Frogman Tim Cotterill is a renaissance man and the best-selling bronze artist in the world

Frogman Tim Cotterill is a renaissance man and the best-selling bronze artist in the world

The best-selling bronze artist in the world, and known to his many fans around the globe as the ‘Frogman’ – because of his favourite subject – Tim left school at 15 after his mum was told by a teacher that he’d never amount to anything (“I’d like Mr Middleton to see me now,” he laughs. “Although to be fair to him, I was a complete pain in the you-know-what!”).

He started his career with six years of training as an electrical engineering, before deciding it wasn’t for him, much to his father’s horror: “You’re giving up a good pension, son,” he told the 21-year-old.

‘But nothing in life is ever wasted,” says the charming and chatty Tim, now 68. “I’m still using some of the skills I learned then.”

It’s hard to imagine how when you look at his brilliantly coloured, sinuous frog sculptures. They’re as far removed from the brass tacks of engineering – and from construction, landscaping and stonemasonry, Tim’s subsequent, and typically varied, careers – as it’s possible to be.

But this resourceful, creative artist – who’s never had any formal art training – has woven his many skills together to create a unique technique that results in bronzes which, while heavy in the hand, are visually ethereal.

Tim Cotterill Frogman Arrow

He uses the classic ‘lost wax’ technique to mould the bronzes, which is over 2000 years old – a silicon mould is filled with wax to create a maquette which is then coated in a ceramic material to produce a second, heavy-duty, mould capable of holding the molten bronze.

But that first silicon mould is made from his original ‘master’ which is built from metal and – believe it or not – car body filler.

“I learned how to acetylene gas weld at the age of 20,” he says. “Believe me, I can make a gas torch talk!

“I start out by making a metal armature, welding rods together and using ball bearings to make the frog’s little toes.

“Then I add car body filler. We call it Bondo over here in the States; in the UK, it’s known as P38. It’s very strong – I can work on it with steel files, taking it off, putting it on, until I get the result I want.

“I then add two or three coats of primer, and rub that down until I have a perfect finish – the silicon mould will pick up even the tiniest imperfection, so it has to be absolutely right.

“Most bronzes are big, chunky lumps of metal: maybe a torso, or a head. Mine are airy – I can even sculpt orchids in bronze – because of the materials I use.”

Tim’s frogs come in a remarkable range of colours and patinas, ranging from the subtle to the vibrant, but he’s a little cagey about that process.

“My foundry is great – they experiment all the time with chemicals, with dyes, with pigments to create all sorts of finishes. You look at a poison dart frog, which has brilliant colours because of all the frog’s toxins – the foundry can recreate that colour.” 

Tim’s frogs attract passionate collectors from around the world – on one gallery visit recently, he met 12 couples who between them had over 3,000 of his pieces.

“They’re genuine hot-cast bronze, not cold-cast, which is essentially resin with bronze powder. So you’re buying a piece of real quality, something that can be handed down through generations.

“And they’re very addictive. They have big eyes, and feminine curves – they’re actually rather sexy, if you can say that about a frog!”

Tim lives and works happily alone in his compound – a ‘funky barn cabin’ is how he describes it – in LA’s artistic enclave, bohemian Venice Beach.  When he’s not creating covetable works of art, he turns his hand to designing remarkable vehicles – his extraordinarily futuristic Rocket II Trike features on the Emmy Award-winning show Jay Leno’s Garage and the YouTube video – which has so far attracted well over a million views – is well worth a look.

Back to blog