Never-before-seen footage of the legendary illustrator, Frank Frazetta.
“Rome remained free for four hundred years and Sparta eight hundred, although their citizens were armed all that time; but many other states that have been disarmed have lost their liberties in less than forty years.”
Nicolo Machiavelli - The Prince
19 May 1946 - 3 june 2022
A DRAGON'S KISS
While fantasy art has existed for centuries, it was really the birth of both fantasy comics and modern fantasy literature, which has seen this genre become an integral part of our modern culture. Fantasy art has also melded strongly with science fiction writing and Film/TV generated sci-fi to shape a genre, which now possesses more categories than any other art form. Indeed, this genre is only limited by the imaginations of the artists who both explore and constantly push the boundaries of the fantasy world.
One of the field’s foremost exponents is American artist, Ken Kelly. Beginning in the 70s (after a stint in the Marines) Ken’s art covers styles as divergent as rock legends, Kiss to Conan the Barbarian and Tarzan. Ken has created a legion of mythical characters drawn from the pages of the world’s finest fantasy writers, not to mention his own voracious imagination. You can also put Ken to the test by offering your own ideas and then watch Ken employ his imagination to create a one-of-kind work of art. A genuine workaholic, Ken often simultaneously labors over a half dozen different paintings, projects and ideas. Organized chaos would be an apt description for this artist, who probably puts as many hours into his art now as he did thirty years ago.
Ken began drawing as a toddler, tagging every blank surface in sight. Later, he would have an art teacher at school that taught him throughout Grade and High School. However, it was surely that Dylanesque twist of fate, which would eventually make painting his life’s work. With the untimely death of his father, Ken got to know his uncle, more closely. Until his father’s wake Ken had known little about Frank Frazetta, the artist, but in Ken’s own words, Frank “acknowledged me as an adult and asked me to show him what I could do art wise. And that’s what started it all.”
This fine artist, whose own brilliant career had began back in the mid-40s, soon took Ken under his wing and helped to develop his talent over a five year period. Frank Frazetta was at the height of his career at the time he was helping Ken explore his latent talents. You can see Frank’s influence where he retouched the face on Vampirella #6 which happened to be Ken’s very first commission at Warren Publishing. Again, it was Frank who got Ken’s foot in at the door to work for Jim Warren. Ken worked at Warren for several years and while the pay was fairly abysmal, the chance to learn his tradecraft provided its own reward. At least, until projects like the famous KISS paintings finally encouraged Ken to go out on his own. The KISS assignment also went a long way to really establishing his name internationally. Ken described this project quite simply, “I had a ball!!!” Ken did three paintings for them, although the original Destroyer canvas remains unpublished.
Of course, the four years Ken spent in the Marines (1965-68) traveling the globe and observing amazing places from China to the Mediterranean gave Ken many insights and experiences, which he could bring to the canvas. As it was, he also received preferred status during his enlistment and worked on various Service publications due to his ability at line art. These influences can be seen in various series like The Gatekeeper & Feline Warriors. One painting often takes a fortnight’s preparation followed by another fortnight of actual painting, and the attention to detail is nothing short of sublime, Death Grip being a case in point.
Versatility is also a keyword in Ken Kelly’s CV. Not only has Ken completed more than 700 works, but also he has completed a Howard Calendar, published two art books and worked for the Mego (and various other companies) painting their Micronauts. Many people who are not familiar with Ken’s fantasy work will have often seen his Famous Monsters covers, with subjects like The Fly based upon that classic 50s film. When Ken creates a book cover, he usually reads the unpublished manuscript and creates a scene, which captures the essence of the story “without giving away the entire storyline.” At one stage, Ken was simultaneously creating covers for Horseclans, the DAW books and the Conan series. Of all these works, the Howard Calendar hurts the most as Ken succinctly puts it, “I really put my heart into them. When the release date got screwed up, it really hurt. I felt it for years.”
Today, you will find a number of Ken Kelly’s canvasses have found their way into museums, or come under the hammer at grand auction houses likes of Sotheby’s and Christies, as well as being exhibited at numerous private galleries across the globe.
The Internet has seen a huge growth in fantasy art mainly because of the accessibility it provides for both artists and fans to interact. The Net also allows the public to view a thousand-fold styles, which now make up this startling genre without even having to leave the comfort of their computer room. Where once fine art was restricted to the rich, the intellectuals or to those with access to galleries and expensive magazines, now anyone can view/study/appreciate/purchase art for the cost of a basic computer system. The work of Ken Kelly is a case in point. Anyone with access to the web can find Ken’s brilliant website: www.kenkellyart.com. Ken’s site is a world within a world of fantastic heroes and equally fantastic scenes, where colour and fury, adventure and drama know no bounds.
The brothers from Argos and the divine gift of Death
"Cleobis and Biton.They were of Argive stock, had enough to live on, and on top of this had great bodily strength. Both had won prizes in the athletic contests, and this story is told about them: there was a festival of Hera in Argos, and their mother absolutely had to be conveyed to the temple by a team of oxen. But their oxen had not come back from the fields in time, so the youths took the yoke upon their own shoulders under constraint of time. They drew the wagon, with their mother riding atop it, traveling five miles until they arrived at the temple. When they had done this and had been seen by the entire gathering, their lives came to an excellent end, and in their case the god made clear that for human beings it is a better thing to die than to live. The Argive men stood around the youths and congratulated them on their strength; the Argive women congratulated their mother for having borne such children. She was overjoyed at the feat and at the praise, so she stood before the image and prayed that the goddess might grant the best thing for man to her children Cleobis and Biton, who had given great honor to the goddess. After this prayer they sacrificed and feasted. The youths then lay down in the temple and went to sleep and never rose again; death held them there. The Argives made and dedicated at Delphi statues of them as being the best of men"