Charley Harper Charley Harper

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life

Charley Harper

Man, I can’t wait for this one! Ammo Books is getting ready to release what could become one of the must-have books of recent times: a humongous monograph on mid-century illustration legend Charley Harper. The project was initiated by fashion designer Todd Oldham who discovered Harper’s work in 2001 and has been collaborating with Harper since then to put together this book. What’s particularly exciting is that it looks like Ammo and Oldham are doing this right: the format is huge (17×12 inches) and if the cover is any indication, it’s going to be packed with visual goodness. As far as I know, Harper never worked in animation, but his work has inspired countless animation artists from 1950s-era designer Cliff Roberts to Samurai Jack background painter Scott Wills. Animator Nate Pacheco was even trying to translate Harper’s designer into Flash animation last year.

The 420-page hardcover book is scheduled for release in June, and retails for a steep $200 but is only $126 at Amazon. There are also four limited edition versions of the book (each $400) which come with a silkscreen print.

Here’s more about the book from the Ammo website:

Charley Harper is an American original. At 84, Charley continues to make art in his studio in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is beloved for his delightful, graphic and often humorous illustrations of nature, animals, insects and people alike. Charley likes to say, that when he paints a bird, he doesn’t count all the feathers in the wings – he just counts the wings. Minimal realism, he calls it, and his unique and precise style continues to resonate and inspire his admirers.

Charley Harper – An Illustrated Life, showcases his illustrations that appeared from 1950-1975 in the Ford Times magazines, as well as in books such as the beloved “The Giant Golden Book of Biologyâ€? in 1961, “Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Twoâ€? in 1961, and “ The Animal Kingdomâ€? in 1968, among many others. His well loved book “Birds and Wordsâ€?, first published in 1974, is considered a classic.

To see a preview of the type of art that will be in the book, check out this nice online collection of Harper’s work.

Charley Harper illustration
  • ovi

    ya he is amazing. that’s weird, i was just looking at his biology book an hour ago and looked up on amazon this exact book that’s going to be released before it was posted here.

    weird. i didn’t get a date as to when it hits the stands.

  • That online collection is pretty informative. I never knew of this guy, and yet I must have seen his work (or followers of his work) countless times in my life.

    I love the artistic styles used in SAMURAI JACK. It’s one of the most original animated shows ever made. People who love that show should definitely check this book out. I know I’d like to.

  • I live and work in Cincinnati -Harper’s hometown, and he’s pretty much a household name around here. I thought I knew his work well, but the sample serigraphs you linked to are a much older and freer style than the one I’m used to. The landscape-y prints really remind me of Eyvind Earle’s greeting card work.

    In the last few decades Harper’s geometry has become more rigid and the textures that add so much warmth to those older pieces dropped out altogether. His compostions, especially the ones for the national parks posters, are extremely complex. I think I prefer the warmer earlier style and I wonder how much of it will be featured in this new book.

    Another tidbit: Harper studied at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. So did Jim Flora. The Contemporary Arts Center here has an exhibit featuring Harper’s work. It’s curated by Todd Oldham and it’s in its last few days. I hope to take the family to see it this weekend.

  • tom

    I just recently visited the exhibit on Charley Harper at the CAC in Cincinnati, and those that have an opportunity to see the show should definitely try. You can get a clear sense of the influence that his work has made in many artists today.

  • mark k

    Like Emmett, I am new to Harper’s work…at least I thought so. The bird images in the online exhibit looked really familiar to me. Turns out my wife and I have had a Charley Harper poster hanging in our bedroom for the past several years. I just never bothered to notice the artists name, let alone learn something about him.

    Anyway, it’s the poster for the 2002 International Migratory Bird Day. (Seriously.) So thanks for posting this, Amid! I’m so happy to learn about this.