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Fire Frog

JUNE 18, 2010

Full painting, uncropped. 'Fire Frog' 2010

Several months ago I was asked to participate in the annual Dellas Graphics Frog Folio promotional calendar.  I did this once before and I recall being as anxious then as I was this time.  The issue for me was that a frog as subject matter is tough to work with if you're a realistic artist.  This is gold for artists like Bill Mayer who can turn a piece into a hilarious image or Edel Rodriguez who can make an image that is beautifully constructed and make it mostly about color, shape and design.
At least this was the noise in my head.  In the past I had taken this frog and merged it with something I enjoy painting, traditional trompe l'oeil.  The result was a shallow cabinet that stated "PRINCE" on a small plaque. 
My previous contribution to the Dellas Graphics series of Frog Paintings.

Having exhausted that approach, I needed to find a solution.  As I often do when I'm stuck, I doodled.  Playing with the shape of the frog first and turn it and spin it in space.  What can it do, what can it be?  The act of drawing rather than thinking requires that you make marks.  It is these marks that can MAKE you think and see parts you're not focusing on.  So, when I doodled a frog in tall grass, for an instant, I thought about the grass.
I then thought about doing something to the grass...
I then thought of a painting I saw by Gottfried Helnwein when I was in college.  It was of Salvador Dali on fire. 
The detail I recalled was how his hair burned. 
My brain works like that.  I store solutions up and can recall them when I find a reason.  I think most illustrators can do this and the skill is reinforced by working on tight deadlines.
I made that connection here and did a doodle of the frog in profile and how fire would affect the grass.  The flame almost grabs the grass and moves up it like a wick on a candle.
I then began putting this image together.

As I was painting it, I began to worry that I was actually burning a frog. This was a concern as I recall being instructed that I could paint anything I wanted but I couldn't smash a frog, or do something disturbing.   It was not my intention.  The idea here is that wild fires are not started by people or lightning strikes, but by fire frogs.  A simple twisted story but one that helped me solve this riddle.

Thanks to Jim Burke, fellow illustrator and art director for the project for giving me a reason to paint this.
The last photo is what we all want, an easel with paintings in progress that make us happy.
The Chicken and the Egg painting is very small but closer to the camera.  The Fire Frog is about 12 by 17.