Charley Harper was a true original. A commercial illustrator whose career spanned six decades, he has recently been re-discovered, thanks in large part to Todd Oldham, a young designer best known for his TV show "Top Design" on Bravo.
Harper flourished as the golden age of illustration was winding down, in the 1950's and 1960's, a time when photography and later computer graphics were beginning to replace traditional drawing, painting, and printmaking, in the commercial world. His medium was silk-screen and he described his style as "minimal realism", but his look is uncannily like--and yet so different from--the Adobe Illustrator vector art so popular today. I think that's why a whole new generation of artists and designers are so responsive to his work.
Harper's best known work is his birds, a few of which are shown here. For my tribute to Charley, which is done in cut-paper collage and Pigma pen, I've chosen origami papers by a young Japanese designer, Ayako Akazawa, who designs exclusively on the computer. Akazawa's papers, which are a modern interpretation of traditional origami patterns, are available under the title Origami Craft Pad, through Chronicle Books.
Charley Harper never worked on the computer. But I think he'd have a lot to talk about with today's young designers, and I sure wish I could send him a link to today's post. Charley passed away in 2007. I am grateful that his art survives.