Charley Harper’s World of Nature

Charley Harper, Graphic Design of Birds

In my search for science visualizations I stumbled across Charley Harper. Harper (1922-2007) is a Modernist Graphic Designer. He is best known for his wildlife prints, posters, and book illustrations. He made the illustrations for the Biology textbook, the Giant Golden Book of Biology. While I am a fan of his prints, I would have preferred images in a textbook. His images are something special in themselves. They offer a view of our innocent friends. You can tell he has a special relationship with wildlife because he paints a positive image of them. Bold colors draw our attention. He only portrays healthy animals in their prime. Simplicity in line and form brings out only the necessary elements. This makes it easier for the viewer to comprehend the message. There is beauty in simplicity. The lines and curves are in harmony. There are no ugly surprises. He was certainly a master in his profession. The art pieces are usually well contained, such that all the information you need to decipher the message is presented in the piece. The poses are very personal. I am guessing that Harper’s upbringing on a farm offered him many opportunities to study the behaviour of animals. This would have given him a lot of source material. But also provide him with a lot of quiet time to reflect on nature and grow fond of it. Perhaps I enjoy his work because I spent my adolescent summers in Algonquin Park watching the birds, beavers, moose, water, wind and trees. It’s the best time of the year to go camping and so I saw its the best side. Perhaps it is the combination of fond memories spent in the woods and the innocent tone of images that appeal to so many people. His pieces capture the live and beauty of the creatures we love but can never take home.