To become the worlds biggest selling bronze artist is quite an achievement and one that begs the question, ‘How did it happen’? The story of Tim Cotterill, better known as ‘The Frogman’, is a fascinating tale of following ones dreams and touching the lives of thousands of collectors.
The Frogman Tim Cotterill was born and raised in England where he enjoyed a happy childhood with his sister Angela, playing in the woods and streams and beginning what would be a life long fascination with nature. Born in 1950 near Leicester, the surrounding countryside was the perfect place to watch the colourful birds that Cotterill had first seen on the posters that his mother had put around his cot as a baby. Having lost himself in the woods all day, he knew the song of every bird spent his time searching for nests and eggs. This love of birds led him build an aviary in his parents backyard and became a domestic ornithologist and breeder.
When it came time to leave school at 15, Frogman found himself without qualifications and no real idea what to do as a career – the thought of become a sculptor and bronze artist was far from his mind at this early stage. Following his father’s advice, he applied for an engineering apprenticeship and was delighted to announce to them that he had been successful in securing one of only ten places from the two hundred applicants.
After a few months, it became clear that the engineering apprenticeship was not Cotterill’s natural calling but the freedom of the factory allowed him to search for parts for his motorbike projects which were increasingly becoming his passion. With tenacity that would stand him in good stead for the rest of his artistic career, Cotterill continued on with his apprenticeship until his 21st birthday when he received his Mechanical Engineering Degree papers – that same day, he left the factory forever, much to the disappointment of his father and training officer.
His love of motorbikes and the creative process of building things, led him to work in an auto repair business, building race cars and going to the racetracks. Influenced by the American Hells Angels motorcycle club and the 1969 film Easy Rider, Frogman began saving and building American style motorbikes, buying cheap cycles and chopping them to create stylish unique designs.
Over time, the daily routine of the auto garage became dull for Frogman leading him to take up a roll working for a landscaper and stonemason, taking back to the outdoors that he had enjoyed as a child. Several years working as a successful stonemason followed until his attention was taken by a group of abstract metal sculptures in a city art exhibition whilst taking cover from the rain. Racing home to his fathers garage, Frogman was inspired to create his first large owl sculpture from random pieces of scrap metal. After a full days work producing the sculpture, Cotterill was delighted to sell the sculpture for five pounds – the sculptor was born!
The techniques were refined over time and a loyal band of customers started to form including his landscaping clients. With a handful of bird sculptures packed in his case, Cotterill decided to indulge his fascination with California by arranging a trip with the small amount of money he had for a plane fare. Arriving in San Francisco and staying at the YMCA, the young Frogman was confident he could sell his work. Having set up without a permit in the tourist area of Fisherman’s Wharf, Cotterill was disappointed to not sell any of his work despite a lot of interest. Despite his first selling trip not being as successful as he had hoped, he met a number of interesting contacts including artist John Jagger and left San Francisco with his sculptures proudly on display at a gallery in The Cannery near the Waterfront.
Returning home to the UK, Cotterill continued to indulge his creative tendencies and also settled down to create a home with his new partner Jo and here lovely daughter. Renovating a house, Cotterill built a pond in the back garden which soon attracted many frogs. Soon they all had names and absorbing the way they moved and behaved, a lifelong fascination with these intriguing creatures had begun.
Continuing to create bird sculptures and experiment with different coatings and finishes, the opportunity arose to return to the USA when his artist friend John Jagger invited him to do some stone masonry work for him on his new mountain top home. Having spent a fantastic period working on the home, returning home to the sedate nature of Leicester wasn’t stimulating for Cotterill. Following some life changing events including the loss of his father, his mothers diagnosis with Glaucoma and his daughter leaving home for art college, his marriage started to suffer and the calling of the USA started to return with his friend John Jagger lining up several shows in Florida. Eventually Frogman moved to Stateside to join John and they travelled the country in a box van setting up booths selling the birds and first of his bronze frog sculptures.
Over the years, the Frogman sculpture collection has grown dramatically with stockists throughout the world. Frogman now works from his own studio in an industrial area of Venice Beach, California. Behind the gates is a garden oasis including a pond full of Koi fish and frogs, the perfect inspiration for his amazing Frogman bronze sculptures. Hepplestone Fine Art are thrilled to be one only a handful of ‘Platinum Stockists’ throughout the world and welcome Frogman back to the gallery each year for an exhibition of his incredible frog sculptures.