Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Hat Tip to Ken Kelly

Trumpets of War by
Robert Adams
Sword Woman
 Today is artist Ken Kelly's birthday. If you've ever read a Conan book, a Conan Pastiche, bought a Kiss album, a fantasy novel, fantasy magazines, or even browse the internet looking at artists renditions of Conan the Cimmerian, then I promise you have run into Ken Kelly's artwork.

Ken Kelly has some of the most recognized fantasy artwork in the industry. His artwork is on the cover of some of the most widely recognized Conan pastiches and original Robert E. Howard Conan stories/books published.

Ken Kelly was born in New London, Connecticut on this day in 1946. According to the bio on Kelly's website . . .

Quest for the
White Witch
Kelly  "started drawing at the fragile age of two and has not stopped since.   It is said that children learn to express themselves through art.   Well then, Ken must have been quite a revealing youngster, for nothing in the house was safe from his artistic expressions, from the smallest piece of paper that he would squeeze a tiny doodle on, to the very large drawing board known as the living room wall! In the fourth grade, at the age of nine, Ken was introduced to art teacher Mrs. Valerious (hmm… that name is strangely close to Valeria – Conan’s pirate companion in Red Nails).  This was the beginning of a relationship that would last for the next nine years. Mrs. Valerious gave Ken the direction he needed.   She showed Ken how to develop and put to use his natural talent.   She taught him the principles of art. Unlike most art teachers that would push their students to go on to art school, Mrs. Valerious had quite the opposite approach. She convinced Ken’s parents not to put him through art school after high school. She claimed that it would ruin his natural and unique style. . . .

. . . In 1968, he decided to go to the studio of Frank Frazetta and show him some of his own drawings.   Frazetta liked what he saw and encouraged Ken to pursue a career in commercial art. At the same time, he also invited Ken to study under him. Ken eagerly accepted Frank’s offer. Under the guidance of Frazetta, Ken was able to fine-tune his skill even further. Frazetta stressed how important it was to put feeling into creating a painting and to let the action on the canvas come from the imagination. Ken took those words to heart and has lived by them ever since. Later that same year, Ken received his first professional assignment. Before he turned the painting in, he took it to Frazetta to get his approval.

Well, Frazetta did not think that the woman in the painting had a terrified enough expression on her face, so he painted over her old face, with a new one of his own, which he felt worked better. Now it was ready to be turned in. That painting was done for Warren’s Vampirella Magazine and is titled, “The Lurking Terror”. "

Robert E. Howard's Hour of the Dragon wrap around cover
Kelly's work has also appeared on the cover of various fantasy novels (e.g. Robert Adam's, John Norman's, Tanith Lee's work, etc.), and most recently he did the artwork for one of Ace Frehley's last album releases. Over the past 40 years, Kelly's work has appeared on several rock albums (e.g. Kiss' Destroyer & Love Gun albums, Manowar's The Lord of Steel album, etc.). Today marks Kelly's 69th birthday. Happy birthday, Ken Kelly.

Ken Kelly's wrap around book art for
Robert E. Howard's Sword of Shahrazar

The LP Cover of Kiss' Love Gun

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