I was first introduced the artist extraordinaire Black Frog at the Seattle Concept Art workshop hosted in part by the Massive Black crew and some of their friends. I had somehow convinced the global packaging design firm I worked for to send me there to experience this and garner some inspiration and knowledge that would be applicable for our creative process. really, I think they were just being nice to me and I can honestly say it had a pretty profound effect on me personally. Notably in the picture below, three people to the right of my circled mean-mug, is the impressive Rob Rey (green scarf) and somewhere in there was budding art superstar Francis Vallejo before he had really hit the scene.
Once there, I unfortunately didn’t get to meet my then-hero Marko Djurdjevic who was apparently sick as a dog (still a gigantic fan of his and SIXMOREVODKA), but was happy to see my other fan-favs such as Jason Chan, Wes Burt, Dan Milligan, Brom, Coro, Greg Manchess, Aleksi, etc. I was however very pleasantly surprised to be introduced to an artist known as the Black Frog. I later found his name to be Igor-Alban Chevalier but found his art (and I must admit, personal fashion sense) to be stand-out. Here is a picture of my first encounter, Igor posing for the drawing group under a thousand lights in all of his furs, melting while we sketched. (I didn’t take this photo, and unfortunately forget who did!)
What I found at that workshop, and still believe, is that amidst a seemingly incestuous genre of art/illustration, some artists shine in the concept world. So much concept art at this point is so derivative of the “top dogs” that it has become a sea of imitation. There is so much quality out there, but so little individuality, or “soul” if you will. So much great art and technique that all really looks the same. some artists shine with their approach and ideas like Justin Sweet, Iain McCaig, Marko Djurdjevic, and Dermot Power. I would happily add the Black Frog to that list. even at the workshop, his images seemed more like illustrations to me than concept art. they stood out as not only beautiful images, but great ideas and the simplest sketch implied an entire story…the mindset that, to me, is the mark of a great concept artist.
Lucky for us, Igor was more than willing to answer a few questions for me regarding his work. As with any thoughtful interviewee, great answers only spark more questions which is certainly the case here. that will have to wait till another time, but until then, he was generous enough to provide more than enough food for thought.
Thanks again to the Black Frog for taking the time to answer these questions so thoroughly. please visit his site and view more of his work at dynamografika.com/ and if you’re friends with him on facebook, you can take part in Black Frog Fridays which is a fantastic way to score original art from him with a creative trade.
Here is the interview which can also be found on the Black Frog’s BLOG.
Black Frog,Thanks again for the opportunity here to ask you a few questions. I appreciate the time and any information you’re willing to share.—————————————————–O.M.-Your work stands out as wholly unique amongst a lot of other concept art out there. regardless of medium or genre, your pieces always seem to nod to some underlying story and don’t necessarily focus primarily just on “looking cool”. can you elaborate on your mindset/goals when developing characters, settings or illustrations?B.F.- I don’t know if my stuff is so unique but one thing is true, I try to focus on the narrative aspect of a picture rather than the « coolness » of it. I think that « cool » is the new « lame » and that it is relatively easy to do. you just have to hit some obvious marks and poof, there, your stuff is « cool ».Big guns, big muscles, babes with porn stars’ proportions, big ass spaceships, bad ass monsters, basically, if it has anything that’s “big” with guns or ass in it, then your image will look « cool ». But if you look at what is out there nowadays, everything is the same, there is only so much cool stuff you can shovel into people’s brains before you make them dumb.I guess that « cool » the way most people see it is the very opposite of what I find interesting. Too much of the same garbage, now shewed and re shewed for years on end.let me tell you what I think, I think that too much cool kills the cool.an example: “Transformers”, I’ve got the feeling I’ll use that example for a long time, it’s going to be a challenge for anyone to do worse than that movie.So yes, Transformers: beautiful work, the guys at ILM kicked ass… but there is TOOOOO MUUUUUCH of it, to much, too fast and very little or nothing else. It’s not their fault, they’re just doing their job, and very well in my opinion…but it’s the market, the director, the producers and the investors