Hollow Frog Approach /// Interview with Leif Goldberg

November 11, 2013

Swamp City Emerges_screenprint_r

We’ve been in awe of Leif Goldberg’s artwork ever since we picked up copies of Paper Rodeo, that brilliant chaos soup of a comic newspaper that he contributed to. Next we saw his explosive eye-poppin’ silkscreen prints that could tear a hole in your frontal lobe. Then there came these insane hand-printed calendars that were always coveted gifts we got every Christmas. And then we watched his animations, bounding with hand drawn wild style and ambient alien noise soundtracks he had made for them. Leif was a member of the art collective-noise band Forcefield and a resident of legendary art warehouse Fort Thunder in Providence, RI. He is also the creator of the comic zine National Waste. He now lives and works in Vermont with his family and we are happy to have him around all month!

big snow

Where do you live and what’s it like?

I live In Mackville, right near Hardwick, Vermont. Historically, it’s a granite cutting town that lies at the bottom of the Northeast Kingdom. People are generally thick skinned and self reliant, which are traits that rub off, if you hang around long enough. Lots of good farmers; the ones that are our age grow vegetables and meats mostly. But traditionally it was predominantly dairy farmers up through the kingdom. Small dairy farms are far and few between as compared with two decades ago. We do OK growing and storing most of our vegetables and we just slaughtered our own chickens for the first time. We appreciate our food. Moreover, our neighbors are the fox, deer, bobcat, coyote, and woodcock, who weave their own lives into this cyclical seasonal tapestry.

dryin prints

What is your art studio and working environment like? when do you typically clock in?

I’ve always made art in my house, or wherever I’ve been domiciled. Currently, with my partner Erin Rosenthal, we’ve been carving out one larger room in this old farmhouse, where we only make art or music. But virtually every other part of the house is also fair game for making art, except where we actually sleep. I’m still screenprinting in a room that was once a dining room. Making art, of course, has its rhythm just like everything else. I move between mediums and modes over the course of months. Day to day, I’m working when ever I can, starting first thing in the morning, but often veering in and out of the day for things like jobs, chores, meals, and hanging out with our child. I try to integrate hanging out with my daughter with making art as much as possible. She has her own art making table . . . and often gets quite involved.


When did you start making prints? What types of printmaking are you doing these days?

I incorporated printmaking into my animated films in college, and learned screen printing from the pros when I moved into Fort Thunder. It kind of blew a hole in my thick head. The flesh around my skull grew back even thicker, and I didn’t really try any new techniques until I started working for a small offset press about seven years later. And it wasn’t until last year that I made my first official monotype. Now I’m hooked on that. A direct translation from drawing to printed image. “Baroquen” technology.

2004 Calendar_July_r

We have always loved your epic silk-screened calendars. when and how did that project start?

I made it for a holiday craft fair in Providence in 2002. The idea was a calendar in comic form that meditated on where the extinct species go when they depart from earth. It was a pretty spontaneous creative process that drew me back to it year after year, although it got more production heavy as the years went on. It’s always been a balance of economy and extravagance, keeping it to four colors— and trying to make those colors go as far as possible. As you know, no computers or scanners are used in this process. I still love to make the thing, but I’m trying to simplify it, keep it spontaneous.


Looking back on your past work in various media such as comics, animations, prints, and the collective work of Forcefield, how do you feel your art has evolved in the last decade and where is it now?

I’ve kind of grown apart from the art world, and kind of have been floating in my own little bubble, sometimes very close above the earth’s surface, sometimes in my own distinct atmosphere . I am still very involved with the process, having taken more time to explore the same thing: balance between function and dysfunction of nature, language, time, society, etc.. Taking time to raise a daughter, find new work, renovate a house from the inside out is a process, like art, of reality and dreams. Some people look at my work say, “psychedelic”. I think, like it or not, we live in a pretty psychedelic world. I only can worry that my art is too “realistic”. Forcefield is a great band and never really got the radeo playtime it deserved.

art family

What is inspiring you these days?

Ursa, our daughter, I learn so much from. about the world and myself. Besides, she makes the purest drawings, the kind I sometimes struggle day and night to try to make. I give in to her nascent knowledge. and her ability to laugh, cry, and truly express herself. I guess that’s what kids do.


Last good film you saw?

Scanners. Well actually, I’m about to watch it again tonight. So I hope it’s as good as I remember it. I saw this too late, but I imagine it would be very inspiring to any young filmmaker who wanted to make a sic-fi horror flick with a contemporary industrial backdrop.

2005 Calendar_going for bon bons_r

Can you describe your artistic process a little? 

It’s called the hollow frog approach. You hollow out a frog and then climb inside. Try to see through the frog’s eyes. Then, wish very hard that you were a salamander that could always change to bend around its surroundings. Listen like a deer, for shifting timbres from the earth’s crust, and move carefully. When quiet, plot the bee’s course, mapping out the sweet spots. Arrive like airplanes on autopilot at La Guardia. Dial it in and let it happen.


Do you have any favorite quotes or mottos?

from my dad: PhD, Piled Higher and Deeper


If you could have any superpower what would it be?

To be a mushroom spore; which is to be purely invincible. I, dude, then would really travel through space and go to any planet I want to. and I could probably communicate with extra-terrestrials. Got a message in a bottle?


What is your favorite spot in the world right now?

The spot resulting from pouring ink onto a piece of paper and folding it in half.

picking fiddleheads_r

Where do you feel at home?

at home; don’t ever leave, now, ya hear?


What are you currently working on? Any plans for another issue of National Waste?

I am currently thinking about the possibility of getting a pilot’s license, so that I can develop a new way to distribute my comics and prints. National Waste will always be a viable comic as long as the majority of the population watches and repeats what everybody else does, continues to deplete excessive amounts of natural resources to keep their ass warm, and eat mechanically processed shit ad infinitum. Oh yeah, I think there’s a market for this: having fun in Dystopia. Definitely. Issue #8 came out in June.

Steamroller Print_2_3'x4'

Do you envision a positive future or do you think we are all fucked? apocalypse theories?

I envision a positive future where we’re all fucked. Or maybe a future where we are positively fucked.

leif and ursa animating

What is your spirit animal?

I’d have to say moose, because I almost walked right into one when I was hiking by myself in Alaska. I was out for five days and saw a few moose. I don’t think that’s what ate my food one night, though. I’d guess a mouse.

free fall canyon (web)

What astrological sign are you?


manial cranial (T)

Who are some of your favorite artists right now?

George Duboeuf and Robert Mondavi . . . it’s great because I can find both their works right down at the D&L.


Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In jail, unfortunately.
I’m joking, of course. High-powered executive.
I will probably need to be working outside the house more, in any case, because my daughter won’t be four years old anymore. Also, I really hope to have shelves for everything I use, instead of still digging through boxes.

Garden children

What would be your last meal before execution?


leif's eye(resize)

We will be releasing new prints by Leif every week this month and will be posting lots of fun videos and other Leif-related stuff, so check back in yall.