Monday, October 31, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 72/2 … on your marx, get set, snark!

Framing devices are the very meat & drink of this illustrator's Snark, the very fritter-my-wig, as the Great One, Lewis Carroll, would have said. Careful examination of the above stanzel will reveal that the previous stanzel (72/1) is embedded within this one and that both of them are themselves the culmination of a 7-image train ride that departed an Old English Garden Party to arrive in an Old Delhi Railway Station, ca. 1876.

From whence comes this illustrator's penchant for the visual recursion of pictorial embedding? Was he lost as a child in a funhouse mirror? Was he reared by a family of Russian Matroushka dolls? 

Or does he simply believe in giving his readers good value for money? So many illustrators today practice a sort of pictorial minimalism, cutting back on wasteful expenditures of either conceptual or visual complexity. Minimalism is all the rage these days with most commercial artists (understandably so when most of us are paid less than pizza delivery drivers) which means that this Snark's maximalism is the new minimalism. 

The embedding of images within images and the dizzying vertigo induced by inflicting this unexpected pulling back of frames-within-frames allows the reader to rush madly ahead, like the Banker and even to be finally be lost to view if they so desire. And an unseen reader, that is the maximum desired effect of the genuine protosurrealist artist.

In short, if you can lose yourself in my Snark whilst seeking that very same Snark, my work in this Carrollian Multiverse will have been done and I can go to other worlds and places where illustrators are desperately needed to take naps on their readers' sofas, drink up all their readers' scotch, and borrow their readers' cars without permission. QED and all that, huh?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 72/1 … Oh brave new world that hath such snarks in it


For five panels now we've been tootling merrily along on our Snarkic Soul Train, through English garden parties and homunculi-haunted jungles into the depths of Page 72, where our train has debouched at last into the jumbled contents of a cigar box.

These contents are nothing less than the raw materials of the Snarkic Galdor which has resonated throughout this poem to such hypnagogic effect: soap, a thimble, hope (personified as an anchor), smiles (a Dali-esque sofa) and a railway share. But where's the care, more petty-minded Carrollians might ask?

To which this illustrator replies: care? You dare to question the care I've taken over this drawing? Go ahead and count the lines, squiggles, blobs and crochets of inky care I've lavished on this Snarkic semioglyph … even better, peruse the various labels & inscriptions embellishing the cigar box into which I've heaped up the raw stuff of our verse … all of 'em scraps torn from a larger whole:

Lo buscaron con dedales, con cuidado lo buscaron,
lo persiguieron con tenedores y con esperanza.
con acciones del ferrocarril lo amenarazon
y lo hechizaron con sonrisas y jabón.

Indeed, it is our Snark Hunter's Galdor-Refrain cast in the language of Castile, the language of Don Quixote, who must surely qualify as the Snark Hunter par excellence!

The cigars which once occupied this box were manufactured, as the upper label notes, in the manner of the Indians. Naturally, the Indians referred to here are the now-extinct Caribs & Arawaks who first introduced the Conquistadores to the joys of the evil weed, tobacco.

But we Snarquistadores are more literal-minded fellows and prefer a bit of geographic veracity with our cigars & porto; the Indians we refer to shall be the 100% genuine, curry-inflected East Indians of Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab, the Indians of Old Delhi, to be precise.

All shall become clear in good time, dear reader, for now, just remember that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, even in the increasingly Orientalist labyrinths of our geographically discombobulated Snarkian Multiverse!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 71/3 … Magical Mystery Snark

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel, squiggle by squiggle … right now we're in Fit the Seventh … the Banker, played by Karl Marx, will soon discover that a certain pesky specter haunting Europe is none other than the dreaded Hindustani Bandersnatch!

The Snark Hunters' Express continues its wordless journey into the jungles of Fit the 7th and the inquiring reader is already growing impatient with all this 19th-century transportation technology put at the service of 19th-century Nonsense Verse by 21st-century illustrator wallowing in his 20th-century obsessions. Sure, it looks cool but in the immortal words of Flakey Foont to Mr. Natural: what does it all mean?

Indeed! Ideas are the bane of the more fashionable modern hipster and most of 'em avoid that sort of thing like the plague. It's hard to have an idea and listen to one's iPod and update the world on one's various bodily eructations on Twitter, it simply cannot be done without incurring the risk of stopping to think. Especially if one has nothing to think about besides oneself and one's accessorized relationship to other consumer units.

But this illustrator is brimming with ideas, both visual and verbal. He keeps them in a mental swipe file which he can access at any moment by merely lying on a comfy sofa, having a really good cup of tea and then taking a nice nap. Whilst asleep, the thousands of books, paintings, sculptures, drawings and movies he's seen and read do their mysterious mojo thing inside his cinematically furnished mind and when he awakes, bingo! An idea is born!

Richard Muller (German, 1874-1952) “Miracle of Training”, 1911

Our drawing of a Snark Hunting train in the jungle was spawned by a vague visual memory I had, an image which I later discovered to be a drypoint by Richard Muller, an obscure yet quite talented German artist from Dresden. The basic idea of training something to do the impossible was the starting point that Muller furnished me; it led me to eventually depict the training of a train by a jungle homunculus magician, a personage which fit perfectly into the earlier depiction of the same homunculus-magician luring the train out his snake-charmer's basket.