bad tastes…This « movie » has no scenario whatsoever, no logic in what is left. that doesn’t make any sense, it has no backbone.For me this movie is just awesome moving robots… it’s a movie in the sense that, yes, granted, it moves. But that’s not a movie. It’s a joke. a very expensive one at that. It’s like buying a house that would stand on the strength of the paint alone or the beautiful cover of a very poorly written book. That’s just plain robbery… And I don’t even want to think about how many years of life the budget of that fast food for the eyes would have bought for a village in say, Africa. Not thinking about it. I guess if I was, I’d stop working in the industry.But hey, money people have their own priorities, who are we to judge.To get back to the « cool » factor in entertainment design, I think a good design should serve the story.If there is no story, the design will, at best, only be a stupidly garish make up on an ugly face.The same way, If the design it too loud, too present, much like with a badly written movie score then you can’t hear or see the rest, and the equilibrium is broken.first Alien: perfect combination.just shown enough of the thing to leave some space for the audience’s imagination to fill the gaps. it didn’t insult its viewers by not letting them think.I try to give to everything I design a meaning, beyond the lines of a spaceship, it should have a purpose, it should have a reason to look the way it looks, even if it’s not obvious when you just look at it, inventing a logic for its shape makes it look like it belongs, like it has a right to be there. The same way, when I do an environment or a creature I have to make it logical. why is it that way, what’s its purpose, where does it go, what does it eat, how, when, a very long list of questions have to be answered before a design can be good in my opinion. It’s not just a picture. If you can’t sit on a chair because it’s fucking uncomfortable, or if your juicer can’t squeeze a bloody lemon, then it doesn’t matter if you’re called Stark, that’s a stupidly bad design. And people can feel that. If it’s just a nice object, just a cool design, and if it doesn’t make sense people will sense it and it will take them out of the story wondering how it works, or how comes that shit survives in the wild.—————————————————–O.M.-You are talented in a number of different mediums and your interests seem wide from sculpture to illustration and comics, all the way to board game design. Is there a medium/genre that feels the most “at home” to the Black Frog, or a medium that feels the least like “work” to you?B.F.- no, I feel pretty comfortable in all the mediums I use. that’s also why I use them If it feels like work, I do something else —————————————————–O.M.-When working on a movie or anything outside of personal work, how do you get through those days when it feels like work?B.F.- I have been fortunate enough to work in the industry mainly as an Art Director and that allowed me to jump from one visual language to another without getting bored.in the worst of the cases, I just try to make whatever is asked of me good enough – by my own standards – so I would not be ashamed of showing it in my portfolio. it proves to be a bit difficult more often than not actually —————————————————–O.M.-Do you ever run out of inspiration or motivation? a lot of people in creative fields leave it all at the office and don’t have the extra “juice” to continue making time for personal work. Is bouncing around mediums important here?B.F.- first, when working for others, I spend most of my time getting frustrated because they prevent me from creating. If I « create » it’s so far from the mainstream they’re looking for that, for them, it’s too « out there ». I don’t really understand why, after all theses years, it still baffles me I must say, but they all want the same thing: exactly what they have seen before, with their name on it.Anything remotely new and they kill it. you can only trick them into accepting something original, but you have to have the will and the energy to make them think the idea comes from them. Not worth the pain really.So when I come back home I have a full tank of unused juice.So no, I don’t run into that problem.Pesonal work is the main goal, it is my utmost priority. I take very little joy – other than doing my job well and making the client happy of course, that’s always nice – in working towards making the dream of somebody else.I have my life to fulfill, and giving out time to others to help them living theirs only prevents you, at the end of the day, from living your own.When I work for myself – which is at least half of the time nowadays – then yes, jumping from one medium to another helps me producing constantly. I might stop one thing but I directly start another and another to eventually come back to the first thing with a renewed desire to finish it.only work on things when you really want to, don’t force it, it would only make it worse.I’m trying to make that my work’s motto.I also truly think that a work of love will always be stronger.