Janine Ibbotson

Zen Enso Circle Art and Practice Blog

Blog about the art and practice of drawing the Zen Enso Circle.



Well Frog

My Well Frog seal

My Well Frog seal

One of my artist's names is Well Frog. This name was given to me by master sumi artist Henry Li when I studied with him in his online painting course. It is inspired by a famous story from China. Here is how it goes. Once upon a time there was a frog who lived at the bottom of a well. She was born in the well and lived there her entire life. It was a comfortable place and there she felt like she was queen of the world. One day, a bird landed on the top of her well, looked down, started a conversation, and eventually told the frog about the vast lands beyond her well, that there are mountains, rivers, and a great wide earth.

But the frog didn't believe the bird having only known the inside of her well. Eventually, with much coaxing, the frog came up from the bottom to look out. And when she saw how vast the world was, her mind was blown! 

The well frog is a famous idiom in Chinese culture. It is a reminder to be open minded, to look broad, to expand one's vision, and to be aware of the resources and the diversity of the world. The well frog story is also related to Zen and the Zen arts which are often playful, light-hearted, and have layers of meaning. There is a Zen poem which talks about a well frog. It says, "The frog at the bottom of the well swallows the moon."