For the Birds: Charley Harper and others

If you love gardens, you must love birds. While working outside, how could you not notice when a flock of Cedar Waxwings lands in your persimmon tree, or the first pair of Hooded Orioles returns in April, or a Cooper’s Hawk swoops down over your bird feeder? I was lucky enough to start birdwatching several years ago with a friend in town who started leading excursions into our local wilderness. Like a lot of beautiful things (art, gardening, even thrifting), it’s all about looking more closely.

Lately, I’ve stumbled upon various graphic artists who draw birds. I love how they interpret them in such different ways. Here are three I’m in love with–Josh Brill, Valentina Ramos and Charlie Harper (the BEST for last!!!). The birdies outside are so happy and tweeting like mad now with our recent warming spell, so I thought this was a great time to celebrate our winged friends! This first artist, Josh Brill, did these stylistic take-offs of John James Audubon’s original educational drawings of birds.


These are by Valentina Ramos, a Venezuelan graphic artist living in Miami,
who was just showcased on Studio G. blog.
I saved my favorite for last. As a mid-century fan (OK, obsessed nut!),
 I love Charlie Harper.

I just found a fabulous cookbook he illustrated for Betty Crocker, called Two for Dinner, first published in 1958 on Ebay. The cover is a generic photo of a set tabletop, but inside are his precious illustrations. (And since my husband and I are about to become emtpy nesters, we might even like these recipes!)

 I also just splurged on his book, Charles Harper’s Birds and Words.
A Cactus Wren on a skull. “When a six-year-old tourist asks,
 ‘What for is a cactus?’ this wren is your answer. He lives in it.” C.H.


A Northern Cardinal. “Startling as a shooting star, unbelievable as thunder on a winter’s day,
this feathered hyperbole is what you can always say something else is as red as. But nothing else is as.” C.H.


The American Flamingo. “Of the millions of Flamingos in America today, only a handful are alive.
The rest are front-lawn effigies, proclaiming to all passers-by our national love for beauty.” C.H.
This one is for all you lucky desert dwellers. We were just out in Tuscon over Xmas and I saw my first Gilded Flicker (on left with red mark on cheek. My all-time favorite, the Greater Roadrunner (big guy, bottom center)! Anna’s Hummer,  right side maybe a flycatcher, ??? No idea on yellow guy, and can only guess the bright red/pink one on right, Vermilion Flycatcher? I love the glowing-eyed silhouettes of the nocturnal critters, an owl, coyote, rats, etc.
Those of you with bird feeders will appreciate this one.
And this last one is called “The Last Sunflower Seed.” Ah, birding humor.
This is what Charles Harper wrote in the foreword of his Charles Harper’s Birds and Words
book (and keep in mind he’s not a preachy guy.)
“Where does one draw the line between preservation of nature and preservation of self? Can a nature lover ever find true happiness at the top of the food chain? If you find humor in my work, it’s because I’m laughing to keep from screaming.”
Amen, Mr. Harper.
Here’s one of my favorite books on birds, by Charlie Harper.
Click on image to buy it:

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