Monday, December 3, 2007

"I don't count the feathers, I just count the wings."

King Birds, avaliable as a serigraph from Treadway Gallery.

If you or the grade school you went to owned a copy of The Giant Golden Book of Biology, than you may recognize the work of Charley Harper.

I really like his work, sort of a John J. Audubon for the modernist set and children. Harper's geometric distillation of animals, items, and environments and his subdued palette have a lot in common with, and maybe even directly influenced, the work of both Richard McGuire and Chris Ware. Sure, many people have used this manner of simplification to represent all sorts of things, but in the work of Harper, McGuire, and Ware I think the drawings take on more than just an iconic or typographic appearance, but they usually capture a movement or gesture of whatever sort of person or animal it is they've drawn which really helps bring the drawings to life.

Backyard Birds; House Wren, With Clothes Line; Blackburian Warbler; Beetle Battle, all available as prints from Fabulous Frames & Art. Giant Golden Book of Biology available in dusty thrift store bins($1), your local library's annual discard sale(25¢), and ebay($400).

Todd Oldham recently assembled a massive book of Harper's work and produced this short video about Harper where you can see Charley talk about his work, and a take a peek into his studio.

Harper died earlier this year at the age of 84.

"When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lies the lure of painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe."


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