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Beguiled By The Wild – The Art of CharleyHarper

Posted by joeabbott on December 21, 2009

I read a lot. Some books I finish, some I reread, but I almost always have a couple going. When Suzy and I are on vacation we almost always come home with books. Mostly about the places we’re visiting.

I just finished The Yule Lads by Brian Pilkington (which is about an hour’s read … if you take time to really look at the pictures) and am now working on A Brief History of Iceland by Gunnar Karlsson (more my cup of tea). I have a couple others going, but I’m hot and cold on them.

But this entry will be about a book I received for my birthday called Beguiled By The Wild – The Art of CharleyHarper. It is, of course, by Charley and a collection of many of his prints from over the years. The book was published in 1994 and I saw a copy at the Puyallup Fair while walking through the 4H Arts buildings. We actually went to the Fair twice this year and I had decided that I wanted a copy of the book even though it was expensive. Charley’s art just grabbed me and kept me thinking about it. Unfortunately, they were out, but Suzanne is ever-watchful and noticed my interest. On the sly she got me a copy for my birthday. I wrote about we “week of plenty” (as I’ve begun to think of the Week of Joe) previously, so I want to just consider the book.

I’d started reading (although that’s not the best word … you read a bit and then spend a great deal of time looking at the art and reflecting on Charley’s clever turning of a phrase) almost immediately and then put aside. I have what I like to think of as a simple life, but it sure seems busy sometimes. Anyhow, we’ve had the book on our coffee table for weeks and just the other day I picked it up and finished it. What a joy!

Charley seems to enjoy making puns and wordplay as much a part of the piece as he does the art, but I like the pictures. Most of all the ladybugs. To the right is one of my favorite bits and it goes a long way toward explaining what I like. The piece is entitled The Last Aphid. Indeed!

I like the simple shapes, the symmetry, the patterns that fall out of the overall design. I like the way Charley simply and elegantly finds the defining characteristics in the animals and exploits them in his art. Just a great job. Another favorite is the Stag beetle from the piece called Beetle Battle. I’ve included a cropped close-up from it to the left. Hopefully it will serve as an example of the elements I like about Charley’s work!

The book has a lot to like. While insects are fun, Charley also does a lot with birds and other mammals. From the book cover above (the piece is called Serengeti Spaghetti) you can see how the patterns really play with the eye. Here’s one of my favorites from that department: Birds of a Feather. It’s just a nice flock of red-winged blackbirds and a few fall leaves. Nice stuff, Chuck!

Anyhow, now the book goes onto the bookshelf to be referenced whenever I want a smile or a little chuckle. Here’s a sample of the pun-ishment you’ll go through if you read Charley’s short descriptions that go with each picture; from The Last Aphid:

Of all the insects that make house calls, the lady bug has the best bedside manner. Flower bed, that is. If your roses are wasting away with acute aphiditis and you’ve despaired of home remedies, tired of transplants, and turned agnostic about technological faith healing (let us spray – the medicine works but the world ends up with the DDTs), here’s a sure cure that’s environmentally friendly. Rx – ladybugs: one teaspoonful just before mealtime. Their mealtime, that is.


One Response to “Beguiled By The Wild – The Art of CharleyHarper”

  1. […] my mother. She had heard that I really enjoyed Charley’s stuff (see my previous write up on Beguiled by the Wild) and got me what appears to be a comprehensive collection of Charley’s art through his many […]

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