Frogs, parrots and chameleons on a human canvas | Global Ideas | DW | 16.04.2015
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Global Ideas

Frogs, parrots and chameleons on a human canvas

Johannes Stötter's canvas is human skin. His models are transformed into frogs, parrots and chameleons. His illusion is almost perfect - humans disappear and all that is left are the animals.

The animals you create are composed of human beings - where did the idea come from?

The first animal of the series I created, which also includes a parrot and a chameleon, was a frog. And I came upon it purely by coincidence. I looked at photos of one of my previous works and something about it, maybe the pose, reminded me of a frog's leg. Very quickly I got the idea to create something bigger. It all started with a sketch of the frog. It took 10 minutes or so, then I made a larger, more detailed sketch, and then started to work with the models.

How long does it take you to get from the first sketch to the finished photo?

A small sketch is done very quickly. A bigger one with a lot more detail might take me several days. Trying out the final pose with models takes about one to one and a half hours. And then the action itself, so the application of the paint - it took about five hours for the frog, about six hours for the chameleon and almost four for the parrot.

It's almost impossible for the viewer to recognize the humans involved in the artwork on first sight. Is that on purpose?

Of Course, I was hoping that in the end the frog would look like a real frog and that it would be hard to spot the people immediately. To be honest, I didn't expect it to be a success. But the surprise effect just works.

Why did you choose animals?

Animals have been important to me, ever since I was a child. And because I've always wanted to be an artist, I have often drawn animals. I knew a lot about animals, and I had a lot of books about them. This is obviously beneficial to my work. I am also pretty familiar with the anatomy of animals.

Do the animals need to have particular features to be useful as a template?

Animals with fur are more complicated, of course. So, a frog or a chameleon are more suitable for my work, their skin is smoother and more similar to human skin. Also the anatomy has a lot of similarities. When I finished the frog, and saw the success the pictures and video had, I tried to identify more suitable animals. Not all of the ideas I had worked out well, but the parrot did. And later the chameleon. I have done others as well, but almost no one knows about these animals, yet. I want to wait for the best moment to publish the next one - publishing needs the surprise element.

Be honest, how much do the models suffer?

The models don't have to stay in the final pose all the time - that would not even be possible. At the beginning of a session I draw a few main lines, after that, the priming follows. From that moment on, the models can get up, walk around and take a break. I do not always work on all of them at the same time, sometimes it's only one person.

Thank you for the interview.

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