My knowledge of the great American illustrator, Charley Harper began a few years ago with the re-issue of his 1974 book Birds and Words. It’s fantastic stuff ; organic geometric illustrations of the natural world.
I’m always a sucker for more information so for the last few weeks I have been enthralled with the new Charley Harper book: An Illustrated Life. This begins to provide a more complete picture of his overwhelmingly productive oeuvre.
The book features an extended interview with Harper by devotee Todd Oldham. Oldham describes a biology book he had as a child, that was illustrated by Harper, and the life-long effect it had on his work. The interview is fantastic and Harper appears the solid minimalist who probably is just as “non-fussy” as his work appears to be. When asks for design specifics, Harper says you can simplify everything with “straight lines and curves“. One of the humorous highlights is when Oldham asks: “What’s next for you, Mr. Harper?”, he replies “getting older“. It’s a simple answer to a not-so-simple questions, but to me, it encapsulates the straightforwardness of his work.
An Illustrated Life covers his time doing book illustrations, the birds series, his work on Ford Times, posters and mosaics! It’s worth noting that he had been consistently cranking out fantastic work since the mid-50’s. This last image is a painting from 2005 (Harper died in 2007), and it’s just as visually singular and amazing as all the others before it…