Charley Harper: A Bird’s Eye View

We Think the World of Birds
commission for Cornell Lab of Ornithology    2005
( Final piece + initial sketch with cut paper and acrylic )

I Predict the Weather
gouache on board
for Look Magazine    January 1955
( Final layout + initial gouache painting )

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

Acrylic and cut paper sketch

Notepad sketches

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

From the Giant Golden Book of Biology   1961

(Amazingly 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

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