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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”.

WHAT'S AN AIRBRUSH?
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          I marveled at what I saw in Charles, a natural talent, unspoiled by any so-called art training, totally self-taught, and working in a cultural vacuum, finding his own way.  Let’s face it!  Allentown PA aint exactly gay Paree, or the Art center of the USA.  As he knew no rules, Charles had no fear of breaking them.   And, from time to time, he would do the strangest and most wonderful things, nuances that I, as an art school graduate, would recognize and appreciate, but would never dare to do myself, or even contemplate.  Thus, I felt the weight of a great responsibility not to train him!  Not to spoil him!  Not to “educate” him!  Not to break that magic spell that true talent had cast upon him.  How ironic that seems, considering I played the role of Art Director for a living.

        
On their second visit here, the Ponstingls brought with them a newborn baby, Terry’s son, their new grandson, Jeremy.  Over the next 20 years, year by year, we watched Jeremy grow up to become a fine young man.  On that second visit, Charles also brought with him this small curious carving of  “Daffy Duck”.       
         Looking at Daffy, I noticed in the background, a gentle hint of yellow, beginning at the horizon and fading smoothly into the blue sky above.  I did a double take and asked, “Charles did you get an airbrush?”

          “
What’s an air brush?” he replied.

          "
It’s a kind of artist's spray gun" I explained.

          "
No.  I figured it was hot in the desert, the heat rising off the baking sand.  I spied an can of yellow spray paint in the basement, so I just gave it a little squirt".

         "
OH!" I replied, and didn’t give it a second thought. 

         
Several weeks later, Charles dropped me a line, in it he said , “I GOT AN AIRBRUSH!”

         
After a less than spectacular first attempt, in the form of “Barney Google” below, in which he sprayed everything in sight, pink and blue in the sky, and the trees, randomly sprayed with white, I found myself giving him some advice.  “Don’t use the airbrush everywhere”, I said, "but, sparingly, for best effect”.  He soon got the hang of it, and moved into a whole new world of lighting effects.  The paint splashes, representing light were gone forever, and subtle airbrushing took over. 
          In spite of the carnival prize spray job on the background, and that garish green in the general area of the foliage, this small figure of Barney and Spark Plug is adorable.  Charles has a way of compressing figures, at times, sort of boiling them down to size, and distilling the very essence of them.  That really amounts to a “style” of his own, and it makes them most appealing. 
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         Did Charles master the airbrush?  You bet!  The proof of it can be seen below in one of his best carvings yet.  “Trick or Treat”  is one of Charles' more understated masterpieces.  The use of the airbrush is just right to cast a spell of mystery and the night.  And the figure of Witch Hazel is perfection.  Donald, who bars the door, in fright, and his nephews in their costumes are exceedingly well done.  This is one of those carvings that does not offer a perfect head-on viewing angle.  Donald can only be seen from off to one side.  Note, also, that the frames are becoming much more interesting.
          While were in sort of a Halloween mood, here is a minor carving with a Jack-o-lantern theme.  One of the guilty secrets of my youth was the embarrassing fact that I read Mary Jane and Sniffles.  It was always the second story in "Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Comics", right after Bugs Bunny.  Mary Jane could shrink herself down to the size of Sniffles the mouse, but judging from their adventures, it always looked more like the other way around.  Notice Charles’ attempt to achieve depth by diminishing perspective.  Again let me remind you that all these shadowboxes are just 4 inches deep.
          OK, while we’re on the spooky theme, we might as well go all the way with the first Silly Symphony, "The Skeleton Dance".  These skeletons are deceptive in their seeming simplicity.  Their sculls are hollowed out for greater reality!  The film was made in black and white, and Charles retains that color scheme.
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       And now another masterpiece, “The Mad Doctor”.  Charles put this whole scene together from several different images in Mickey Mouse Movie Stories.  He built a complete laboratory, and manipulates light artfully, the spotlight shining down on Mickey, the x-ray machine lighting Pluto, a red light glowing on the wall, and night time, shining through the window, all the result of an airbrush used judiciously, and talent!  Keep in mind the fact that this cartoon was black and white.
         Charles has an amazing sense of color.  Each carving is a whole new situation, and each has its own color range.  They never rely on pre-determined clichés.  And, thus, his range of colors knows no limitation.  Anything goes, and everything works.  In my days at Colorforms, I had a small group of limited colors that I could easily manipulate and assure a pleasant final product.  I used them over and over again.  Charles relies on no such formula.  Each new carving has a color spectrum of its own.   Each is completely different from all the others and colorfully unique.
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