Thursday, February 23, 2012

Charley Harper



One of my favorite artists of all time is Charley Harper – his style was incredibly simple and clean while at the same time impressively precise at portraying birds and wildlife accurately. The famous quote by Charley Harper is “I don’t count the feathers in the wings; I just count the number of wings”. He might not have counted feathers, but he obviously paid close attention to detail. His bird depictions were good enough to now represent one of the most famous bird institutions in the World. If you are familiar with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology their relatively new logo depicts one of Charley’s birds, a yellow-bellied sapsucker.



When my wife and I first started talking about how we were going to decorate our nursery she showed me a picture of a nursery wall mural she liked. The design she showed me was of a tree painted in white on a number of pink canvases that were then fitted together like a puzzle on the wall. I agreed to attempt such a project as long as I could make use of the theme “Eastern Deciduous Forest” – she agreed. From the start I knew that I wanted to attempt this project in the style of Charley Harper.

I started by going to the art store and noting all of the different sizes of pre-stretched canvases that they had and then I made a bunch of note cards to scale and measured my son’s room to determine how much space I had to work with. I laid out a bunch of options and quickly picked one that included 10 different canvases. At this point I was excited about the start of the project and did not think about how long it was going to take. I bought my first canvas primed it with the paint we used to paint the room and started at the bottom.


Once the bottom was done I jumped to the top only because I was excited to do the great blue heron – the fawn at the base of the tree and the heron at the top are still my favorite two pieces of the project.


Next I bought all of the rest of the canvases, painted them blue and then put all of them on the wall so I could sketch the tree on the rest of the pieces.


Then one by one I painted them. I left a blue “frame” around each one because I knew I would never get the tree lines perfectly lined up and wanted to set each apart from each other. I started this project in March before my son was born – he was born in July and I finished in February – so it took almost a year to complete.

After attempting to recreate Charley Harper’s style and even more or less copy some of his birds onto my tree – I don’t know how he did it. As hard as I tried I could not get as clean of lines as he did. His work is amazing! He was an incredible artist and I will not attempt another project like this any time soon. Here is my tribute to Charley Harper.


6 comments:

Cathy Holtom said...

It's beautiful, well worth the effort.

Debo Boddiford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debo Boddiford said...

WOW...This is AWESOME! Your hard work paid off! This will be treasured by your son for years and years to come!

Kate (Cathy Johnson) said...

This is just brilliant! Wonderful work...

Revelle Taillon said...

now that's a work of love! love charlie harper too!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have some note cards with Charley's art on them. I bet he would be happy that you were inspired by his work. Well done. How you got it accomplished in just a year is amazing to me. I don't know how people that work full time has any time left to create. Plus you have a young family to attend. Bravo.