Silver Warrior by Frank Frazetta
Frazetta's painting are mythic and iconic, this painting was an image I remember seeing in a old Spawn comic book in my childhood and it has stuck with me over the years. Like all of Frazetta's work he paints the moment right before or after an action capturing the highest moment of drama in a picture.
The focal point in this image is between the warrior's face and his sword. He uses every trick of contrast, value and edges to draw your attention to this area. The sharp edge of the sword is juxtaposed against the soft and lost edges of the sun rays. The mountains in the distance and the soft edges of his hair makes the sword dominate the whole image with its dark values and shape. The suns reflection on the sword is another point of contrast since this is one of the the only warm colors in the piece. His silhouette against the backdrop is sharp and easily readable.
Contrast and lighting
The white on the polar bears is brighter than the white on any other part of the picture including the icecaps in the back. This gives them contrast to the ornamentation and darker values of the sled and the Silver Warrior behind them. This also helps them stand out from the backdrop of the snowy terrain they are standing on.
There is another strong contrast here with the bold dark shadows on the warrior's face with the contrast of the white snow caps behind him. He uses another element of lighting contrast with telling us where the lighting source is in the scene. We can see it is directly above him and in front of him by the light reflection on his vest. This adds another rhythm of light variation in this area that adds more visual interest.
Outside of the yellow on the ornamentation on his armor and the sled as well as the red along his sword from the suns reflection, the whole picture is done in varying tones of blue, black and purple. The purple is absent in the top part of the picture and is only used to give warmth to the shadows of the polar bears at the bottom. These purples disappear as we go up the image to the warrior and where we only get cold pale blues, yellows, and deep black shadows.
Like a lot of Frazetta's work, the composition feels triangular in its shape from the tip of the sword down to the legs of the left sled and to the right leg and back up. It sits heavy to the left and he uses the contrast of the white snow caps to compensate for that on the right. Notice he doesn't need to balance it by placing a huge white shape on the right side, instead he can suggest bigger shapes by placing smaller ones close to one another. This gives variation to the shapes as well since the left side of the caps are much bolder. He uses the blue in the background to suggest a vast empty space behind him.
The darkest value of blue is in the top left corner of the image near the top of the mountain. This gives a sense of depth and distance to what lies behind the mountain and contrasts with the sun hitting his sword and radiating off. We also see that the darkest blacks are reserved for the features on the face of the polar bears and the shadows of the figure riding into battle.
Giving soft and lost edges to the polar bears allows our eyes to drift from one element to the next without feeling like every element is completely distinct from the others. The shadow along the back here also helps define the shapes of the two front polar bears and in both of these we see parts of each of them with lost edges or very slight edges. That gives us the impression of them being almost as soft in texture as the snow around them but out of the core shadows he implies enough shapes to also let us know that these bears are strong and feel grounded to their surroundings.
The edges of the sun rays bouncing off the sword are sharp at first and become lost edges as it moves away from the sword.
The whole shape of the gesture, his ornamental elements and silhouette are connected together in the same shape. Notice how his hair waves to the side connecting with the sharp dark shape of the sword to the shadows across his chest and the shadows on his face that obscure his features.