Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Supplement: Charley Harper

Introducing the exquisite, graphical and witty animal illustrations of Charley Harper; a gold mine of inspiration in terms of character design - take note of Harper's ability to distill a subject into its essential form for instant recognition and immediate appeal.

"Charley Harper (b. 1922 in West Virginia) provides us with a unique view of animals and other aspects of the natural world - not through realistic paintings, but by means of stylized drawings and paintings that capture the essence of his subjects using the fewest elements. He describes his style as minimal realism. In his art, the parts of the creature or ecological system are all there and are recognizable, but distilled in a manner that enhances our appreciation for their unique combinations of shapes and colors (i.e., less is more). He likes to joke that he doesn’t count the feathers of the birds he paints, just the wings. His different perspective on the world always includes a little humor and mystery.

Although trained as a realistic painter (Cincinnati Art Academy 1947), Charley soon realized that realism would “reveal nothing about the subject that nature had not done better.” Combining the skills and drafting tools of the architect with the aesthetic sense of the painter, he began to develop his distinctive style that aims to help us want to preserve the natural treasures that remain.

In addition to his many acrylic paintings on canvas, Charley has designed over 50 “bio” posters for non-profit conservation groups, nature centers and zoos, United States national parks and monuments, and international wildlife sanctuaries and biosphere preserves. One of the first federally commissioned posters was the ecology of Glacier Bay National Park in the 1960s. Other works include the design of ceramic tile murals for the Federal Building and Convention Center in Cincinnati, as well as the Biology Building at Miami University in Ohio. He has also illustrated interpretive displays for Everglades National Park in Florida. In addition, Charley has created over 100 limited-edition silk-screen prints and many lithographed open edition prints..."


For more Charley Harper illustrations go here.


  1. Nice. A touch similar Mary Blair.

  2. Very 'motion graphics' aren't they?

    Fancy putting together a Mary Blair supplement?