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Charles Harper's Birds and Words Hardcover – May 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Charley Harper was an American original who created his art from his home studio in Cincinnati, Ohio, until his death in 2007, at the age of eight-four. He is beloved for his delightful, graphic, and often humorous illustrations of nature, animals, insects, and people alike. Charley liked 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 called it, and his unique and precise style continue to resonate and inspire his admirers.
--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 151 pages
  • Publisher: AMMO Books; Reissue edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934429058
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934429051
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.9 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #654,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charley Harper (August 4, 1922 - June 10, 2007) had an alternative way of looking at nature. His serigraphs were large expanses of rich color, which gave the viewer a very different perspective on the animal kingdom. A conservationist as well as an artist, Harper revealed the unique aspects of his wildlife subjects through highly stylized geometric reduction. Harper said he was "the only wildlife artist who has never been compared to Audubon," yet his wildlife art was just as instructive - the only difference was that Harper laced his lessons with humor. Harper believed that humor made it easier to encourage changes in our attitudes and awareness of environmental concerns.

There was a rare and delightful playfulness in Harper's artwork. There was also graphic genius. Harper said, "When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don't see feathers, fur, scapulars or tail coverts - none of that. 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."

Reared on a West Virginia farm, Harper developed an early appreciation and love of animals as well as design. He attended West Virginia Wesleyan College and graduated from the Cincinnati Art Academy, where he also taught for many years. Gradually, Harper began to lose his interest in realism. "I felt shackled by the laws of perspective and shading and decided that the constant attempt to create the illusion of three dimensions on the two-dimensional plane of the picture was limiting me as an artist. Realistic painting persuades the viewer that he is looking into space rather than at a flat surface. It denies the picture plane, which I affirm and use as an element of design. Wildlife art has been dominated by realism, but I have chosen to do it differently because I think flat, hard-edge and simple."

In his artwork, Harper imaginatively investigated the similarities between human and wild animal behaviors, but completely without anthropomorphism. "I learn as much as I can about the creatures that interest me, and they all do. I observe them and find out how they interact with each other and their environments and ask myself, 'What if?'"
© 2002 The Mill Pond Press Companies

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Alisha Thibodeau on May 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have an original copy of this book which was given to me by my grandmother. The art and the text are whimsical and playful but have a strong undercurrent of environmental respect. Mr Harper is brilliant. This book would be worth three times as much as the list price,
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Book Worm on May 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of Charley Harper's art, but what's makes this book so special is Charley's writing. His sense of humor and word play are equal to his paintings! Great gift for all occassions.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Addison Dewitt VINE VOICE on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After seeing a retrospective show of both Charlie and Edie Harper at the Cincinnati Museum of Art, I had to purchase this book. Charlie's bird silkscreens are illustrations, designs and fantastic artpieces all in one. His minimalist approach can teach any artist what to leave out in order to improve a painting. I can only imagine what it might have been like to have been a student of his. The works are rich and clean and the reproductions in this book are excellent quality. Also, make sure and notice the clever side-characters he puts in to help represent the environment that each bird lives in: snails, frogs, butterflies and flora... each exquisitely designed and can stand on their own as amazing.

A side note: I wish there were a similar volume of Edie's works, she is every bit as clever and talented an artist as Charlie and one can easily see the influence of each on the other.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Theresa J. Tober on June 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was a very good example of Charley Harper's artwork and how he developed his own style. He was a very unique and interesting artist. I love his work. And his comments that he put with his art is also fun to read. He was a unique artist. I had seen him on Sunday Morning and decided I liked what I saw so decided to pursue purchasing some of his art in books. The preciseness of his art is quite unusual and I am amazed how he enables you to see the birds in their natural habitat by using the utensils he used to create his art. I would love to see some of his silk screen work. He paid attention to detail and color and it is reflected in his work.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By K. Russell on June 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a gem. We bought it as a gift for our 8 yr. old son who is a bird enthusiast, and my husband and I, both illustrators, love it just as much. Charley Harper's illustrations are at the same time ingenious, gorgeous and often humorous. This is one of my favorite books and a great value too.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael M. Smith on May 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This small book is an absolute gem. A friend loaned her copy to my wife and I, knowing that both of us are artists. We loved it so much I immediately ordered a copy.

Charles Harper's ability to see the essence of a particular bird and render it with stunning beauty and exquisite simplicity is amazing. If you love birds, fine art, printmaking and design you will love this book. Buy it now, while you can. You will not regret the purchase.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Janice Phelps Williams on November 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this little book as a gift to myself. Being a bird lover, and designer, and -- well, I need little reason to buy a beautiful book. I saw a TV program highlighting Mr. Harper's work, and then looked for books on him. I choose to buy this one due to the bird theme. The artwork is a wonderful example of how the simplest designs can be the most beautiful (and fool us into thinking design is easy!). What a master this man was with shape, form, line and color. I have much to learn in this regard...and Harper's books have much to teach.

I'm also a big fan of Eva Zeisel's designs, and I can see correlation between the two artists and their mastery of form.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Baker on February 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a delightful little book. Don't be misled by the wit and whimsey, (which is highly enjoyable) this book is full of excellent illustrations by an inventive artist.
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