DRE: When you look at a frog, do you see it as the way you later draw would draw it? Or is it later when you go, “It’s time for me to draw” that the frogs come out that way?
JW: Well, if you notice there are no human beings in that book. I tend to use frogs as stand-ins for human beings, because when it comes drawing people for symbolic pictures, I never quite know how to go about doing it. If you draw them so that they’re like portraits, then the picture becomes about that personality. But if you just draw placeholders the figures tend to be very minimalist. They don’t have a lot of personality. It’s hard for me to know how to draw people, so I draw frogs because to me they’re kind of stripped-down versions of human beings.
DRE: What do you see in frogs that others don’t?
JW: I’ve always been fascinated by frogs and I’ve always loved to look at them. They’re good food for thought. I guess in France they’re just good food. They have a lot of interesting attributes. If you have a spiritual event; they’re amazing because they’ll just sit still as if they’re meditating for a long period of time, but they’re never out of it. They always notice when a shadow approaches and then they move like greased lightning. They live on the land and in the water. That amphibious quality is something you can compare to the way people live in both the animal and the spiritual world. They’re strangely anthropomorphic. They almost seem to have hands. They have faces you can read expressions in more readily than you can read them on the faces of other animals. I don’t know what it is but they’re easier to figure out than people. I guess the reason why I don’t draw people very much is because I don’t understand them. I don’t understand us so I never quite know what to show. It’s easy for me to draw people in deplorable circumstances doing terrible things subject to abominable forces. But I don’t want to just do that all the time; I don’t want to heap another log onto the fire of “Here’s what’s wrong with the human race.” So I sidestep it by doing it with frogs.
Do you think it's wrong to introduce Violet to Jim Woodring before the age of 2? (Click for a larger image.) She's reading Pupshaw and Pushpaw, not that new book. That's her in the background. Mirrors.