Monday, October 10, 2016

Profiles in Nonsense: Snark-fishing in the Yemen with the Bellman

I've been remiss with my Snark blog and I apologize. As penance, I present what I call "Profiles in Nonsense," a series of postings focusing on the ten Snark Hunters (AKA B-Boyz), beginning with the Bellman, the presiding genius and master of ceremonies of Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark.

Readers who care to do so may remember that the Bellman appears in the very first line of the Snark, crying: Just the place for a Snark! This is of course, a tautology (and a rather clever parody of the traditional Homeric invocation of the Muse) and not the first which this avuncular, cozily insane personage will commit. Other Snarkologists have already pointed out that the Bellman may well have been based on an eponymous officer at Christ Church College, "Le Bellman", whose job it was to ring a bell whenever some particularly inert don had finally popped off for good.

Of such grim details are both great poetry and academic life made! An insane man armed with a large, blunt, heavy metal-and-wooden object with which he roams our poem and Oxford alike, announcing the beginning of the verses and the ending of some other poor college-wallah's life. No wonder this illustrator saw fit to flesh out this lugubrious person's person with the above drawing.

The sharp-eyed reader who eats his carrots will instantly ferret out, in his offhand, weaselly ferret-like manner, the fleur-de-lys motif lurking in the wallpaper. This outbreak of French monarchism has been induced by the Bellman's notorious insistence upon the Rule of Three which occurs immediately afterwards in the same opening stanzas:

Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.

Such pronouncements reek of royal diktats to this artist's ear; and furthermore, the trefoil motif nicely complements the trinitarian obsessions of what we now call the Clochetic Rule of Three. Learned Snarkologists have found all manner of historical riffraff lurking inside this Rule: a reference to a Victorian mathematical classroom crib, perhaps a jab at the Mad Monadist, Charles Peirce and his triunary blatherings, or it could even be a clever Protosurrealist, anti-anachronistic reference to cybernetics and human cognition and crypto-Catholicism.

But we here at Chez Snarque are made of sterner stuff! We think that the Bellman is nutters because he just is, and we've dug up some really cool facts to support our Nutter Theory. Firstly, the Bellman's odd physical appearance is based upon that of Sir John Tenniel, the quick-fingered illustrator of both of Carroll's Alice books, and a rascally bon vivant, to boot!

Secondly, Sir John's illustrations for Carroll included several drawings of the White Knight, that avuncular, cozily insane personage who assists young Alice in her regal quest (zut! more monarchism!) in Through The Looking Glass. Well-oiled Carrollians will grunt appreciatively at all this, knowing that the White Knight was a stand-in for Carroll himself, who was notoriously shy about being bruited about in public as a avuncular, cozily insane personage.

Which leads us to our third observation, and hence, owing to the Clochetic Rule of Three, our self-evident, truly definitive and tyrannically final royal diktak upon the entire matter: the following drawing by Sir John of the Admirable Carroll in mufti as a White Knight who bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain Bellman trying pass himself off as — gasp! — Sir John Tenniel disguised as a certain Christ Church don named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who had a penchant for going out in public as none other than — gasp again! — Lewis Carroll!


Well, I think that just about wraps it up for both the Bellman's little scheme of trinitarian cross-dressing and more importantly, for whatever little standing I still possess amongst legitimate Carrollian circles.

No, no applause, please, I have more simple tastes. Just rattle your kippered herrings or something like that, I'm off for a nice lie-down with some hot-gin-and-nautch-girl-compresses. I feel a lynch mob coming on …

Monday, September 12, 2016

Illustrating The Gentleman … I ink, therefore I am

Another process post for one of the 17 pictures I did for Forrest Leo's novel, The Gentleman

Books about books are always fun and The Gentleman is very much about other books: Dante, Tennyson, James Cabell, the entire  Beerbohm/Wodehouse cabal, it's all grist for this particular literary mill. Which brings us to Chapter 6, where the two main protagonists meet for the first time. Naturally, they meet in a bookstore whilst drinking tea (what else?) and it's not any ordinary bookstore, it's Tompkin's Bookstore, an emporium of all that is recondite and obscure and generally very cool about books and reading.

Here's my rough thumbnail, final pencil and final inks for this chapter … a stonehenge of biblioliths from which the inventor Kensington emerges, lit by a single spot, in the approved Gustave Doré manner.

Like certain North American chain bookstores, Tompkin's Bookstore also sells the usual accessory tchotchkes and fanfreluches, but not of the dreaded scented candle type, no, Tompkins only offers the finest oneiric baubles and creatures that dreams can buy.

And dreams are really what books (and books about books) are all about. They are the universal, biological template of storytelling and more to the point, they are stories told by the same person that they are meant to entertain, a recursive ploy similar to drawing a picture for a book-about-books.

Pretty heavy stuff for a book about sending one's wife to hell but I draw 'em as I see 'em, with eyes wide shut.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Slap in the Face: the illustrative process behind The Gentleman

Instead of the usual Snark blather, I think that a process post would make a nice change. I recently did 17 illustrations for Forrest Leo's novel, The Gentleman, just published by Penguin/RandomHouse, and here's a look at a full-page I did for Chapter 2.

The novel is a bit hard to classify, which is always a good thing … a multi-homage to James Cabell, P.G. Wodehouse, various steampunk illuminati and even such recondite corkers such as The Diary of a Nobody and Augustus Carp. Set in a slipstreamed 19th-century, the story involves the romantic intrigues of a young poet who has accidentally consigned his young bride to hell. There's lots of steam-powered ornithopters, pistol duels, satanic visitations, cool Victorian womenswear and more to my point, both the author and the editorial team (Ed Park editing, Claire Vacarro art directing) were keenly aware that James Cabell's illustrator was none other than the late, great Frank Papé.

That posed a conundrum for this illustrator. Papé tended to go for a very Symbolist handling of his material and although Forrest was certainly working the same Cabellian vein, he had wandered off in a more Victorian steampunk direction. I felt it best to emphasize the Victorian feel with a faux wood engraving style of rendering plus a more sedate Victorian style of design. Melodrama on a stage within a defined picture frame, that's the way they liked it back then. Which is where this process post kicks off: the initial thumbnail concept for a scene illustrating the young hero-poet being soundly slapped by his angry sister in the presence of their much-suffering butler.

The Victorian illustration is a theatrical picture space, ie., no funny angles or odd positioning of actors, just a 3-D volume seen head on through a normal picture plane, as if we are in the front row seats. Hence the reaher sedate composition of this thumbnail. Emotion would be concentrated in the sister's about-to-slap hand and also in the books literally flying off the shelves, The scene is set in the hero's library and that was a major theme of the novel: it was a novel about many other novels (and poems) and I wanted to emphasize this visually.

The text box at the bottom was for Claire's initial idea of running a title cartouche at the bottom of every full-pg illo, in the true Papé spirit, an idea she later dropped. In any case, the main thing was the thumbnail was clearly Victorian in feel and gave full scope for lots of Easter eggs.

I'd like to note that this thumbnail concept was probably the 4th or 5th idea I had for this picture, it's really important to not be satisfied with your first or even second idea, it's usually best to sleep on it and come up with more ideas, for several days if possible and eventually, things will work out for the best. This is the great advantage of book illustration, you have the time to think at length. And nap between thumbnails, that's always nice, plus lots of tea, that goes without saying.

After approval of thumbnail, I did a tight pencil on vellum, focussing only on outlines. Sometimes I do a value study, usually in Photoshop atop a scan of the pencil but I didn't on this picture. On reflection, that was a mistake on my part. In any case, Ed and Claire seemed happy with this pencil and as far as the values went, there was only one possible solution: a background of about 40%K, going from light to dark as the page descended to create a  theatrical effect (something Gustave Doré often did to great effect) and everything else high-contrast, with shadows about 75%, a few midtones at about 25% and sufficient blown-out highlights.

This pencil was about 20, 30% larger than my final inking, which I did from a reduced scan of the pencil. That final inking was still about 15% larger than the final print version. My eyes are tired and my hands arthritic, every square inch hurts. I ink on denril, a synthetic vellum, with acrylic ink, using dip nibs, on this job, Gillot 1950 for the tight lines and Brause 66EF for the heavier lines. Really tight hairlines were done with a Hunt 104. I use a floating, illuminated magnifying lens while wearing a specially prescribed pair of coke-bottle lensed glasses designed to magnify at 20 cms. I like to ink very tight and very clean. When this job was done, I had some posters made of the art for promotional purposes, the inking easily blew up to 400% while looking very crisp and optically balanced.

Using dip nibs is mandatory for serious, complex inking and any inker who thinks that they can get away with felt-tips is only kidding themselves, their inking will always lack snap and energy. The constant swell and contraction of the dip nib conveys the movement of the hand and wrist, which is the essence of good inking. I also avoid using scratchboard for the same reason, the scraper blades cannot flex, giving the line work a mechanical feel. Sometimes that's necessary but frankly, I loathe it. As for digital inking … my opinion of it is unprintable.

Here's the initial inking. I had deleted the snakes with my electric eraser (another advantage of using Denril, it's easy to erase and re-ink), they simply weren't working. In fact, the entire drawing was not making me too happy, it lacked energy. The slap in the face was lost in a maelstrom of lines and shapes. It was time for a painful re-evaluation of the situation. Also, half-way through the inking, Ed and Claire realized that my rendition of the sister's face was not quite right for the text. I was making her too tarty and too old … ah, middle age, when all romantic hullaballo is but a sound and fury signifying nothing.

But they were right, she wasn't quite on the mark. Every book you illustrate involves a drift away from the text towards your own ideas on the same material, and sometimes that drift works and sometimes it doesn't. In any case, this picture was a problem child (the fact that it was the first picture I inked was part of the problem, you tend to warm up conceptually and physically as you go along).

And so, dear reader, I cropped it. Thank the gods of obsessive inking that I had the extra space and size to make it work in the trim size. I also inked a new head, can't remember if I did it on this drawing or a separate piece of Denril, but in any case, here it is: A Slap in the Face, Redux.

The butler gone, the serpents vanished, the sister had a face-lift and I had tossed away several painful hours of inking (I estimate about 24 man-hours for the whole page) but now things were pulling together. I had sacrificed the faux Victorian feel for a more modern crop but it had salvaged the picture's story and that is the bottom line in illustration: every line you draw must have a genuine function. It must advance the story and also serve a necessary structural purpose. Inking to fill space is a heinous affront to the gods of freelance, they like your pages to work hard for the money. The more you put into the page, the more it gives back to the reader and that makes for happy readers and happy editors. When everybody is selling less for more, such strategies pay off handsomely.

To sum up for the jury, every line must have a purpose and every white space also. The primary purpose is narrative, the secondary is optical pleasure, which is the same thing but on a more visceral level. Never hesitate to spend extra time on a picture, no matter the client. Do a lot of thumbnails, pencil thoroughly to cover all inking contingencies and no matter your inking style, take the time to make it look the best you humanly can at that moment in your development.

On a final but inevitable mercenary note, if anyone wishes to purchase some of the original art for this book, drop me a line … mahendra373 at hotmail dot com. Support the arts by supporting my need to nap and drink tea between inking bouts! Aye, work is the curse of the inking classes.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The snark in the grey flannel suit

Wipe the smirk from your face, dear reader, stifle the groan in your throat … yes, we are punning today and the punnee is a legal suit and the punnor is a gentleman’s suit, size 42.

Of course, you already know that puns are the bittersweet linguistic memory of that long-ago time when any word meant anything, and some of ‘em meant as much as six different things before breakfast. In those prelapsarian times when language was first evolving from the sonic ooze of grunts and snorts into more upright, ambulatory fricatives and uvular trills, the assignment of one particular sound to one particular object was a slapdash, fritter-my-wig sort of business. In truth, we might say that once upon a time all words were puns and Nonsense reigned upon the land.

All of this came to a sticky end with the invention of reeling and writhing, as I’m sure you’ve heard before. Equipped with such skills, even circus and theater folk could interpret the written marx of contract law and stymie the Pig and his legal Snark, all by invoking the Sanity Clause.

What’s this, the Judge sputters! Sanity Clause? You can’t fool me, there ain’t no Sanity Clause! Exactly, milord, 'tis the perfect Christmas Alibi, the Snark replies!

Monday, August 8, 2016

The color of money is SNARK

The coin of the realm these postlapsarian days seems to be the last and greatest bastion of that very same unblinking faith in the unseen which characterized the salad days of the Middle Ages. Nowadays, most governments print and mint the stuff by the bushel with nothing more to back it up save a vague promise of an tattered xerox of a smudged fax of a unfocussed photograph of a crude drawing of a shifty rumour of someone, somewhere, actually doing something of value sufficient to prop up the coin in question.

However, in the Nonsense world of Lewis Carroll, and more to the point, in the Barrister’s Dream of the Hunting of the Snark, we find a refreshingly hard-nosed, Victorian mentality vis-a-vis whatever coin of the realm you might be trying to palm off on the locals. Messers Carroll & Dodgson had a healthy respect for money, struggling as they did to support various spinster sisters (AKA spinsisters in certain musical circles) and even the odd charity case on an academic’s meager salary. The Snark’s pooh-poohing of the charge of Insolvency on the part of his piggish client would have struck a chord with Carroll & Dodgson.

The Snark’s defense of "never indebted" must come as a vindication of sorts to the Pig, whose depiction here as a piggy bank will no doubt amuse the simpler-minded reader. Giant, auspicious pigs with financial and psychic clout were once all the rage in certain mythical, Celtic quarters and such cheap visual sleights-of-hand are this artist’s inky stock-in-trade.

But the Barrister would also like to draw your attention to the chorus line of Martin Heideggers who are shimmying seductively to the delightful tune of When it Rains, It Rains Pennies From Heaven. It’s a comforting melody composed to allay the Judge’s crypto-Calvinist suspicions of any rumored pay-offs emanating from Upstairs and to also lull the Jury into contemplating the possibility that the Pig isn’t responsible for his actions since Society Made Him Do It Anyway (a legal defense employed, curiously enough, by the real Martin Heidegger).

But what’s this, the Judge sputters in dismay! These are no pennies cascading into the Heidegger-Pig, these are — gasp! — shekels! Even more suspicious, these are Tyrian shekels! These notorious coins, adorned with the likeness of the Phoenician god Melqart or Baal, were the favored form of payment for the most infamous act of Treason ever done, yes, they were the fee earned by Judas when he threw his lot in with you-know-who — Beelzebub & Assoc., Esq.! This same Beelzebub, associated in Jewish legal circles with the afore-mentioned Baal (and both of 'em B-Boyz, eh?), has also been seen in company with that pesky Lord of the Flies so memorably depicted by William Golding as a big, fat pig’s head impaled on a stick for the amusement of a crowd of hooting under-age lager louts on holiday.

To sum up, milord and dear readers, this tragic descent of a benevolent, well-moneyed Celtic pig into a satanic, treasonous Judeo-Christian pig is no mere question of fudge, as my learned Snark colleague would have it. No, it is even worse, it is a prime example of Gresham’s Law — bad pigs drive out good!

The defense rests in a crouched, fetal position, as ever, till next week …

Monday, July 25, 2016

Make America Snark Again!

 Page 42 of any work of literature will always be redolent of the highest Carrollian vibes imaginable; to wit, the well-known mojo of the Puissant Number 42 is at this very moment shedding its potent tantric vibe over the above drawing, a drawing dedicated to the ubiquitious situation of everybody speaking at once so that nobody knows what’s being said.

The late, great Strother Martin (probably one of the Heiddeger Martins from Heidelberg, back in the old country) once noted, in a similar situation involving some other dunderheads messing about with the law, phenomenology and life’s problems in general, that what we have here is a failure to communicate. But how to illustrate such a situation without in turn failing to communicate one’s own self? How can we avoid the relentless, downward spiral of miscommunication, and distrust which so plagues modern youth?

Such logical intricacies were a sort of busman’s holiday for a certain class of Hindu (and Buddhist) philosophers and sages of yore whose otherwise innocuous turbans concealed brains possessed with a fiendish capacity for splitting hairs. The very antithesis of the plain-talking Strother Martin, these learned gentlemen delighted in concocting the metaphysical equivalent of the blazing hot curries on which they subsisted; arguments possessed of such piquancy that they were often disguised as bland, easy-to-swallow parables lest they frighten the kiddies or scare the livestock, so to speak.

The most famous of such parables describes the misguided attempt by a group of blind brahmins to describe what an elephant is like through touch alone. One brahmin, grasping the trunk, thinks the elephant is rope-like, the other hugs a leg and finds the elephant to be tree-like, and so on until you, the befuddled reader trapped in your occidental web of illusion, get the point and purchase another round of curry for the house.

Needless to say, this illusion business (better known as maya in the finer sort of new — and old — deli) is further compounded by this artist with the addition of a really top-knotch epistomelogical corker: the multivalent confusion generated by having everyone concerned being the same person.

In such a case, when observer and observed are one and the same, one can truly say that anything anyone might have to say about anything will be best classified as everyone speaking at once and hence no one knowing what is said (pauses to wipe forehead with a dampened dosa). Or as a certain neologizing German thinkwallah might have put it, what we have here is a failure to überselbstzeichnungangstgemachen.

Stay tuned, tolerant reader, for next week’s exciting, hijacked episode of Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the Snark … or something like that …

Monday, July 4, 2016

Every Fourth Deserves a Fifth

Too pooped for the usual Snark GN blather today, so I thought it better-than-best to celebrate America's birthday, the Fourth of July, with this drawing … from left to right, George Mason, Voltaire, David Hume and Georg Lichtenberg. The ladies are anonymous patriots …

 "… possessed by a sudden pity for his ingenuous though well-meaning friend, Wadsworth clasped Candide’s shoulders.
“Don’t worry, man. I played Caliban in too many blaxploitation versions of The Tempest to bother anymore with reading between the squirrelly lines of every rich honky pervert who gets his rocks off by not getting his rocks off.” — American Candide

Make this Fourth special for your family and friends with American Candide, the novel as nasty as they wanna be.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Snark Without Qualities

If you’ve been assiduously following our graphic novel version of The Hunting of the Snark, you will have noticed a steady accumulation of visual details as the story progresses. Such a gradual amplification of things is what the critics call fritter-my-wig or even what-you-may-call-um and believe me, it’s all the rage in the right sort of literary circles.

However, we ‘umble visual artists, (fixated as always on more alimentary matters) call such an accumulation of visual tchotchkes "chicken fat". The late, great Will Elder coined the term whilst inking a drowned fly into a late night rendering of Harvey Kurtzman’s matzoh-ball soup as a practical joke. After a bit of the usual overheated vaudeville cross-talk-cum-haberule®-brandishing and some soft-shoeing with the Pro-White on Elder’s part, the moniker stuck and generations of artists have been ladling the chicken fat (or even schmalz if it’s germane to the proceedings) into their more soup-like drawings ever since.

All of which is a very convoluted and uselessly byzantine way of saying that you should keep a close eye on the progression of our Snark Hunt for it’s growing ever richer in unsaturated animal lipids such as chicken fat and Martin Heidegger. Naturally, one wonders what Lewis Carroll would have made of all our messing about with his otherwise perfectly normal recipe for a bowl of soup … would he have smacked his lips appreciatively at the our addition of the accurately-besmocked and bestyed pigherder Witnesses demonstrating the swineless vacuity of this comic operetta of a legal farce? Would he have slurped greedily at the tasty bits of the timeless humour of Mister Piggy’s magnum opus hoisted aloft before the proceedings like some sort of philosophical pearls before swine?

Or would Mister Carroll have paused in mid-luncheon, his spoon poised at his lips, and angrily demanded this artist to explain post haste what this other bird, this nonchicken and perhaps even swan-like bird masquerading as a legal bagpipe is doing in our collation of a Snark Hunt?

Alas, for Mr. Carroll and his delicate Victorian sense and sensibilities! This unexpectedly swannish creature is probably the grotesque and unexpected consequence of this artist using second-grade-fresh chicken fat in his cheapster drawings, a fly-by-night chicken fat cunningly adulterated with etymological preservatives of unknown provenance.

Yes, dear reader, this sudden outbreak of swans and bagpipes is no accident, on the contrary, it is a Significant Detail! Curiously, the word "sound", deriving as it does from the Old English word "swan," (properly, the sounding bird) seems to provide a perfect excuse for this artist to wreak further havoc on the entire chicken fat paradigm and perhaps even clear the way for a future swan-fat thing-um-a-jig. Or something along these metaphorically miscegenated lines of reasoning which so bedevil this production of the Snark

Without error or flaw indeed, eh?

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Conqueror Snark

 Melodramatic courtroom scenes are the crack cocaine of modern cinema and television; the average viewer must have a regular dose at certain intervals or they will soon lose interest in whatever televisual dog’s-breakfast is being served ‘em by the sweaty-palmed, hysterically gibbering minions of Hollywood or Bollywood or whatever-wood they happen to find themselves lost in quasi-Dantesque peril (pause for breath here).

However, our watchword for today is — eschew the obvious! Pester me not for your cheap thrills of courtroom antics leavened by lurid, torn-from-the-headlines social issues! You shall have none of that here and I do not care if you lapse into oddly compelling convulsions. Instead, you shall have a wholesome bit of this week’s episode of Lewis Carroll’s Snark Hunt, in which we find the Barrister heaving onto his hind legs before an English judge and jury, all for the benefit of a porcine defendant of no fixed address. There are no lurid social issues being mooted about in this courtroom, just the sweaty business of Man vs. Swine with a pinch of Desertion to lend it all an air of forensic veracity,

Good lord, I hear you mutter, everyone looks like everyone else, what’s going on here? Fret not, dear reader, you are not hallucinating nor is this artist suffering from idiopathic monofacia, in fact this is a prime example of what legal experts call habeas corpus (or more correctly, habeo corpus, for the benefit of congenitally officious readers).

Yes indeed, we have here the body and the face of the Barrister, AKA Martin Heidegger, multiplied ten-fold so that he can simultaneously play all the necessary roles of this Carrollian nightmare of a courtroom drama. In doing so, not only do we cut down on unnecessary expenditures of our favorite brand of second-grade-fresh, reheated cafeteria-style india ink but we can also avoid the bothersome necessity of accurately drawing the many different faces of a full complement of judge, jury, defendant, spectators and string section.

Good lord, I hear you mutter, string section? Why yes, a string section and I think they are playing something rather jolly, a spritely tune which could even serve as an overture to the impending legal machinations of Messers Heidegger, Heidegger, Heidegger and Heidegger (gesundheit). It sounds rather like a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan and the hypernaturally eagle-eyed reader will have already noted the bit of foolscap in the Barrister’s hand upon which we can observe that hark, the hour of ten is sounding!

Cryptically sound advice indeed, for it might serve as both an indicator of the numerical quantity of Heideggers facially cluttering the landscape and more to the point, perhaps even the opening verses of Gilbert and Sullivan’s forensic benchwarmer, Trial By Jury.

The well-oiled Carrollian will sigh appreciatively at all this, knowing as they do that Carroll once harbored designs of collaborating with Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan. These designs were crushed by something or the other, such was (and is) the topsy-turvy world of the crushing theater.

It is only now, over 130 years later, that the reader can judge for himself what such a collaboration might have looked like as he peruses our artistic reconstruction of a Carroll and Sullivan collaboration. I suggest that with glass in eye, you observe in a melodiously crosshatched manner that Heideggers with anxious fears are abounding, breathing hope and fear — for to-day in this arena, summoned by a stern subpoena, the Snark shortly will appear.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The sleep of reason produces snark!

And on the sixth Fit, the Barrister slept.

Played here by the notorious Continental steamer, Martin Heidegger, (right Zeit up and left Sein down) the Barrister has been overwhelmed by the fumes of cheap plonk and the Beaver’s well-turned ankles and has sunk into a torpid slumber upon a thickly inked lawn.

Our reader, who eschews cheap drink and chorus girls in favor of the headier vintages of Carrollian verse, will note that the Barrister has been furnished here with dreams in the plural. He or she will nod knowingly, perhaps even smugly, for every Carrollian worth their mustard and cress is cognizant of the Master’s mysterious penchant for dreams.

In fact, Lewis Carroll never met a novel or poem in which he didn’t feel obliged to stuff in the odd bit of dreamwork to move the plot along, and by providing the luckless Barrister with an multiplicity of dreams our poet may be betraying his own crypto-Hindu sympathies! Classical Hindu epistemology, bursting at the seams as it does with a nightmarish superfluity of dreams and illusions, all of ‘em nested one within the other, would have been pure catnip for the likes of Carroll.

This artist is aware that there are those amongst us who will object to the above theory, they might mutter darkly about a certain virulent strain of Neo-Platonism run amuck on the playing fields of Eton from which Carroll may have been infected, rather than some curry-inflected metaphysics hailing from god knows where. Well, they can toss their Neo-Platonic influences into the dust bin as far as we’re concerned, for it’s Hinduism which has the pukka goods on Runaway Idealism and this Floating Metadream We Call Life. Like the Red King in Through the Looking Glass, we are all of us, readers, artist, poet and Barrister, dreaming of one another and if we ever do wake up to find out what’s Real, well, what is Reality anyway, huh?

After mentally digesting all of this, the less tolerant reader will start things off by giving this over-heated illustrator a gentle boxing about the ears and a light touching up with a lead featherduster. They will then will reach for their Bradshaw of the Future (our preferred etymological opium den) and look pensive whilst they peruse the pedigree of the word "dream", a word which in Old English meant "joy" or even curiouser and curiouser, "music".

Tossing aside their Bradshaw with an insouciant pshaw, the less tolerant DR will then gird their loins and push their way past the more tolerant DR (still asleep and reeking of cheap plonk and ankles, no doubt) and towards the well-inked anthropomorphic forks afflicted with the Amorous Gigantism of Inanimate Objects, the Beaver’s size 9 chukka boots, the winged goblets and obligatory bar of soap, the Man-Ray-smiles and the cloth-headed judge-and-jury — all of ‘em merely a smokescreen for the 9-piece band ensconced in their band-shell in the background of this etymological-cum-epistemological mis-en-scene!

And what is this joyful music that our dream orchestra* is producing for the benefit of our dream Barrister? Is it the melodious warblings of some Hindustani songstress afflicted with a keening adenoidal distress? Is it the rock ‘n roll oompah-oompah of some hipster, Platonic cave-dwellers? To find out, dear readers, stay tuned for next week’s episode of The Hunting of the Snark!

*Our readers might even be more bewildered than usual to learn that this illustrator is afflicted with the syndrome of musical dreaming; for many years his dreams have been provided with a sort of involuntary cinematic soundtrack, not of his choosing although usually of a classical nature. On occasion a bit of pop rubbish gets by, the theme to Star Wars or suchlike, but this artist is the sort of high-minded fellow who thinks nothing of walking out of a bad film or dream.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Snarkness at Noon

 Well, isn’t this jolly, all of us having our tiffin in this lovely English garden waiting for the sun, and if the sun don't come, we’ll get a tan from standing in the English rain. What a clever way with words these Brits have, always joking around and making light of the darkest (and wettest) situations. Here we are, in the very thing-um-a-jig of a Snark Hunt, crosshatching to the left of us, crosshatching to the right of us, and our merry lads have seen fit to burst forth into song, a semimelodious bit of Old English galdor reminiscent of the salad days of Aethelred the Unready and suchlike skaldic mumbo-jumbery.

All of which affords this illustrator a bit of artistic license sufficient to render a thimble, some forks, an esperant anchor, a smile and some soap, ie., five-sevenths of the afore-mentioned Snarkic prophylaxes. He’s also taken the liberty of laying on some cakes and ale (on an illustrator’s meager salary of a moon and sixpence) and has even hired a band-cum-bandshell, all of which should provide sufficient innocent merriment for the B-Boyz and their Protosurrealist demimondaines, at least enough to show ‘em that this illustrator cares.

Naturally, this illustrative care increases our stanzel’s Combined Snarkic Prophylactic Level (CSPL) to six-sevenths, which fraction, when its numerator and denominator are multiplied, provides us with the number 42, a number mooted by some to be The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything in It.

Lewis Carroll thought enough of the number 42 to provide it with a comfortable home and small pension, way back in the Good Old Days of Fit the First. There are certain small-minded persons who will always look askance at such instances of numerophilia, they will mutter darkly of alphanumeric miscegenation and cryptokabbalistic cabals and all that sort of thing which they suspect is always going on at parties like the one pictured above. Which is why those sort of people never get invited to this sort of party, huzzah!

And so, ladies and gentlemen and sundry weirdos, proclaims this illustrator as he sways drunkenly onto his feet, I propose a toast!

Let’s hear it for Lewis Carroll (tipsy shouts of hear, hear!) … the best Anglican maths-tutor-cum-nonsense-wallah Oxford ever produced (gurgled cries of approval emanating from a giant thimble full of wine) … a true friend of man and anapest alike (slurred bleats of rhubarb-rhubarb, custard-custard) … and the most important Victorian poet to ever use the words 'railway-share'! (exeunt all, with general bedlam, light to variable).

Monday, May 30, 2016

12 Angry Snarks

 With a nightmarish fanfare of snores and snorts, Fit the Sixth of Lewis Carroll’s cri-de-cœur, AKA The Hunting of the Snark, now heaves into view. This page, a little number which I call The Barrister’s Dream, is an illustrative poke-in-the-snoot aimed squarely at the grand English tradition of Oneiric Verse, ie., such yawn-inducing showstoppers as the Dream of the Rood, Bill Blake’s Dream and Christina "Sister Wombat" Rossetti’s Dream Land.

The reader will note that in this Fit of his Snark, Carroll successfully introduced the nightmarish element of potential litigation into the English Dream Poem, thus bringing to light the adversarial relationship twixt Dreamer and Dream.

We all of us dream and yet none of us truly know why, nor, more to the point, what our dreams might mean. If this is not an apt metaphor for the relationship twixt the Average Citizen and the Law, I’m a frittered-cheese-wig! Hence, our need for barristers and all their jolly legal ilk cluttering the land, and hence we find that even whilst asleep, Carroll has seen fit to provide you, the D.R., with qualified legal assistance at affordable rates.

If you are so inclined, it might occur to you that the Entire Meaning of the Snark is a similar enigma, impervious to explanation save by employing the services of a picture-wallah such as my ever-so-‘umble self. It might even occur to you that my tactic of employing Martin Heidegger as our Snarkic Barrister bodes ill for any useful solution to any of the above questions. Heidegger was a notorious Teutonic chatterbox and utterly useless for any explanation more complex than obtaining the directions to the nearest washroom, in short, prime material for any barrister’s office wishing to pad their billable hours beyond all human endurance.

Alas, you are not so inclined. You are, like the Barrister Heidegger, comfortably reclined and fast asleep on company time, amazed by this Snark-hunter’s dream which we call life.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Gosford Snark

 The preternaturally alert reader will instantly recognize the decor of this panel as a quintessentially English bit of inkery lifted whole from the Yellow Submarine, that snarkalicious confection crafted by Messers Dunnings, Coates, Edelmann et alia. Their Anglo-Canadian-Teutonic vision of the archetypical English garden party, Pepperland, is shown here being hijacked by a band of desperate Snark Hunters in need of shelter from the heavy weather of Fit the Fifth.

In truth, there is little to recommend in this Fit to anyone in need of some jollies to lighten the burden of another long day working for the Man and all that. F5, as some Snarkistanis dub it, is a place where there is a gnashing of teeth and a smiting of thighs in the very best tradition of the sadomasochistic hallucinations and delusions of St. Anthony and his Victorian spiritual descendants, those lecturers at certain educational institutions who were condemned to the spiritual tortures of instructing the Boschian progeny of the upper classes in all matters animal, vegetable and mineral.

As proof positive of all of the above, let us note that Lewis Carroll, a mild-mannered man noted for his personal gentleness, saw fit to end this Fit with a semi-Swiftian comment upon all of the above. This novel friendship between the Beaver and the Butcher is cemented not by the altruistic bonds of selfless love but by the grotesque imperatives of Fear and Loathing!

You old cynic, Mr. Carroll! You’ve been hobnobbing too much with that old boojum-lover Mr. C.L. Dodgson, whose years of teaching at Christ Church had taught him to regard his young charges as at worst, nasty, brutish and short, and at best, nasty, brutish and short from the right sort of families.

Which is why this illustrator thought it might brighten up the place a bit if we had a little bit of Pepperland and the Fab Four smuggled in to do the honors for the Jubjub’s Song which closes this Fit. Come on, Messers Dodgson and Carroll, it’s not as bad as all that, all you need is love!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Snark, a Vagrant!

 The attentive reader will notice that in this panel, as in the last two panels, we have been undergoing what specialists in this sort of thing call a Transition. Beginning with an ur-schoolroom redolent of the worst Boschian horrors Christ Church has on tap, we shifted into a theatrical backdrop of sorts, then flitted through a hasty visual flashback of various preceding Fits and now find ourselves in a pastoral sort of setting, evocative of an English garden party frequented by exactly the sort of Carrollian riffraff one always finds lurking about at such affairs.

Gosh! This Transformation business is mickle hard to pull off, it’s certainly easier for the likes of poets such as Lewis Carroll to shift quarters if they wish, it’s merely a question of them upending a spare thesaurus and rummaging about with a few adjectives and suitable prepositions. For us picture-wallahs, it’s a whole different story! The extras have to be chosen and then costumed, the appropriate locales have to be researched and then reproduced at considerable expense, then there’s lighting and makeup, why, the catering alone is an logistical boojum!

In this case, we’ve arranged for some currently unemployed peons from Alice in Wonderland to serve drinks and snacks whilst the Fellowship of the Snark mill around in period costumes with various Protosurrealist floozies glued to their arms, all of ‘em muttering rhubarb-rhubarb-custard-custard to give it all that air of Carrollian verisimilitude.

Of course, in the Good Old Days they didn’t call it a Transition, it was a Metamorphosis back then and it was all the rage in pre-Christian circles. You couldn’t go outside for the morning paper without bumping into someone’s teenaged daughter bursting into foliage or regressing into a giant spider; such goings-on were pure catnip for the poets of that time and I think it’s safe to say that the advent of monotheism put the kibosh on a considerable source of innocent merriment for both gods and mortals.

All of which brings us to the semi-belated point that in some subliminal manner, Lewis Carroll’s Anglican penchant for Nonsense verse is really the sneaky pagan’s taste for Metamorphosis resurgent in the usually sacrosanct domain of Logic and Semiotics! As always, I’ll eschew further elaboration of this particular observation out of respect for the sausage-stuffing-phobia of any decent reader towards such crypto-Bismarckian literary goings-ons.

I shall confine myself to remarking that Metamorphosis is a fine thing, a double-plus-fine thing to liven up any bit of illustration or verse you might have handy; perhaps the Beaver and Butcher’s unexpected metamorphosis into the very best of friends is just the sort of versification needed to bring back the salad days of wine, women and Pagan Nonsense …

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Snark of a Thousand Faces

 May we conjecture that in this melodramatic passage of verse (redolent of Tennyson’s more sentimental confections) the poet Lewis Carroll is performing some sort of prosodic sleight-of-hand meant to encapsulate the entire gamut of stormy passions and turgid pleasures which we lesser folk call Married Life?

The fool-suckling and small-beer-chronicling of married life was unknown to Carroll personally. However his friend C.L. Dodgson seems to have known something about the Vast Mystery of Connubial and Familial Bliss in a second-hand sort of manner and probably let Carroll in on the joke, so to speak.

The true-life confessions of the Beaver are spicy stuff indeed, by Victorian standards! Her bitter observation that looks are always more eloquent even than tears is a clear reference to the Eternal Dilemma of the weeping, middle-aged woman confronting the illicitly toothsome paramour of her caddishly retro-adolescent-spouse.

The Bellman’s fleeting emasculation is a proto-Freudian dig (or even a snigger, I’m not quite sure) at thing-um-a-jig and perhaps even what-you-may-call-um, pretty strong stuff indeed for a commoner’s garden variety Snark Hunt and better left to the plain-brown-wrapper crowd who frequent the less-reputable purlieus of English verse!

There’s also some versical bits and pieces hinting at the Disconsolation of Books, the Inevitable Patching It Up for the Sake of the Kids and even a bit of emotional doubletalk on the Bellman’s part, solely for the purposes of smoothing things over for his pal the Butcher, who remains conveniently silent throughout this whole cringe-inducing, Mills & Boon production.

All in all, it’s a pretty sordid low point in this Snark and perhaps even in this artist’s ongoing commentary upon the same. Sure, I’ve dressed it all up with a nice picture and some fancy music-hall-type crosstalk of a pseudo-intellectual bent but deep underneath it all, it’s all really quite shallow. Wearisome days, indeed, eh?

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Unbearable Lightness of Drawing Snark

Dear readers, if Lewis Carroll was alive today, he would never get into print. He would have no comps to be measured against, a shocking excess of originality and an unmarketable habit of assuming children want to be genuinely challenged. Even if he self-published (which is what he did for the first Alice book in essence), no distributor would handle him. 

The point is that diverse books are not just about different races or cultures, that's just part of it … to me, diversity is more about alternative viewpoints, ideas that are not pre-commodified or safely clichéd but which really expand the reader's head. I published my novel, American Candide, with Rosarium Publishing, a minority-owned house that publishes books by authors and artists that tell diverse stories, with multicultural perspectives and unorthodox subjects that the bigger houses refuse to touch. Rosarium is having an indiegogo campaign to refinance, so if the issue of diversity in publishing and storytelling matters to you, check them out … or tell a friend. It's your Literary Multiverse, dear reader … do you want to stagnate in a provincial monoculture or flourish in a diverse, vigorous world culture? Now back to the snarky laughs …

Friendship is, of course, a double-edged sort of business, the very sort of tricksy fritter-my-wig-thingum-a-jig that Messers Lewis Carroll and C.L. Dodgson must have pondered over quite a bit in the course of their own long and fruitful association.

The attentive reader (is there any other?) will remember my own reasons for emasculating the Beaver, and I think that this very stanzel is proof positive of the aesthetic rightness (or is it righteousness?) of that long-ago, fateful decision on my part.

And so, we see here the Beaver and Butcher heaving into view with their freshly-minted friendship in tow. Needless to say, the friendship of the Butcher will prove a heavy burden for the luckless Beaver. The former’s penchant for looking the part of an incredible dunce, as evidenced in his just-concluded, semi-interminable monologue upon all things Jubjub, will weigh heavily upon the Beaver’s sensitive soul.

May we conjecture that Carroll might have had the same private misgivings concerning his rather leechlike pal, Dodgson? The basic principles of Prosodic Forensics may apply here, my dear Watson, when one bears in mind that once one has removed the impossible from whatever verse one is studying, whatever one is left with, however improbably, is the logical solution.

The Butcher’s poetic modus operandi is painfully obvious: dunderheaded obliviousness to all things outside his realm of expertise, a compulsion to lecture strangers ad infinitum, etc. Such a description is, as some of us are painfully aware, the very epitome of the college lecturer, of which C.L. Dodgson was a prime example.

The Beaver’s versical activities in the last Five Fits have been limited solely to making lace and saving the entire crew from wreck. The former activity is utterly frivolous, as is versifying in general, and the latter activity is nothing less than an oblique reference to her skill in composing galdors, those Celtic verse charms used in pagan times to protect the common folk from evil through the application of some mysterious, verbal magic unknown to the layman!

The attentive reader should promptly compare the above description to Lewis Carroll, and finding that it’s a perfect match, brandish their regulation Scotland Yard handcuffs, then secure the guilty party and march him off to the station to take his statement, the villain!

And while you’re at it, Sergeant, cuff that Dodgson wallah, he was probably in on it with Carroll, the two of ‘em are inseparable friends, don’t you know. We’ll soon have at least one of ‘em singing like a canary, probably till the next day, I’m afraid.