The above says it all, or pretty much. Welcome to the Christmas installment of our series on Robert Binks, the Canadian illustrator, painter, sculptor and greeting card designer who has spent more than half a century creating beautiful and playful works of art. His greeting cards, all made privately for friends and family, come in for special but not exclusive attention this go-around.
Our opening picture shows the offbeat way Mr. Binks likes to play with old images and contrasting styles in his cards. He says: “I created this personal Xmas card in 2009. I tried to combine the old with the new — I love that old photograph and I had used it in one of my CBC animations circa 1980 about the history of Toronto.” The CBC is the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., where he worked for most of his career.
The card is a favorite of mine. The whiteness and the giant mod Christmas bulb set off the solemnity of that black-and-white child from long ago. The combination is vivid and funny at the same time.
Now a pair of sculptures:
The artist calls these the “Goodie Gals.” Mr. Binks:
“Back in the ’50s, while working as a display designer in Eaton’s Department Store, I created a graphic idea of a woman wearing a large brimmed hat filled with goodies. In 2010 I finally brought this idea to fruition creating these two ceramic heads with removable plates.” Take the plates off and the two women becomes vases for flowers.
Next a very Canadian recipe page:
Mr. Binks drew the illustrations for the Globe and Mail, Canada’s leading newspaper, back in the early 1960s. Like the “Good Girls,” they show his knack for generating feeling from a few simple lines. The two drawings also reflect his tendency to pile simple geometric shapes into a block, and to fill spaces with dense texture or textures (often ones that show a strong contrast, as with the tree’s bark and the little girl’s blanket).
Another greeting card, this one from 2008:
Santa’s red hat is actually a flap; you lift it up and there’s his party hat for New Year’s Eve. The balancing of the modest script greetings atop Santa Claus’ hat is very Binksian, if I may coin a term.
A trio of wood statuettes:
Mr. Binks: “The hot dog man was made for my grandson. In the square base of the Santa is a music box movement that plays ‘Toy Land.’
The piano with the abstract design plays ‘Yesterday.'” I love the hot dog man’s mustache and matching hat-brim shadow, and the piano shows the same sort of splashy but clean-lined color arrangement that shows up in some of Mr. Binks’ paintings.
Two holiday-season cartoons with a distinct ’60s flavor:
Mr. Binks: “This Christmas page was done for Chatelaine magazine circa 1965.” The party cartoon’s elongated shapes crowded together are again very Binksian. But what I like best is how the charm characteristic of Mr. Binks’ work coexists with the Peter Max trimmings.
And now a run of highly inventive Christmas cards. The first is from the mid-1990s:
Mr. Binks: “The card is received in a flat envelope. When opened, the house and trees pop up and Santa’s hat appears in the chimney. I wrote the poem to support the card.”
A card from 1986, this one with a uniquely adjustable Santa schnozz:
Nudge the chain and Santa gets a new profile. Caption: “… a nose is a nose is a”
Next, a card from the mid-1980s. Mr. Binks: “Card flaps open up in stages to reveal a Superman Santa.”
Finally, a combination Christmas and New Year’s card:
It’s from 1976. Mr. Binks: “I just had to do a card with Guy Lombardo ushering in the New Year. This is a multilayered card housing an elastic band to animate the action. When the Christmas tree is pushed down, the TV screen changes from Santa to Guy Lombardo. The cat wakes up to the sound of the New Year festivities.”
I think it’s fantastic: the concept, the drawing and the use of Lombardo’s lividly tinted photo. That poor cat!
And on that note, a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. Next week we’ll have the last entry in this round of posts. The focus will be dogs and cows — don’t miss it.