Shaolin Style – Sculpting a Tree Frog Monk

Hi-Yah! Time for some more sculpting insights from the workbench. If you wonder how frogs and Shaolin monks go together: have a look at the Red Eyed Treefrog Agalychnis callidryas. This beautiful creature is a great jumper (no wonder looking at these legs) and literally stares predators down with his red eyes when in peril. If that is not badass, I don’t know what is. This froggy will bulk out the front ranks alongside my toad grunt. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing sculpting him.

Red Eyed Tree Frog, Sculpting, Miniatures, 28mm, Tutorial, Frog, Monk, Skin Texture
Careyjamesbalboa (Carey James Balboa), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Concept to sculpt

Having a clear idea of where you want to go with a sculpt will save you a tremendous amount of work and frustration. Case in point: my monk tree frog. He started as a wizard, as I found the coloration to emanate a refined and proud character. Per usual I started with bulking out the armature (this time using coated floral wire) and establishing the triangular shape of the head, as well as the eye balls.

Two issues became more and more apparent: The legs were way too short and the pose was boring an static. Sure, my buff toad could be in a ‘at the ready’ or ‘come get some’ pose, but I wanted something a tad more interesting with a wizard.

Looking at more pictures online the agility of the tree frog became central to my vision; more and more a wizard did not seem to be a good fit. So martial arts it should be. I reposed the arms and legs in a kneeling fighter pose, ready to attack.

The head got larger, the right eye got a proper ridge and the skin was textured using sand paper and the superglue applicator needle I used for the warty toad skin. Now the head was too big and the legs still too short. A final adjustment was necessary. Gladly the wire for the legs was much longer than needed, so it was very easy to adjust the length.

At last I was happy with the proportions, especially after I bulked out the belly and back some more. Looking at the tree frog it has characteristic warts around the upper leg area, so I used the needle to add texture and interest to this section.

Attaching the arms – brass tube to the rescue

The last issue I had to address were the feet of the frog. They definitely required a wire skeleton so that the long and slender toes would keep their shape. A friendly user in one of my Facebook groups had the solution: I fashioned the feet with brass rod and connected them to the body with brass tube. The 0.9mm inner diameter tube did fit both the coated wire and the brass rod. The connection was a bit loose, as the brass rod was the 0.6mm variety, so I inserted first some Greenstuff in the tube, then the rod. Let cure and it is a secure connection.

I decided to give the monk a staff, ready to strike mid jump. Again the brass tube came in handy. I inserted a matching rod and left some on both ends. The idea is to have carved frog faces on each end. I may texture the staff surface a tad, but maybe I just leave it smooth.


I did not finish the feet yet and some work on the head is also still outstanding, but one can get a good impression how he will look in the end. Casting the frog will be a challenge, but I might just let a professional caster do the work and make it multipart.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s sculpting showcase and got some inspiration to give it a try yourself. Any questions, suggestions or ideas for the remaining frog sculpts, comment below. Shaolin or not, always wield your brush with honour. Hi-Yah!

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Mark A. Morin
3 years ago

Really excellent. I do think you’d have to multi piece cast, but well worth it.

Mark A. Morin
Reply to  DaggerAndBrush
3 years ago

I’d have the legs and arms separated

The Solo Meeple
3 years ago

Superb; great to seem him come alive!
Can’t wait to see the paint job.

3 years ago

This is a clever idea for a sculpt! The species of frog you are modeling the monk after are beautiful and I imagine this sculpt will be a lot of fun to paint when it is done. Looking forward to seeing more progress on the frog monk! 🙂