Monthly Archives: September 2013

Frank Frazetta vs. Boris Vallejo… Resolved!

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1aaFrazetta+witch

This is a lecture I have given for two years at SAW (the comics school where I teach: http://sequentialartistsworkshop.org/wordpress/), of course as any of my students know, my lectures are rather more like very well organized and colorful rants… dare I say… like pretentious, contentious, though no less than divine poetic experiences. by the way, my self-esteem is not really so grand as all that, but I did start this entry as sort of a pick-me-up, so I’m picking-me-up!

OK, the Frazetta verus Vallejo argument has been raging so long as there have been geeks around to debate it. But see, the thing is, and it’s something I’ve often observed… one side is wrong. So, let me explain that bit of elitism (it’s like this): I once had this argument with someone about whether or not the Beatles were better than AC/DC (notice I’m not mining this wealth of material), and after I shook my head and told him the Beatles were better and there is no debate here, his attempted end to the argument was, “Well, that’s just your opinion.”

I offered to explain it to him this way, and to any of you who can’t quite get past the finality of “that’s just your opinion.” Well, no, it’s not. The Beatles were better than AC/DC. That is not a matter of opinion, that is a matter of fact. Now, whether or not one likes Mozart or Beethoven better, that, group, is a matter of opinion.

The same is true here, Frazetta is better than Vallejo. And I mean this much better: Frazetta is an artist, Vallejo really isn’t, not in the same way. There are some concretes, and by comparing similar paintings side by side I think we can come to grips with this. Let’s start with a classic action scene… as seen realized by both painters:

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Let’s start with the real problem, the one that rules over all the others: in the above painting (and all of his paintings) Frank Fazetta’s characters are fighting for their lives, Vallejo’s “warrior” not only looks like, but IS, some bimbo he picked up at the gym. There is NO urgency to her, to her struggles, nor to the painting. One painting shows a dramatic moment in time, the other shows a well-lit model with a vapid expression on her face. In my lectures I also discuss the importance of diagonals, and the Frazetta painting is full of dramatic and conflicting angles, by comparison Vallejo’s painting is practically on a grid. Additionally, notice the atmosphere in Frazetta’s painting, how it’s in turmoil, while Vallejo’s background looks like a hellish high school yearbook photo backdrop. Now even if you’re one who doesn’t go for genre or fantasy art, the differences are staggering. Similarly, observe the below painting by Frazetta which again shows his potent solution to this visual challenge:

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The below paintings are another fine example of who is who between the two painters. As you can see in Vallejo’s painting, that “dude” (as Tom Hart noted) “has no interest in that Cerberus,” no, Tom, he is far too obsessed with his pecs. Once again he’s just some guy Vallejo picked up in a gym, or some guy he ran into at the mall shopping for specialty vitamins. And THAT is all he is. Not so with Frazetta, that woman, too is facing down ferocious canine jaws, and again… she is fighting for her life! For her life and the life of her child. The strain is palpable, LOOK at her thighs, the backs of her knees! And somehow, with Frazetta, you know she is going to be alright–see that… THAT right there, that is what makes Frazetta a master. Notice that I started building a narrative around the painting, but NOT for Vallejo’s painting. Sure, one might “argue” that Vallejo’s painting and his Cerberus are “bad-ass,” but that’s not a narrative. There is NO narrative to the Vallejo painting. None, it is stripped of urgency, of power, of even the dignity of being a half-assed daydream. I mean, when I look at that woman I can smell the panic and determination, when I look at that guy I can smell the sporty deodorant.

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The below painting of the encounter with a serpent is another fine example. I’m not going to repeat my rant against Vallejo, as everything I said before applies to the painting below… but I will repeat one thing: those people are NOT in a life and death moment. Not so in Frazetta’s painting, just look at the strain, the muscles in the back! They may be fanciful, but the narrative quality is incredible, you can feel the tension in your own back by looking, and though the snake’s head is not as “fantastic” as the Vallejo head… everything else about Frazetta’s serpent is far more spectacular.

