Painting Reptiles and Amphibians

When the subject matter is naturally fun, that makes painting fun too. Animals are a good choice to brighten a routine. Reptiles and amphibians offer light exercise for blocking shapes and layering through gradients of mostly one color. Watch me paint this tree frog in the >2 minute time-lapse video below. Don’t forget to turn the sound on for vibe.

I painted these critters for an oil painting book about Savannah, Georgia. Tree frogs sometimes hang out on my glass patio door, just one little guy at a time. Lizards are more common, and I’ve grown to miss them when they disappear for the winter. Painting lizards and frogs is good practice for creating simple shapes that are easy to identify as-is, but shadows and highlights make all the difference.

When gators squat in the neighborhood lagoon, they aren’t welcomed visitors like the cute tree frogs and friendly lizards. I’m not fond of snake visitations either. But, at least they give me painting inspiration. Pairing the two together is an opportunity to use contrasting shapes to tell a story. Jagged lines and rough textures, alongside curves and smooth applications, create a dynamic contrast.

These were quick projects on small canvases, but these concepts are worthy of more serious attention if an artist enjoys this type of work. Whether the subject of light exercise and a fast finish, or a true masterpiece, painting amphibians and reptiles is a high-energy adventure. Nature provides us with vivid colors contrasted by subtle gradients and humble tones. This balance is thrown when the energy of a vibrant, and perhaps dangerous, animal breaks through the scene. When artists depart from their typical routine to paint such dynamic critters, it’s a refreshing jolt.

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