At home with Charley Harper

Introducing Charley Harper, my favorite American illustrator.

Front porch of Charley Harper's home

Charley Harper was a Cincinnati-based American Modernist artist, best known for his highly stylized wildlife prints, posters and book illustrations.

I fell in love with his work during a visit to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. He designed their logo and many pieces of his art sold at the lab gift shop. I bought a t-shirt, bird poster and a children’s book How to Draw 28 birds in Harper’s Style. His online store is doing a great job promoting his work.

Designer Todd Oldham produced several films and books about Mr. Harper to help make sure his legacy lives on. I’ve embedded two of the films and a brief introduction sourced from Wikipedia.

Cardinal illustration made in Charley Harper style

At Home with Charley Harper

Designtex Stories: At Home with Charley Harper from Designtex on Vimeo.

In this short documentary designer Todd Oldham talks with Charley Harper about the evolution of his work as an artist, his love of nature, his disenchantment with realism, and his embrace of simplicity.

Rediscovering Charley Harper

Designtex Stories: Rediscovering Charley Harper from Designtex on Vimeo.

Todd Oldham speaks about his discovery of Charley Harper’s art, an ongoing source of inspiration for his own practice as a designer.

Charley Harper (August 4, 1922 – June 10, 2007) was a Cincinnati-based American Modernist artist. He was best known for his highly stylized wildlife prints, posters and book illustrations. Born in Frenchton, West Virginia in 1922, Harper’s upbringing on his family farm influenced his work to his last days. He left his farm home to study art at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and won the academy’s first Stephen H. Wilder Traveling Scholarship. Also during his time at the Academy, and supposedly on the first day, Charley met fellow artist Edie Mckee, whom he would marry shortly after graduation in 1947.

Charley and Edie spent their honeymoon traveling the country, mainly in the west and south, being able to do so because of the Stephen H. Wilder Scholarship the Academy awarded to Charley for post-graduate travels. Charley Harper returned to the Art Academy of Cincinnati as a teacher and also worked for a commercial firm before working on his own. He and his wife worked out of their Roselawn and Finneytown homes, and later, with their only child Brett Harper, formed Harper Studios.

During his career, Charley Harper illustrated numerous books, notably The Golden Book of Biology, magazines such as Ford Times, as well as many prints, posters, and other works. As his subjects are mainly natural, with birds prominently featured, Charley often created works for many nature-based organizations, among them the National Park Service, Cincinnati Zoo, Cincinnati Nature Center, Cornell Lab of Ornithology,[1] Hamilton County (Ohio) Park District, and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. He also designed interpretive displays for Everglades National Park.

Charley Harper died on Sunday, June 10, 2007 at age 84
–from wikipedia