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Now while this lecture/rant is all good fun, and yes, I meant every word of it, something more important happens in the class at this time. I usually stand back at this point with these serpent paintings and ask my students to pick up the rant for me… because for all the fun we’ve had, NOW they see it for themselves! What is more, through doing this I helped them learn how to draw an action or fantasy scene, how to make it count, make it real, and how to truly propel their readers into that sort of place. They also saw how the human body reacts to tension. In the Vallejo paintings the muscles are “ripped” but there is no real tension or struggle, just posing, whereas Frazetta’s muscles are RIPPING! And lastly, my students can truly see how to make an argument for great art over mediocrity. No, it’s not all down to opinion, some opinions are uneducated, misinformed, and of no real potency. If this proved to just be a rant, I wouldn’t use it in the classroom. I learned while teaching in South Korea that if people are laughing they are learning. Now, I can’t always make ’em laugh, but I can at least entertain them, and to me nothing is cheap as a teaching technique if the end result is that the students not only connect with what you are showing them, but retain more of it. Enthusiasm for your subject matters, as does honesty. I have not manipulated my students by doing this, ’cause I never play devil’s advocate, I advocate what I damn-well mean to advocate.

Before I go, the same things I said about fantasy and violence go for sex, for good cheesecake fantasy. Not only is the woman in the Vallejo painting bloodless and ordinary looking, I can’t for a moment buy this woman in that get-up–but I could see her getting all goofy over Travis Tritt songs when she goes out Country line-dancing at the Boot-n-Scoot Saloon. The woman in the Frazetta painting, well, she belongs butt-naked in that tree… doesn’t she?

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(There is a lot of my art accessible through “galleries” on my homepage (barefootjustine.com).)

(If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy “Writing Off Disney…?” https://barefootjustine.com/2013/11/03/writing-off-disney/)

I have written an expanded version of this lecture for the SAW website (the school where I teach), for a more in-depth look at this topic, check this out: http://sequentialartistsworkshop.org/wordpress/2015/09/3388/

Pure Imagination

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Willy Wonka

Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world of
Pure imagination
Take a look
And you’ll see
Into your imagination

We’ll begin
With a spin
Traveling in
The world of my creation
What we’ll see
Will defy
Explanation

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Wanta change the world?
There’s nothing
To it

There is no
Life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination
Living there
You’ll be free
If you truly wish to be

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Wanta change the world?
There’s nothing
To it

There is no
Life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination
Living there
You’ll be free
If you truly
Wish to be

A Hard Day’s Night Barefoot

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Again, before I even start, I want to state that this is a barefoot obsessive entry… if that’s just not your thing… move along… nothing to see here.

Ahh… but if it is…

Barefoot Justine's feet... pretty pink polish.

Barefoot Justine’s feet… pretty pink polish.

Yes, what a night, one of THEE grand nights. Downtown Gainesville, A Hard Day’s Night at the Wooly… in 16mm no less! Fab! I was going to go, by myself if I had to, but Sheanah agreed to go with. Anyhow, one would think I’d be writing about the movie, grand as it was, but something else stole the show for me: the delicious sensation of being barefoot… in the words of Kate Bush, “Mmmmm yesss.”

I know, I’m barefoot all the time, but for some reason (actually one none too surprising to anyone who really knows me <>) I was feeling especially… say… happy about being me. And usually, not too far around the corner from that is my feeling particularly happy about being barefoot. It came over me all at once, the sensation I live for but find more and more elusive as time goes on, and the sensation was that of truly FEELING what it meant to be barefoot: the sensuality, the wildness, a pinch of danger and the sweet sweet feeling of soft bareness with a faint glow of vulnerability all around the edges. It was a delicious as Mexican chocolate ice cream.

As I waited for her meeting to be over I closed my eyes and sat in appreciation of the sweet simple pleasure of being barefoot, I just let it have me, and for the first time, perhaps ever, I was really happy I had a nice long little wait on my hands–my fault, as always I was too early. The best part was, it didn’t slip between my fingers like water, and when I let it slip, I was capable of getting it back. It seems the more I live barefoot, the harder it becomes to find that feeling of freshness and totally-on sensuality, but tonight I had hold and wasn’t letting go of the reigns.

