after switching from x to another terminal with control-alt-something, control-alt-f1 is the status output of the x server (where you ran startx), but control-alt-f7 is where the actual graphics are. (or is that what you did?) f7 is the first graphics buffer (viewport 0:0.0), and f8 would be the second one, if you had a second x server started or vmware on dga output or something.
there is a way to run graphics applications in the console without the x server with something called the framebuffer - it's a sort of a graphics abstraction layer. it makes your console run at higher resolutions than the traditional 80 columns, and allows for limited graphics ability. the program has to have support for framebuffer drivers, though. links (the text browser that's like an updated version of lynx) has a graphics mode called by 'links -g' which i use in x sometimes for a really lightweight browser with anti-aliased text... for example, if i need to quickly look up something. but links also has a framebuffer driver for the graphics mode, so you can do something like 'links -g -driver fb'. that's how i surf if i don't feel like starting up x. none of the other higher-level browsers (that i know of) support the framebuffer at the moment. mplayer, the video player, has framebuffer console video output (with driver 'fbcon') if you enable support for it. that's how i do tv-out with my laptop. you can also do other nifty things with the framebuffer, like setting a bootsplash, which is a background image for your text console.
mpg123 is a command line player for playing mpeg layer 1/2/3 files. (the audio formats - mp3, etc) and ogg123 is the ogg vorbis equivalent.
the framebuffer is a bit of a pain to set up, but i can help you out if you want to try it.
if you're interested, here's what my console looks like (during boot and on any console without X - 1280x1024 res):http://www.thelightofthesoul.com/console.png
or converted to jpeg, if you haven't enabled support for png:http://www.thelightofthesoul.com/console.jpg
there are few programs that can run graphically on the framebuffer right now, though - a video player, a browser, and an image viewer are the only ones that i use. there is another library that runs on top of the framebuffer called DirectFB, which adds better support and nice things like some acceleration, but it doesn't support the radeon yet, so i don't use it.
actually, there's even a modified x server that runs on directfb called (not surprisingly) xdirectfb. it allows for things like real transparency - the window's transparency can be adjusted by using the mouse wheel on the title bar, for example. but it's really slow unless you use an accelerated framebuffer driver like the radeon driver - which should work on my radeon but doesn't want to detect it. so i use the vesa framebuffer, which works on everything but is slow and unaccelerated.
umm... that was a bit of a mishmosh of information. organization was never my forte.