—————————————————–O.M.-Regarding inspiration, can you name some of your influences or artists you admire across all the fields you love and explain how they’ve impacted your thought or technical processes? often this can help shed light on how an artist got to develop their own visual language.B.F.- Arg, Ahah, that’s a big one.Insipration then MOVIESTronAlien 1DuneStar Wars 4,5 & 6Délicatessen (Jenet et Caro)Underground (Koustourika)MoonDark CrystalLabyrinthThe Black HolePirateThe day where the earth stood still.Metropolis2010BrazilThe Baron Of MunshausenDarkcityThe Good, The Bad and The UglyNosferatuModern TimesANIMATION MOVIESSpirited awayLaputaTotoroPorco RossoGrave of the fireflies (the saddest thing ever)Ghost in the shellUpThe IncrediblesToy StoryMonsters IncFinding NemoSurf’s upThe thief and the cobblerThe street of crocodile (brothers Quay – stop motion animation)Wallace and Gromit (the original trilogie – claymation)Nightmare before Christmas (stop motion animation)TV:MadmenCarnivaleThe Muppet ShowRomeStar TrekThe Twilight ZoneThe PrisonerThe Kingdom – Lars Von TriersCOMIC BOOK & GRAPHIC NOVELS-Winsor Mc Cay – little Nemo in SlumberlandThe French Comic Book Artist/Illustrator Jean Giraud Moebius who recently passed away- L’incal – Le garage hermétiqueMike Mignola, creator of hellboy.Alphonso Font – Klark & Cubrik agent tréspéciaux – Le prisonniers des étoilesCarlos nine – FantagasLiberatore – RanxeroxManara – Jour de tonerreHugo pratt – Corto MalteseFred – les aventure de PhilémonTardi – « Allo, Ici Même » – Les Aventures d’Adèle BlancsecMézière & Christin – les aventure de Valérian et LaurelineLe Magazine Métal HurlantComes – Silence – L’ombre du corbeauAlex Toth – ZorroJordy Bernet – Tropedo – Sarvane – KrakenAlec Severin – la machine à remonter dans le tempsChris WareBrecciaAlan Moore – The WatchmenAshley woodFrank Miller – Dardevil — in the magazine strange — dark Knight – ElektraBeb Deum – BureaucraticaPAINTERSThe American painter John Singer SargentKlimtSorrolaMuchaorientalists and Russian painters in generalSCULPTORSThe Italian sculptor Rambrandt BugattiILLUSTRATORS & COVER ARTISTSThöny & all the illustrators from the WWI satyrical german publication Simplicissimus.MoebiusJames JeanBeb DeumGerald ParelMike MignolaMOVIE CONCEPTUAL ARTISTSNeil « limbolo » RossDermot PowerCraig MullinsVIDEO GAME CONCEPTUAL ARTISTSNoxCoroSparthBOOKSStephen King – ItJ.R.R. Tolkien – The lord of the ringsRay Bradbury – Martian ChoniclesJack Vance – Cudgel SagaMichaïl Boulgakov – The master and margueritteH.P. LovecraftGustave Flaubert – SalammbôClive Barker – WaveworldBoris Vian – l’écume des joursPierre DesprogesMUSICPhilip GlassTom WaitsLéo FérréBoris VianJoana NewsomeSatiKeith Jarret – Köln concertTaraf de IdoukLed ZeppelinVIDEO GAMESIcoHalf life 2PortalOddworld Abe’s OdissyHalo 1 & 2Full ThrottleGrim FandangoSkull MonkeyMetal SlugTenchuZeldaStarfoxGhost’n GobblinsCrimson SkyBattlefield 1943Alien BreedPsychonautssabrewolfROLE PLAYING GAMESThe call Of ChtulhuGalactic EmpireThe rôle playing game of Middle EarthStormbringerBOARD GAMESBloodbowlWarhammer battleDuneFull Metal PlanetGAME BOOKSKharé la citée des pièges (série Sorcellerie, illustrated by John Blanche)There you go, that’s relatively exhaustive as for what I have learned and keep learning from guys like Sargent, Sorrola, Neil Ross, Moebius, Mignola to only pick a few, is that sense of braking down everything to the bare minimum, to the very essence of things.even if it looks effortless to them, it is the proof of a tremendous mastery of skills to be able to boil down everything to the core, leaving nothing else to reduce, giving the emotion in just a hand full of strokes.Less is more. oh yes it is.—————————————————–O.M.-People always talk about a search for “style” and again, your work look feels very honest. did you ever focus energy into developing look, or was thing visual language something that developed out of just constant work?B.F.