The first was Frank Frazetta. Frazetta, for those who don't know, was the Heroic Fantasy artist, period. He'es probably best known for his covers for the Conan books of the 70s. His work also appeared on album covers , most famously Molly Hatchet's. The painting to the left, The Barbarian, is my favorite, and a print hangs in my living room. Besides setting the classic scene of victorious warrior with his 'spoils', take a moment to really look at this work. The mound of corpses and the woman are a bit hazy, but as the eye travels upward, the central figure is in sharp focus, commanding attention. also, the hazy sky behind reveals dark images, perhaps of his future, or his past. It is a work of art that fairly hums with power and vitality.
Another favorite of mine is The Death Dealer. Instead of the typical Grim Reaper, we have an armored avatar of Death. His axe is scythe-like, and the carrion birds in the sky behind him tell his role. Like The Barbarian, even though the main figure of the piece is still (for now), there is a feeling of power and dynamism to it, as if at a moment's notice he could spring to destructive action, hewing down all in his way.
As a kid, I was mesmerized by Frazetta's work. I'd stare for what seemed like hours at his works, wishing I was in those worlds. His dangerous warriors, his fearsome beasts, his curvy, sensual women, they all fairly burned with life and power, a feat many other fantasy painters with their stiff, posed paintings could never, ever match. Frazetta's work, much like that of author Robert E. Howard ( who's tales were illustrated by frazetta's paintings, more often than not), was something I came to appreciate more as I grew older. I could better appreciate his masterworks as I began to understand them better. Frazetta suffered a series of strokes in his 70s, and lost use of his right hand. What did he do? He taught himself to paint with his left hand. Left-handed, he could still out-paint , well, damn near anyone.