Posts Tagged ‘Charley Harper’

The Great Backyard Bird Count

February 7, 2008

Every year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society run the Great Backyard Bird Count. This year’s is next weekend. Anyone can participate and it is no more difficult than looking out your window and counting the birds you see. You can do it all day long or for only a few minutes. All you have to do is spend a minimum of 15 minutes counting birds between February 15th and February 18th. Count the greatest number of any one or more species you see, write it down, then enter your results on the GBBC’s web page or mail the form and you are finished. It doesn’t matter where you count. If you want to get outside and head for a bird refuge, that’s fine. It is just as fine if you pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and sit next to your favorite window and count the birds you see from the warmth of your home.

The data you will be asked for is on this form. You simply write the highest number of birds for each species you see that were together at any one time. For example, if you watched a feeder for 15 minutes and saw three House Sparrows, then five, then two, you report five house sparrows. You can either mail the form or use the on-line form here.

Not sure of all the birds known to be in your area? You can download a list based on your zip code here.

This is real science. An annual snapshot of birds gives scientists information about migratory patterns, global climate change, local weather effects on birds, and populations of endangered birds. Last year 11 million birds of more than 600 species were counted.

If you have unfrozen water out for your birds — and you should have, they need it —  maybe you’ll see what Charley Harper saw; an American Robin bathing.


Charley Harper Update

February 3, 2008

We recently devoted a post to the wonderful work of Charley Harper. You can read it — and look at some of the art — here.

This morning the CBS program Sunday Morning did a story about Charley Harper and the fashion designer Todd Oldham. If you missed the story, here is the link to the story on the CBS web site.

And, just to bring a moment of joy to your day, here is one of his cards.


Another blog, The Golden State, writing about the art of punning, borrowed — with permission — our post about Charley Harper. You can read that post here.

Charley Harper

January 6, 2008


You have to love a man who, after creating this crow in a snow field, says of it:

Crows are black birds and blackbirds are also, but a crow in the snow is so much the more so. If you’re pro-crow you proclaim his intellect, his resourcefulness, and the visual poetry of his somber silhouette on the calligraphy of the cornfield. But if it’s your cornfield, you have good caws to compose creative crowfanities when he arrives. Think of it as sharecropping: he gets the grasshoppers, you get the corn, and the few ears missed in the harvest are held in, well–escrow.

We sell his cards in our store and many of them have similar funny, punny descriptions.

Ready to send your Valentine’s Day cards? Here is “Vowlentine.”


Or how about “Herondipity?” On the back of this card we learn that male and female herons are almost identical which means it is easy to be “herroneous” when guessing their gender.


Here is his “Wings of the World.” If you are a birder, see how many you can identify. If you are not a birder, see how many you can count. Birder or not, you can revel in the art.


If you are interested, follow the instructions on this poster, “Visit Our Website.”visit-my-web-site-u.jpg

Mr. Harper was an artist of nature, most often birds. He died last year. Mr. Harper got his full quotient of years on the planet, dying at the age of 84 and leaving behind a large body of joyous, modernistic nature art.

He was John J. Audubon and Louis Agassiz Fuertes, updated. Calling himself a “minimal realist,” he reduced his subjects to the simplest visual terms he could. He said of himself that he counted only wings, not feathers when he drew. According to him, he was a lousy birdwatcher.

I found a bird guide by Don Eckelberry and realized that was all I needed–those birds didn’t move. I’m the world’s worst bird watcher. That’s my dirty little secret. I do all my bird watching in bird guides.

Which is better than shooting them, like Audubon did, you have to admit.

Born on a farm in West Virginia, he spent most of his life in Cincinnati. His publishing career started in the 1950’s when his illustrations appeared in Ford Times. His writing started at that magazine as well when he took over the job of captioning the little magazine from E.B. White.

He put his art in the service of nature. Here is a poster he did for the National Park Service.

Here is “We Think the World of Birds” a work he did for the Cornell Ornithological Laboratory.


Of this piece he said,

It occurred to me that I could make the world the shape of an egg, and then make the trees upside-down eggs–a visual pun. After that, there was just the matter of putting in the birds.

According to an interview at the Cornell site, this was one of the works of his life that most pleased him.

You can find examples of his work on our web site, on the web and in Beguiled by the Wild: The Art of Charley Harper, 1994, Flower Valley Press, Gaithersburg, Maryland.

We were blessed to have him. Here is his 1982 serigraph Tern, Stones, and Turnstones
Terns and Turnstones

Here is what he said about it:

If you’re terned off–I mean, “turned” off–by puns, don’t go away. The ol’ punster has terned (make that “turned”) over a new leaf. I promise not to punctuate this paragraph with such punishments as no stone unterned, no U-terns–no more awful puns. Just the facts: a Roseate Tern and some Ruddy Turnstones share a pebbly beach along the ? WAIT! I CAN’T STAND IT ANY LONGER! Ternabout’s fair play. No terning back now. The ol’ punster has passed the point of no retern.

He has indeed. For the rest of us, his death was a tern for the worse.


Update:  Febuary 3, 2008.  CBS did a story about Charley Harper and Todd Oldham this morning.  We posted the link here.

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