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”.
PEACE ON EARTH
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CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
May there be peace on Earth. It’s Christmas time! Believe it or not, after the Great Commission, Charles was still alive! And, a Year later, he arrived with this breathtaking surprise. The original artwork that inspired him, this time, was a classic pen and ink drawing by Hank Porter that was drawn in black and white. Charles not only did it justice by translating it exquisitely into wood. But, being a truly masterful colorist, he rendered it in muted atmospheric colors that capture the feeling of night, without resorting to using only shades of blue. Instead, he articulated carefully modulated full color, and at the same time, created the illusion of a bright moon and glowing lights.
It is Christmas Eve deep in the forest. The Disney folks are celebrating by singing Christmas Carols in the moonlight, while Dopey holds the lantern. This was 1938, one year after Snow White. The three pigs drag a fresh cut yule log home through the newly fallen snow, while in every tiny window of all the friendly forest creatures, cheerful yuletide candles glow. This carving is truly BEAUTIFUL!
This is as good a time and place as there will ever be to offer you a glimpse of an aspect of Charles' artistry that was not included in the numbering system. These don’t count, in Charles’ opinion, as part of the 227 pieces he has dated and calculated. The Christmas after the Ponstingl’s first visit, here, what Charles referred to as "a Christmas card” appeared. A “card”, indeed! This was no card! This charming wood carving was a “Gift” by anybody’s measure, and a treasure; Mickey dressed as Santa, carved in bas-relief.
From that time forward, each year another “card” appeared, most often two, one for Eunice, one for me. This tradition has continued for over 30 years. Our humble Christmas presents to Charles and Jean paled by comparison. Each year I sent him books, and, by now, he well may have a better library of books on comic art than me. Of course, I always hoped that he would find something in them to inspire a great carving, so I chose the titles carefully! But this annual tradition, I fear, left me the winner. There was no way my humble offerings could compete with these. So, let me show you a few of my favorites. Oh, I might also mention that, each year, the cards got bigger, and quickly blossomed into 3-D. And so it came to be that long after we ceased to decorate a Christmas tree, Santa still found his way to my house on Christmas day, with a parcel sent from the North Pole, Allentown PA.
Here is the second year’s card, Mickey ice skating. This was 1981.
As the years went by, the cards thickened swiftly, until flat cards looked sickly. One of Charles favorite Christmas stories is the depression era fantasy, “Mickey’s Good Deed”, in which Mickey plays his base fiddle in the snow to raise a few pennies, so he and Pluto can buy something to eat on Christmas Eve.
Mickey sells his best friend Pluto to a wealthy man, so he can be able to play Santa to some underprivileged kittens who, otherwise, would have had no Christmas. In the ornament below, we see Santa Mickey, filling up their Christmas stockings.
In the end, Mickey gets his pal Pluto back again, and together they enjoy a Christmas dinner and a heartwarming bonfire.
Writing this isn’t easy, I find my mind wandering among so many memories. But moving right along, lets jump ahead to one of the all-time best. Charles visits our mutual favorite, Winsor McCay again, in this work of pure imagination, something only Charles could envision. It never really happened, even in Slumberland. Here is Little Nemo’s buddy, Flip, playing Santa, with a fully trimmed Christmas tree tucked under his arm, emerging from inside the moon.
That was 1996. Two years later, Charles would outdo Santa Claus again, with a Christmas gift so spectacular that it took my breath away. This was way better than a Lionel train! What a Wonderful Christmas Day! Little Nemo, here, is really little! This was one of Charles’ first purposeful attempts to explore a smaller size. Nemo and his friends are miniaturized, standing on a fantastic bed with star studded canopy and hanging tassels carved of wood, looking (in the wrong direction) with rapt attention, as Santa Claus, in a limousine packed full with toys, drives through the bedroom on Christmas Eve.
