Quinns Rocks artist with Asperger’s designs frogs for Australia Post stamp set

Digital artist Owen Bell (Quinns Rocks) with his dog Arrow. Photo: Martin Kennealey
Digital artist Owen Bell (Quinns Rocks) with his dog Arrow. Photo: Martin Kennealey

A QUINNS Rocks artist with Asperger syndrome created pictures featured on a collection of frog stamps released by Australia Post this week.

The four frog stamps are Owen Bell’s fifth set of nature-themed images for the postal authority and feature the critically endangered armoured mist frog the as well as endangered Baw Baw and Australian lace-lid frogs

The fourth is the Tasmanian tree frog and a fifth species, the dainty tree frog, features on a minisheet.

“It’s a great honour and privilege to have my work featured on stamps,” Bell said.

“It’s lovely to think that there are hundreds of stamps I’ve illustrated in private collections all around the world.”

Australia Post philatelic manager Michael Zsolt said Australia was home to about 200 of the world’s 6000 frog species.

“This stamp issue indicates some of the diversity of our frog species, brought to life through eye-catching photorealistic illustrations,” he said.

“Frogs occupy an important niche in the food web, being both predators and prey, and they are one of nature’s barometers for environmental health, given their sensitivity to environmental conditions.”

Bell also designed the Cocos (Keeling) Islands: visiting birds set in 2015, jewel beetles in 2016, endangered wildlife in 2016 and dragonflies in 2017.

The digital artist was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum condition, when he was in his early 60s and believed that helped him produce his award-winning artwork.

“I consider it a gift, as it enables to focus on detail and recreate it in my art,” he said.

“It also allows to maintain that focus for long periods – I often spend 10 to 12 hours working on a painting without a break.”

Bell began working in the UK as a freelance illustrator in 1974, working primarily in gouache before he started experimenting with digital art in the 1980s.

“Going digital was a game changer, as it allows me to add even more detail than previously possible because I can zoom in several 100 per cents and work on tiny areas, even on individual pixels,” he said.

“I paint in more or less the same way I did when using traditional media; the main difference being that now I paint with light, which is pretty magical.”

Bell began illustrating stamps for the Crown Agents Stamp Bureau in the UK in 1984 and started working on the World Wildlife Fund stamp collection around the same time, continuing until 2015.

Under the Welsh spelling of his name, Owain, Bell illustrated various Thomas the Tank Engine books, video cases, merchandise packaging, jigsaw puzzles and posters from 1986 to 1996.