously unfair comparison he thinks he's "no good." It would be great to see a post akin to this one comparing examples of work famous artists did as children to their later accomplished work.

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  10. Hope for us all... thanks Arnie! Great to see these early works.

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  11. These talented people were lucky that they made it through the early stages. Many out there were probably discouraged by insults, teasing, putdowns, etc.. by other kids or their parents (i.e. "You can't draw!" or "You're no artist").

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  12. Thanks Arnie, this is really interesting stuff, thanks for taking the time to post. I think the early Jeff Jones work still has the hint of something special to come.

    Patrick.

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  13. Quite inspiring and to note it is the dedication and hard work as well as the passion that these wonderful artists achieved such outstanding levels in their artwork.

    It gives hope indeed.

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  14. Thanks for the great post. It's so interesting to see the before and afters.

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  15. Thanks for the post. Encouraging stuff indeed. Especially seeing how far Jones and Frazetta had come.

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