Charles is never at a loss for new ideas and new themes. For seven years, the annual Christmas carvings took the form of houses, forming a fantastic Christmas village, each one representing a different country. These are all spectacular. This one is from France, judging from the word,“NOEL” over the door.
The house below, represents Bavaria. Mickey lounges in his Tyrolean hat and lederhosen with a giant mug beside him, munching on a German sausage. His fur trimmed Christmas stocking, hard to see in the dim lighting, hangs from the rafters behind him.
I have no idea where this house might be located geographically, the North Pole, maybe. Four reindeer hold the roof aloft. This is my favorite house. Inside, is a charming Christmas scene, in which Santa Claus in person delivers a Christmas present to Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The label on the package is addressed to “Mel and Eunice”. Would you believe the doors are actually spring loaded to automaticly swing open when the wooden latch is released?
MOUSE OVER TO OPEN
The Christmas gifts Charles carved for Eunice were a horse (or house) of a different color. Some are lyrical and beautiful, including a whole series of portraits of movie stars. There are simply too many of them to show here. They deserve a website of their own, but I will share with you, two carvings that I am especially fond of to a degree that has induced me to spirit them away. The first is this charming fantasy of a Christmas fairy that offers a glimpse of the kind of graceful carvings Charles might do if his tastes were more traditional.
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The second is ... well suffice it to say that if up till now, Charles’ abilities have succeeded in Amazing you, be prepared to be Amazed again by this exquisite carving from Fantasia. Keep in mind that he began this whole adventure with a modest scene of Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from the same movie. Now, a mere twenty years later, by Christmas 1993, his skills have progressed to this degree. This is a freestanding figure of the Goddess Dianna, about to shoot the magic arrow that will explode into a million stars to fill the sky above the mythological countryside of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. The dramatic lighting effects, the way she is illuminated, which I took care not to diminish, Charles actually painted in. It’s that airbrush again!
MOUSE OVER TO OPEN
Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” was a comic strip that I adored as a kid. It often appeared in the form of “books” as well, and I had them all. Pogo’s inherent good nature and insightful philosophy seemed so deliciously grown up to me. A colorful cardboard mobile of him and his buddies from the Okefenokee Swamp hung in my bedroom throughout my childhood. And Kelly’s art was so delightfully drawn. All those qualities, those memories, are echoed in this freestanding monument Charles gave me in 1993. It is so elegant in its seeming simplicity, compared to the complex emotions it conjures up in me. Pogo and his small insect friend, beautifully carved, herald in the Holiday. Stars shine deep inside. The greeting in raised letters reads, “LET NOTHING YOU DISMAY”!
Another strip that I loved as a kid was Otto Soglow’s “The Little King”. In this colorful Christmas carving, the King’s servant helps him trim the Christmas tree. This fleeting moment is captured for eternity in a medium that Charles refers to as ”kindling.”
Charles' ongoing obsession with creating snow continues, and moves into another dimension of illusion, in this 2006 Christmas carving. Here every single snowflake is carved and attached individually. The effect is magic and uncanny. Although each flake is touching something, the eye perceives them as floating in midair. After all these years, Charles' ability to come up with new solutions to old problems is still there.
This 2008 Christmas gift is one of my favorites, a peek into the tiny secret world of Palmer Cox’s “Brownies”. High in a small bleak bell tower, the Brownies ring the Christmas bell. There is a bat in the belfry. One tiny figure pulls for all he’s worth; another climbs the wooden rope. The candle glows from one puff of the airbrush. Charles has mastered the art of carving, from massive dragons to tiny Brownies. These figures are so delicate that it is impossible to touch them without a breakage, and yet, Charles not only touches them, but carves them. It’s all here! Confident in his artistry, he has no need to overdo or overstate. The characters that he carves go about their daily lives, unaware that they are only made of wood. For Charles breathes a piece of his own life and life’s energy into every one of them. They are born of love, his love of carving.
There are two final Christmas gifts that I must share with you. They will be coming at the end, which is near. But, there remains more wonders to be seen, before we get there.