Soon my wait was over, and she was ready to go to the movie. Being out was in and of itself a grand pleasure, I’ve become a bit of a shut-in of late, so I managed to take it all in as we walked: a friend, the night walk itself, being barefoot, the beautiful Florida night in downtown Gainesville… and we were walking on to see The Beatles A Hard Day’s Night in 16mm. Oh, how could this NOT be a great evening? Well, I could have found a way to let that happen, but I chose instead to revel and wallow in the vibe, the buzz, the Beatles, and my bare feet.

Of course once the opening of the first chord triumphantly rings out in that film and song… I’m away, swept up out of my seat and into the full graphic black and white glory of this masterpiece. God is that movie funny, and I can say without hesitation that A Hard Day’s Night is the most energetic film ever made… and yet it knows enough to slow down and let us catch our breaths. It is not a surprise that a Beatles’ movie would have great timing and pacing.

For some reason (wink) the movie seemed longer than ever… though that taffy-pulled sense of time did nothing more than encourage me to sink ever deeper into the lovely world of frenetic Beatlemania.

Fortunately, the night did not end there, no we had ice cream in our plans. I tell you, I don’t know if I could have faced the end of A Hard Day’s Night without the promise of something sweet. So we walked down through town, blocks and blocks on a perfect night, past college bar after college bar, all the while my bare feet taking in every nook and crannie of the concrete, my pores soaking in every shimmering moment of the night.

OK, so it’s a tad florid… yet these words are still not shining with the same truths I enjoyed in those moments. I was a tad worried about glass, past all those bars, but I stepped on glass just yesterday, and all it did was stick to my pad… I have thick soles. Not impervious by any means, but thick.

Along the way I felt a solidarity and comfort at the sight of another barefoot girl in the streets around the bars, and she had no shoes with her, her feet healthy and happily bare. We didn’t speak. I’m not sure were even steeping in the same maya.

The perfect flow of simple hedonism kept coming as Karma Kream had my very favorite flavor… Mexican chocolate (it’s got cinnamon in it!), and lo and behold, my barefoot sister was there as well. We took our ice cream and walked the long walk back, none of it any less at any moment, and Sheanah and I talked about how good it was to be out, and both of us with our chocolate ice cream to keep us centered on how good things were right then and right there. Now I could just have well have written about hanging out with such a cool woman… but right now I’m just really feeling the vibe of being barefoot with tremendous joy, and so glad I was out with someone so wonderful as I was enjoying such bliss.

So I came home and checked my soles, a little whitish around the heels from all the sidewalks, but surprisingly clean. My soles seem to repel dirt. Oh well, you can’t have everything, but, then again, who needs everything anyhow?

Happy Birthday Deva Ganesha!

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Lord-Ganesh-9This is the birthday of Lord Ganesha, who has granted me many gifts, and has removed obstacles so large that without his help I would have been unable to remove them myself.

While living in the dreadful city of Ocala, under a pair of demons, I wandered into a spiritual shop and saw a beautiful Ganesh, but I was too poor to purchase him and take him home. I asked the shopkeeper if I could pay for him a little at a time, which I did, with patience and diligence.

Many weeks later I returned to take my Ganesh home from the shopkeeper, but when I returned to the prison of Ocala and the pain of my obstacles, I found that this Ganesh was chipped and broken. At first I did all I could to restore my murti, but there were too many little chips. I was determined to take him back.

Back and forth I went to Gainesville, eager to get out from under the demons imprisoning me… the lives of the demons had become an obstacle I could not remove. I had suffered under their madness for many months, but was trapped in this obstacle, as I had a duty that I was obliged to perform. So badly did I need and want out of Ocala, but it was hopeless, the demons were only willing to free me after their obstacles were removed. My obstacles, it seemed, had obstacles, and they were immoveable, and would perhaps not be removed for many more months.

I looked at my Ganesh, determined to return him the next day. I did not want a chipped murti.

But, that very next day the demon called me aside and told me that their obstacles had been removed and I was free to go immediately. Suddenly my obstacles, too, had been removed, and I was overjoyed!

This Ganesh, chipped and broken, stands now in the room of my freedom and overlooks my world of wonder as Lord. Now no soul may enter my room without falling under the protective gaze of Lord Ganesh, who stands guard, as he was created to do for Parvati.

Today I am grateful.

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha!