The Hunting of the Snark
Fit the First – The Landing (excerpt)
“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.
“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What i tell you three times is true.”
The crew was complete: it included a Boots–
A maker of Bonnets and Hoods–
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes–
And a Broker, to value their goods.
A Billiard-maker, whose skill was immense,
Might perhaps have won more than his share–
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
Had the whole of their cash in his care.
There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
Though none of the sailors knew how.”
How I came to produce these illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Hunting of the Snark”:
When I was a graduate student at Parsons School of Design, our entire painting program took one humanities course for each of our four semesters in the program. In the spring of 1983, that course was called “Narrative and Structure.” I wish I could retrieve the name of the teacher, but his name is long gone from memory (and does not appear on my transcript…)
In the same semester, I took one of my only art electives: “Monoprints: One of a Kind,” an evening course that took me out of our big painting studio loft on Union Square into the print studio, an altogether different environment. The printmaking course was exciting and direct, something I needed after the long days of laboring over figurative oil studies and still life compositions.
When our final assignment was given–to make a series of art works illustrating a piece of literature–short story, novel, or poem–I decided to use the new process of monotype printmaking to generate my series of works. What I also don’t recall is how I chose the poem, “The Hunting of the Snark.” In retrospect, I see that it expressed my playful side as well as offering some subtle but potent commentary on human foibles. The imagery was rich and allowed me to delve into character and scenery in a manner most playful and expressive.
Each of the four monoprint illustrations was created in a single session in the Parsons print shop. I used an 18″x24″ plexiglass plate with the black etching ink available in the print shop and my own oil colors. The paper, Arches Cover, was soaked, blotted, and centered carefully over the plate before being run through the etching press. Because I knew the result I was after, I did not pull a ghost, or second image off the plate.
I have not yet shown these works in public, so please enjoy this preview. I will let you know if I have the opportunity to display them in the near future.
Robin Brooks, October 13, 2011
If any of my former Parsons classmates happen to read this post, please let me know if you can recall the teacher’s name. I’m thinking it started with a “P”–Philips, Phipps, something like that, but I could be way off. He had a thermos which he sipped liberally from during class. We used to speculate that the clear liquid inside may not have been water. He had a slight tremor which I thought then must have been caused by a chronic illness such as Parkinsons Disease, so perhaps the liquid was “medicinal.”
The Snark is a good choice for doing own illustratons. But especially artists should take a really close look at Henry Holiday’s illustrations. I think, his contribution to Carroll’s poem has been underestimated quite a bit.
Best regards from Munich