- I think that wanting to develop a style is a mistake. To me it is like trying to run before knowing how to walk. it can only look fake and shallow. Because behind it, there’s nothing else than you wanting to be seen and recognized as a real artist. As if one was shouting in the crowd rather than learning how to have something to say first.we all have our own voice, it’s there in us from the beginning. The work or the style doesn’t define us, we define them. Working on ourselves,finding slowly how to reach that deeper tune, this unique voice we have, is, I think, a very personal journey, that hasn’t got anything to do with appearances or showing off. Pride should not have any part in it.I’m sorry, I sound like a guru, but this is really important to me, I think that if you don’t try all you can to find that true emotion deep in you, then your work will never have real style. Because you will not be IN it. You’ll just make it like you’d make a sandwich.So yes, constant work, on yourself, then the technique only to have better tools to express what you have inside and then the style will come on its own effortlessly.besides, focusing on style might set your feet in concrete and because you’d get too attached to you beloved gimmicks, it could prevent you from evolving,from getting out of the box you created for yourself. Bruce Lee and his style of no style think out of the box to adapt and get better all the timeStopping evolving is like saying that you’ve already reached perfection.—————————————————–O.M.-Is there particular work you are most proud of? Or what work do you think is the best work you do? The answers to this often seem contrary to what might be the artists most popular work, so I’m curious what you mark as your great achievements.B.F.I consider my little black and white graphic novel series « les carnets de la grenouille noire » being what I am the most proud of. this is what I have found the most challenging to date and I constantly look at what I came up with with wonder and amazement. this is certainly – I can already ear people say « what, that little thing? It’s just scribbles! « – the thing that made me grow the most of all I’ve ever done. And writing each book of 300 pages as an impro in a month is such a blast, I discover the story as it unravels… it’s like running on a clothe line stretched over a bottomless pit, eyes wide-opened in fear and realizing after each chapter that you did it, you’re on safe ground, you did the impossible thing, you’re on the other side.I find that wonderfully exhilarating.As for the visual technique employed to tell the story, — for the ones who can see it – it is all that I’ve ever learned, stripped to the bone.The rest of what I do is not as challenging, I have learned to do most of what I do now on autopilot. All I learn from now on feels like it is just to finely tune my tricks.So it might not look like much. But that little thing is what makes me proud, because it is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. —————————————————–O.M.-I think that about covers it! thanks again for taking the time to answer any of this stuff and I can’t wait to read your responses.Cheers,OliverB.F.-You’re most welcome
Birthdays are an important part of a child’s life, but the leap year child’s actual birth date happens only once every four years, on February 29th. While the actual birthday celebration is certain to happen annually, in many cases on February 28th or March 1st, imagine the fun to be had when the birthday falls on a leap year. A year with the normal 365 days is often referred to as a common year, so a leap year birthday party is a chance for uncommon fun.
Those who are born on February 29th are often called leaplings or leapers, so a themed birthday party involving frogs or kangaroos could be a fun way to celebrate. the leaping animal you choose as your theme will help you determine the color schemes and decorating ideas. the Leap Year Frog Party can be blue, green and yellow, and the Kangaroo Party could be more earth-toned with brown, cream, yellow and orange.
Take the standard party games, and make them all frog- or kangaroo-oriented. you can play Pin the Tail on the Kangaroo for the kangaroo theme and Pin the Crown on the Frog for the frog theme, or Pass the Frog and Pass the Joey. for a bigger game, plan a frog or kangaroo hunt by hiding small theme animals around the yard or house, like an egg hunt.
Making your cake in the theme is a simple way of continuing the experience, and many grocery store bakeries can even do that for you. Last, but not least, you can hand out small stuffed frogs or kangaroos as party favors.
An alternative to the leaping themes for a Leap Year Birthday party could be to go with a birthday celebration theme of Superman. February 29th is the traditionally recognized birthday of the man of steel, and that can be adapted into a terrific theme party with red, white, and blue streamers.
You can even turn it into a costume party with the guests coming in their Super suits, saving Superman or Supergirl for the birthday boy or girl, of course. this could be fun for all ages from childhood to adult, because let’s face it: we all like to play dress-up and have fun, so who better to celebrate your birthday with than Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League? So make your leap year birthday special, and celebrate it in style. after all, this calendar birthday comes around only once every four years.