Mel Birnkrant Presents:
All of the Art on this site is one of a kind, created by CHARLES PONSTINGL, for the sheer joy of it.
He intended it as loving homage to the Great Comic Artists of former days.
The images are based upon the work of many, including some that were created by, and are
“Copyright The Walt Disney Company”. The writing and photography is “Copyright Mel Birnkrant”.
AND IT'S ALL MADE OF WOOD
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
There is one huge overriding aspect of Charles work that is too easily taken for granted, and often overlooked. One gets caught up in the totality of the “carving”, the situation, the coloration, and the enchantment it conveys. Especially, when viewing it as citizens of this modern era, where three dimensional images made of plastic are plentiful and commonplace, we tend to forget that the Images Charles creates are carvings, and every minute detail in them is made of wood.
Until you have actually tried woodcarving, you can’t begin to conceive how difficult it is. I learned my lesson, trying to carve a giraffe at camp, when I was eleven. My injuries healed, but I refused to touch an Xacto knife again, until I had to use one, merely to cut small shapes out of paper, when I was 23.
Wood is either too hard or too soft. It splits and breaks if you go against the grain. And if you cut off a little too much, unlike the hunk I sliced out of my finger, it won’t grow back again. And Charles does not merely carve objects out of wood, the sort of stuff that we’ve all seen, like kuku clocks or bottle stoppers from Germany, chunky, durable, with chiseled faceted surfaces, indicative of the technique. He stretches the material way beyond its limits to do things with wood that have never been done before. There is nothing too delicate, too intricate, too challenging, too simple or complex for Charles to carve, and make it all look easy. Hairs, whiskers, and eyelashes, the tails on mice, the skinny legs on Mickey and Minnie, splashing water, burning fire, falling snow, and fluffy clouds, there is nothing on Earth that Charles can’t make out of wood, nothing that he can’t carve.
Sculptors, today, have a multitude of aids to make creating a three dimensional image easy. They can sculpt it out of something soft, then bake it, or cast it with silicone and epoxy. Even now, artists are already sculpting by computer. But the simple honest process of picking up a piece of wood and creating a one of a kind object, directly from start to finish, with only a hunk of wood, a blade, and talent, is an art form, and a process that became obsolete, three quarters of a century ago. And yet, this craft is alive and well in Charles Ponstingl today, as he continues to carve his way into new frontiers of the impossible.
Having said all that, let’s take a look at “Krazy Kat” George Harriman’s unique comic masterpiece. Charles captures its simplicity and surreal quality. Wispy pink wooden clouds float through the dramatically black sky. The cactus plant has wooden spines. Krazy Kat all made of pine, pines for Ignatz Mouse, who is about to drop a wooden brick on his/her head from above. Hearts float in the air, proclaiming love. Offissa Pupp runs to the rescue, his feet both off the ground. He appears to be suspended in midair, inconspicuously attached, somewhere, invisible to the eye. Front and center, is a potted flower with a wooden stem, hardly thicker than a hair. And It’s All Made of Wood!
Here, Charles carves another homage to Carl Barks, Donald and his nephews in the “Land of the Totem Poles”. Donald is in trouble, a native has got him by the throat. A wisp of incense smoke rises from the bowl. It would be so easy to go out in the garden to get those realistic looking stones, but naturally, Charles carved and polished them out of wood. Donald’s nephews play a steam calliope. But the stars of this carving are the totem poles, from really big ones, up close, to distant totem poles, carved in minute detail, much thinner than a pencil. And the crazy bold theme related frame is pure Charles Ponstingl!
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
“Modern Inventions” features a very futuristic robot, circa 1938. It is pushing Donald in a streamlined baby buggy, in a city that must have appeared up to date back then. By today’s standards it looks a bit passé. Charles is never content to merely paint in details, he insists on carving every letter, every brick and window, before he applies paint to it.
“Hagar the Horrible” is anything but horrible. This is an elegant carving, plain and simple. It captures the look and ambiance of the strip. The shields and the use of metallic paint makes for an unusual frame. Out behind the Viking ship, is a difficult to photograph octopus, swimming in the sea. I never really read this strip, but, looking it up, just now, makes me wish I did. All the main characters are here, from “Snert” the pup, to “Kvack”, “Helga’s” German duck.
P.A. Powers presents “Simple Simon” a “ComiColor” cartoon by Ub Iwerks, the man who created Mickey Mouse for Disney. The cartoon is in Cinecolor, which means that everything was mostly orange and turquoise blue. Charles even captured the feeling of the color in this excellently done carving. I love the great comic look of Simon.
To finish off the page, here is the “Whoopee Party”, which was a riotously great cartoon. Can you imagine cutting out that starburst with a jig saw, without losing a single wooden tooth? The shadow cast by the piano is painted on the slanting floor. I never saw Charles do anything quite like this before.