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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”.

THE COMMISSION
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          As I've said, I never suggested what I would like Charles to carve, at least not consciously.  Nonetheless, at times, I have wondered if he could read my mind.  His choices always surprised and amazed me, and I saw this ability to choose well, as all part of his innate creativity.

          Then on one fateful visit, the one on which he brought the Band Concert, we were standing up here in my studio, and he casually mentioned that his friend in Allentown asked him if he would carve a Mickey and Minnie for him and leave it unpainted.  And then, he gave Charles the art to copy!  So he did!

          WHAT!  I did a double take and said. "Charles, in all these years, I have never asked you for any specific carving.  I always thought it was the rules that I would leave it up to you.  That is not to say I didn’t like it that way.  I loved everything you chose to do.  But this guy comes along, and out of the blue, asks you to carve a certain image, and you do? I think, after all these years, I have earned the right to ask you for something specific too.  It would amount to a 'Commission'!"

          Charles, surprised, replied, “You’re right!  I agree!  The thought just never occurred to me!”

          Wow!  Now my mind was going crazy.  I felt like a kid in a candy shop.  What delicious morsel would I think up for him to do?  After twenty some years of self-control, I went absolutely crazy and got ravenously greedy!

          What artwork did I really adore?  There is a curious book published in England, called the “Princess Elizabeth Gift Book”. It was intended to raise money to sponsor the building of the York Hospital for Children, and consisted of a compilation of stories and illustrations contributed by the most popular children’s authors and illustrators of 1935.  Hiding behind its rather regal looking covers, which bore a painted portrait of the young Princess Elizabeth, there were two glorious full-color illustrations of Mickey Mouse and his friends.

          The illustrations were done by an artist who seemed to be responsible for all the good Mickey art that originated in England at the time.  I do not know his name.  He had a style that was unique, uniquely English and uniquely Great!  So I picked up that rare volume and handed it to Charles, saying “Guard this with your life! I want to commission you to do these two illustrations!”  The book fell open to them automatically.  The request was, I realized, rather ridiculous!  Impossible to render in wood.  I had picked them half in jest.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if he laughed, and handed the book back again.  But Charles looked at it and said, “All right”.

          I will show you the first image below.  It is called “Mickey and his Retinue, Arriving at the Party”.  It is absurdly complex.  It pictures Mickey and his friends, walking down a yellow carpeted runway, while behind them a cheering crowd of thousands, well, actually 59, Charles tells me, cheer and toss bouquets of flowers.  How would Charles handle the crowd? I wondered.  Most likely, in bas relief, half flat and cut way down in size, I theorized.

          I know I said I would not include reference material here, but this is an exception.  You simply have to see the challenge I handed him that day. 
And this is what he did:
From above, looking down, check out that crowd!
Fifty-eight figures, carved full round!
All of them squeezed into a space, 4” deep!
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          The second illustration was called “Mickey Takes a Photograph”.  It shows Mickey photographing  his friends, who are posing in a Victorian sitting room.  It is quite complicated too.  The big view camera rests on a monkey’s back!
         And last of all, was an illustration of the Disney gang, atop The Monument to the Great Fire of London, with the entire city of London spread out behind.  How would Charles represent that?  Well he tried, one building at a time.  Because this photo isn’t wide, it can be show it here in a larger size.