From time to time I enjoy browsing books on graphic design as I’m always on the lookout for ways to simplify but capture the essence of a design. Charley Harper, who died in 2007, had a long career in graphic design, and is best known for his wildlife illustrations, especially posters. I bought some prints of his posters for the national parks from the government sometime back in the 1970s, and still have some in the original mailing tube. (Let me say I watch way too much Antiques Road Show so I hope that provenance will help the value.)
Because I love his work so much, this post is more of a mash note than a book review. The book is short on text and long on pictures, an excellent balance I think. Most of the text is an interview Todd Oldham, the books’ compiler, had with Charley in 2007. Charley comes across as unassuming, not given to philosophizing about art.
But enough talk. The pictures are grouped by his book and magazine illustration work (in chronological order), advertising and promotions, mosaics and murals, paintings, and posters. Out of his large body of work, only some were done for himself. Most were commissions. The book’s index shows thumbnail pictures of work, helpful for quickly finding a work’s title.
Here are some of his pieces that appeal to me especially.
Bear In Birches makes you work for the bear.
King Salmon would translate beautifully into a stitched piece, with translucent fabrics for the water and the fish’s body.
Grand Canyon was the July 1952 cover of “Ford Times” magazine. Move over, modern quilters.
Unzipped shows a crayfish molting, just under the water’s surface. The leaf and water ring shadows economically convey the water’s transparency.
Ruby Throated Hummingbird captures the essence of the bird’s quickness without getting bogged down in ornithological details.
Serengeti Spaghetti is a herd of zebra reduced to pattern – maybe the way it appears to a lion.
Snowy Egret has wonderful plumage, again quite doable in stitch.
I hope you’re inspired to page through this book. Your public library may have a copy. If you feel like spending $30, treat yourself. You can see (and purchase) many of Charley’s works at https://charleyharperartstudio.com/
8 responses to “Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life”
I never heard of Harper but I LOVE his work so thank you!
I’m so glad you like his work. As you could tell, I’m a fan.
Beautiful. You had me at the bear! The Grand Canyon! The amazing egret! I need to spend more time at the library, it’s true. Thanks for sharing.
My library has an e-mail service that notifies you weekly of all new items it’s ordered. I browse that and put holds on the items that look interesting. That’s how I found this book.
That’s a great service. I’m actually part of 2 library systems. Will have to check to see if either or both do that.
I believe the name of this service is Wowbrary.
Thanks for sharing these. They are very ‘quilty.’
So, shall I expect a Charley Harper bird effort from you? BTW, Birch Fabrics did a line based on his prints.