FROM AN axman to the saxman.

Visually pivoting from Paul Bunyan to instrument inventor Adolphe Sax might sound like quite a steep creative leap, but in the elegantly joyful style of artist Lydia Nichols, it’s a seamless bridge. And not simply because both the blade-swinger of American folklore and the 19th-century Belgian music-maker can rock a lumberjack beard worthy of a Brooklyn indie band.

Whether rendering a partying marine mammal or a curled-up cat, let alone the feats of furry men, Nichols has a playful way with whiskers, and can paint a mustache with true panache.

Working on this 2-color piece. #illustration #paulbunyan #babetheblueox

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And so Nichols seems an especially savvy choice to create today’s Google Doodle — or more precisely, five Google Doodles (you might call this visual suite “Sax Fifth”) — to celebrate the 201st birthday of ol’ Adolphe, who in the 1840s began seriously showing the creative brass to create his own family of Saxian instruments (not only the saxophone, but also the saxtuba, the saxhorn and the saxotromba).


Last party animal. #illustration #ermine #party

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Nichols, in short, has a way with movement, and her designs have their own fluid music. She often draws anthropomorphic party animals, frequently sea creatures, but she transitions deftly from bivalve mollusks to valved music for today’s Doodle quintet.

It’s a creative spirit Mr. Sax himself, that tireless tinkerer of instruments capable of swinging tones, could surely appreciate.

“From the whimsical looking 7-bell trombone to the large and swooping saxtuba, Sax never tired of exploring, experimenting, and creating new—and sometimes unusual—instruments,” Google writes on its Doodle blog, as Sax swings in skinny slacks like a proto-bearded hipster.. “To properly highlight his inventiveness we couldn’t possibly make just one Doodle. Which is why you can find five unique Doodles today, each celebrating a different instrument created at the hands of Mr. Sax.”

And of those five, the most inventive is the tech titan’s logo rendered entirely in sonic tubing — what the California company warmly calls not a flugelhorn, but a “Googlehorn.”

The son of a prolific instrument and cabinet maker, Adolphe Sax was born on this day in 1814, in Dinant, Belgium, and died destitute in Paris, at nearly age 80.

But his jazz-friendly self-named inventions play on.

Happy birthday, Mr. Sax.

And beautiful work, Ms. Nichols.