Muller's style of German Symbolism was similar to that of the better-known Max Klinger and eventually this style would merge into what we call Surrealism. There is a subtle difference between the precursor and its more celebrated descendant: the former depicted the reality of dreams by using the reality of waking, while the latter was a far more ad hoc business which eventually dabbled mostly in solipsism and amateurism.

Young illustrators take note! The technical rigor of the Symbolists' training and their conceptual precision came from a careful study and understanding of all the arts, ie., they did not reject the past as un-hip nor did they wallow in self-expression without self-analysis and self-correction. This precursor of Surrealism is not only a rich vein to mine for ideas but more importantly, a perfect example of the usefulness of learning draftsmanship to better depict that which cannot be seen.

Zen-like, huh? But don't worry, most art directors today could care less about all this and in fact, you'll get more work doing the exact opposite of what I just recommended. Double-Plus Zen-like, dude!

Working the fields on Beard Harvest day (Poets Ranked by Beard Weight)

NB. The learned Gilbert Alter-Gilbert's edition of Poets Ranked by Beard Weight has finally come out from Skyhorse (click on the AVAILABLE FROM THIS ARTIST link at the upper-right to purchase). It is a classic of Pogonology and besides being lavishly illustrated by this mustachioed artist (sample above), it's a jolly weird laugh.

The generous and discerning Will Schofield has posted some sample text and lots of art on 50 Watts and readers are urged to go there, especially while at work for the Man.

In a perfect world, Gilbert would secure the foreign translation rights to the entire works of Alberto Savinio, along with bursting sacks of filthy lucre (Canadian dollars, preferably), sufficient to ensure that I can spend the rest of my days comfortably illustrating the words of The Master.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 71/2 … Snark-Train Spotting

THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK by Lewis Carroll, a graphic novel by this artist and explained here, page by page, panel by panel, squiggle by squiggle … right now we're in Fit the Seventh … the Banker, played by Karl Marx, will soon discover that a certain pesky specter haunting Europe is none other than the dreaded Hindustani Bandersnatch!

Attentive readers (shut-ins, penitentiary inmates, nursing home loafers, etc.) will have noticed by now that these last four panels share a common motif: a miniature train packed to bursting with all 1o of our Snark Hunting B-Boyz.

This is not an accident, this is what literary critics call a TRANSITIONAL MOTIF. You see, this illustrator needed to solve the problem of bridging two entirely different Fits; Fit the Sixth, which was set in a vaguely Gilbert & Sullivanesque inflected version of Pepperland and Fit the Seventh, which will eventually disembark into the British Raj of the Old Delhi Railway Station.

Lesser illustrators would have simply hired a charabanc or a palanquin or even a scooter rickshaw to schlepp their characters from one scene to another but this illustrator is made of sterner (and cheaper) stuff. In fact, if there's anything which makes this illustrator wax extra-wroth, it's the all-too-common phenomenon of artists choosing vague or irrelevant symbology to bind their pictures to their words. Just as the punishment must fit the crime, so must the conveyance fit the time!

Well-oiled Carrollians will sigh with appreciation at all of the above, for they are well aware that the Great One, Lewis Carroll, was fond of playing at trains in his youth, so much so that his undeservedly obscure puppet play, La Guida di Bragia, is set in a train station and features two station masters whose resemblance in manner & bearing to Vladimir and Estragon cannot be coincidental …

But more to the point, the very first time that the name of Lewis Carroll ever appeared in print was in a magazine entitled The Train. It was with that small poem, "Solitude", that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (prompted by the editor Edmund Yates) hit upon the happy device of latinizing his name into Lewis Carroll. The year was 1853 and curiously enough, (1+8+5)x3=42 … and as all Carrollians know, the number 42 is the cabalistic key to the entire Snarkian Multiverse. And you thought I was making it all up as I went along, didn't you, admit it! Ha!

Of course, there are some other, equally pesky readers who are asking: from whence come these urbanite, minaret-and-souk-bedecked camels seen in the above picture? Is this another example of the dreaded Orientalism run amuck?

Perhaps it is, but I must also draw such readers' attention to the fact that from the Oriental point of view of the unseen inhabitants of these Camel-Cities, a point of view blighted by the sudden appearance of a steam-locomotive with various Victorian gentlemen aboard it, it's a case of the dreaded Occidentalism run amuck.

Occidentalism is the persistent belief shared by many Orientals that the West is crammed to the gills with purring, blonde sex kittens, gun-wielding Christian mullahs and shamelessly easy credit.

If only, huh?

Next week: More of the same with winds light to variable.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fit 7, pg. 71/1 … every night & every morn some to SNARK are born

Fit the Seventh of my GN version of The Hunting of the Snark … the Banker, played by Karl Marx, will soon discover that a certain pesky specter haunting Europe is none other than the dreaded Hindustani Bandersnatch! Meanwhile, back at the paan-shop …

See the Snark Hunters run.
Run, Snark Hunters, run.
See the Snark Hunters on the train.
The train goes choo choo choo.
See Victor Hugo turned to stone.
Crumble, Victor, crumble.

Let's go to Fit the Seventh, said the Bellman.
Let's leave this basket for Fit the Seventh.
And the train went choo-choo.
And the snake-charmer tooted his flute.
And the Bellman rang his bell.

See the fetid Indian jungle.
See the freaky snake-charmer.
See the frightful choo-choo-train.
See the Banker's Fate.
Run, Banker, run!