A brilliant commission

I enjoy painting all my commissions, but occasionally I get a real challenge. ‘The Frog Jockey’ is one which really stretched me.

In 2019, I was approached by a prospective client who had seen some of my more weird artworks. He had a very imaginative idea and he wanted it realised as a painting to present to his partner as a surprise.

The idea had evolved between them and was nothing more than a joke which had grown over time. I’d love to have witnessed that!

The Frog Jockey frog riding a centipede painting

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This is how the brief went. ‘Can you paint a Centipede, being ridden by a small frog, over a background of raw emeralds?’ 

I thought about the technical challenges of making this tableau work as a painting and I was confident that whilst it would be time consuming, I could make a good job of it.

As I was constructing it in my head, I then noticed his other request. ‘I’d like all the feet to be wearing a different patterned Doc Marten boot.’ This added another dimension to it, but I’m always up for a challenge so I took the commission.

I went at it by painting the raw emeralds first – not easy because they are highly reflective and translucent. What I did worked, so all I had to do then was arrange the individual crystals in such a way that a centipede could navigate over them.

I then added a simple sky, figuring that a painting like this needed no more complexity!

Centipede's head

Next came the painting of the Centipede. I have a fear of Scorpions and these are close relatives, so looking at those retracted mandibles gave me a few moments. The funny thing is though, as I painted it from the head backwards, I began to see how incredible it is – a perfect mix of form and function, carved out by evolution.

I discovered that Centipedes are one of the oldest venomous groups – they have been around for more than 400 million years! So whilst I won’t want one crawling over me at night, I feel that they’ve earned their place on Earth.

I then went for the Doc Marten’s. This was actually the most difficult part to paint because of the variety of styles my client had asked for – that’s a lot of pairs of boots! Many are also at different angles and don’t naturally fit on a Centipede’s pointy feet.

Finally, I painted a very cute looking frog onto the neck of it’s steed, adding a simple rein because how else would it steer? I always assume that a client will want me to pay attention to details like this, so even though this is a fantasy, the issue of steering still came into it.

Centipede's legs with Doc Marten boots
Frog riding on a Centipede

The resulting painting was duly sent off to my client for approval (always an anxious moment). He loved it, and when it was put on a large canvas and presented to his partner, I’m told she flipped with surprise and delight.

Full marks to my client and the imagination that spawned this scene.

Full marks too for finding a completely unique way to be romantic!

So if you have a really bonkers idea for a commission, please let me know, because as I have discovered, there are some completely brilliant imaginations out there and I’m only too delighted to bring ideas to ‘life’.

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