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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”.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
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          One of the things that I liked most about Charles work was the fact that I could always expect the unexpected.  There was frequently an unpredictable element of surprise.  Charles always managed to surprise me by doing some crazy thing that I could never anticipate in my wildest imagination.  He would often try something "off the wall", and make it work, some fancy frame, or unexpected nuance.  That extra element he added made it his own, and never failed to win me over.

         
I can think of many examples of this phenomenon, but none more outrageous than the one below.  This is one of the four Mickey Mouse Puzzles, the one I happened to like the least.  The subject matter and the characters were fine, but the busy wall paper in the puzzle ate the entire scene alive, and always bugged me.  I never made any reference to this to Charles.  These puzzles were just stuff, among the piles of stuff I sent home with him on his first visit.  It was several layers down in a box that was closed.  So Charles chose to do this on his own.

        
Now, if I were to use the original puzzle as reference material, the first thing I would do is tone down the wall paper, if not remove it, altogether.  Charles did just the opposite!  He let the crazy wallpaper EXPLODE to become a most outrageous frame!  And, suddenly, the whole thing was transformed into a dizzying trip on a visual rollercoaster!  Each dot, by the way, is a raised disc cut out of wood and set in place.
         Mickey’s Fire Brigade!  Now Charles was really “Smokin!"  And so was this burning building, thanks to the new airbrush!  Charles masters space intuitively.  Both the fire engine and the burning building in the distance are actually on the same plane.  It’s quite uncanny, the way he creates the illusion that the building is not simply small, but far away!   When one sees this piece in person, not through the camera’s eye, it does not spoil the illusion.  The eye sees “size”; the mind says “space”.  The tiny fragile figures battling the flames are a preview of things to come.
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          “Smokey Stover” is a subject made to order for Charles’ homage.  This wacky strip was hugely popular in its day.  One of its most fascinating features was the other world it portrayed, a world of tiny people who lived in picture frames.  Always in the background, one would see their interactions and shenanigans, going on in the framed pictures on the wall.  The scenes were always changing, and the people in them would often jump right out of the frames.  How similar these were to Charles' carvings.  Could there be, buried in Charles’ childhood memories, a connection?  He captures the essence of Smokey Stover here, the crazy gadgets, the funny signs and notices, the car with just one axle, and even little Spooky, a cat who always had a bandage on his tail.
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           Charles’ crazy sense of perspective Is all intuitive, without any rules determined by reality.  He can make a shadow box, just a few inches deep, appear to continue into infinity, and cram a whole Universe into a shallow space.  Had he ever attended art school, this easygoing manipulation of perspective might have been “corrected” with calculated vanishing points and other rules and regulations, and thus, destroyed.  These next two small carvings illustrate the virtuosity of Charles’ conquest of space.

         
Little “Spooky” got a shadow box of his own; lucky kitty!  It is just four inches deep, and looks it!  Visually, this is the shallowest shadow box that I have seen Charles create, although, in reality, they are all the same. 
         And then comes “Little Orphan Annie”.  Her world is also four inches deep, but Charles has altered perception with his illogical perspective.  The converging lines are out of whack.  The vanishing point is this and that.  The streetlamp in the foreground is enormous.  That, in the back, is a quarter of its size.  After all, it is a block away.  The writing on the window is off slant... and yet, the whole thing works to give a feeling of great depth.  And the bleakness of color scheme conveys the deep despair of the Great Depression.  I display these two contrasting shadow boxes, side by side, on the same wall, and see them as a sort of pair that illustrate Charles’ versatility in articulating space.  They both arrived together, and together they have stayed.
          Annie has a rather fancy frame.  Charles did that sort of thing again with "Andy Gump".  This casual scene captures Andy, out by his dusty garage, cranking up his iconic vehicle “Old 348”.  He acquired the car and house as well from their former owner, “Old Doc Yak" who was a talking goat.  Sidney Smith patterned Andy after an actual man he knew who had no lower jaw.  Old 348 became the ultimate cast iron Arcade toy, a favorite among toy collectors.  Here, Charles captures the essence of the toy quite accurately, if accidently.  I wonder if he ever saw the toy?
          Here’s something that was unexpected!  This sucker (no Bleep required) is Five Feet Long!   A Popeye Panorama!  It features virtually all the characters, major and minor, from the Sea Hag to Swee’Pea’s Mother.  The styling is that of Bud Sagendorf.  Can you imagine my amazement when this came through the door?  It took two men to carry it, as it weighs a ton.  You may notice different lighting in the photo.  That is because it is fastened to the bell tower wall, and I cannot move it, or remove it, by myself.   Therefore, it was photographed in daylight.
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         Charles' other Popeye carving is spectacular as well.  It is high up on the wall above my desk, and my tall ladder climbing days are over.  Having said that, I can’t believe what I just did.  I stood on a ladder, after all, and took the best shot I could.  I think it came out rather good!  This carving is relatively huge!  It was based on the art on a Popeye lampshade that was actually drawn by Segar.  Charles began the carving by turning a full sized ship's steering wheel on his lathe.  That, in itself, is an impressive feat.  The scene, a ship at sea with sails and rigging, is mounted in the middle.  On deck, Popeye and Bluto are about to engage in a confrontation, while Olive Oyl is climbing up the rigging, and Wimpy floats behind in a hamburger stand that resembles a seagoing“privy”.  A stormy sea of wood carved water rages!
          Let’s end this page with an excursion South of the Border to visit “The Three Caballeros”  “Donald Duck”, “Jose Carioca”, and “Panchito Pistoles”.  Their flying serape is soaring right out of the frame.  This is, in effect, a dramatic free-standing sculpture that cleverly appears to be floating in space.  The color scheme is very South American.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sappo” was what was called a “topper”, a secondary strip the ran on Sundays, below the main offering; in this case Popeye, by the same artist, Segar.  The running story line usually focused on “Professor O. G. Wattasnozzle” and his wild inventions.  Here he demonstrates his Invisibility Ray, rendering a portion of Sappo’s body invisible.  It is actually a very cool illusion to see in three dimensions, with a hunk of Sappo, carved away.