Day 56: Something Beautiful—Charlie Harper’s Menagerie


Something Beautiful is a 2013 self-imposed initiative to find a visual feast for each day of the year.

Waiting in the Institute’s nurse’s office this fall to get my flu shot, I looked unoptimistically at the stack of magazines on the coffee table. The lot was predictable. Prevention, Parenting. Health. Tucked near the bottom was Audubon. And I grabbed it. I carelessly leafed through great photos of birds I’d never heard of and then stopped fast. A spread of bird paintings. Not the traditional painstakingly realistic John Audubon variety I expected. Energetic, modern, graphic depictions that captured the essence of different species. You will not see one wildlife image on my walls, but I can tell you that I enjoyed and admired this man’s work. As design, it was genius.

In my mind’s “follow the rabbit down the hole travels in the topic of design” this week, I thought of the waiting room experience. I could not remember the artist’s name. “Bird artist, bird modern artist, Audubon story on modern bird artist” — none of the top of mind search terms worked. Then I thought of the cardinal—one of his images I’d seen many times. On posters, in magazines, printed on various things. “Stylized cardinal art.” Charlie Harper! Yes. That was the artist I had read about. And, I’d forgotten that he was from Cincinnati.

Looking at his work brought sheer joy. The paintings are whimiscal and funny. Great design—in the tradition of the clean modernist approach of European graphic designers of the 60s and 70s.


These are wonderful. Insightful analysis of distinguishing characteristics. Spare, minimalist —no wasted detail. Clever, well-conceived. All the best aspects of memorable iconic design.

The birds here aret some of my favorites, but I could not post without a nod to his well-recognized cardinal and his zebras and bugs which show higher levels of abstraction, conceptual thinking and much more . . .


About vbassoc

Donna Van Bogaert is a researcher and consultant in the field of cognitive styles, health communication, and organizational communication and behavior. Her business, Van Bogaert & Associates, Inc., specializes in cognitive-based coaching, management consulting, and leadership development. When the winds are blowing her way, she travels and talks about workplace potential and creative problem solving. In another life, Donna sings jazz. For a very long time, she fronted two 18-piece big bands —All That Jazz (Madison, WI) and The Gardenia Big Band (Rockford, IL). She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio where, in a third parallel universe, she leads a media branch of a national research institute. Mostly she has returned to painting, poetry, and plotting the next chapter of her life.
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One Response to Day 56: Something Beautiful—Charlie Harper’s Menagerie

  1. Bea Neal says:

    Love his work! :)B

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