Charley Harper: A Bird’s Eye View

We Think the World of Birds commission for Cornell Lab of Ornithology 2005
(Featured image is the initial sketch with cut paper and acrylic )

I Predict the Weather gouache on board, for Look Magazine January 1955

The Fables: Jonah and the Whale Silkscreen ca. 1950

I’m one of many enamored with the work of Charley Harper. He’s firmly on my list of heroes and influencers. I was thrilled that Todd Oldham worked with Charley on the huge and awesome monograph.

But a big part of my adoration and understanding was missing a crucial piece: His approach to making.

I’m glad that Aaron Cowan (DAAP Galleries director) and Charley Harper Studio filled in a good chunk of this process with the exhibition:

Charley Harper: A Birds Eye View

It was phenomenal.

His talent becomes even more evident when you see his sketches with cut paper or the brush strokes of his work in gouache.

Even as a child, his graphic style and sense of composition and type were bang on.

As someone who likes to pull ink across the screen, a part of me wanted to see the steps between finished paintings and subsequent prints, but I cannot rightly complain because the exhibit was so concentrated with deft goodness.

The show completed last week, but I hope interest grows and this body of work gets shown again.

Evolution of Idea to Print: We Think the World of Birds commission for Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2005

Look at that TINY initial sketch!

Use Water for Health Age 8

World War II Era

A series of paintings during Charley & Edie’s honeymoon 1947

My Grandmother oil on canvas, 1947

A Landscape on Cloudy Venus gouache on board, Giant Golden Book of Biology, 1961

Detail from the Giant Golden Book of Biology, 1961

More awesome detail

Secretary Bird with Black Mamba gouache on board The Animal Kingdom, 1968

Detail from the Secretary Bird

What I particularly enjoy above is how Harper sharpens lines, adds hints and enhances contrast.

Tools including french curves and compasses.

Rocket Belt, Mechanical Horse, and Automatically Controlled Car gouache on board, Cover, Panorama Magazine, 1970