Kids for Art! Art for Kids! | Charley Harper

by , posted on November 12th, 2013 in Art School

charley harper art project

There are few illustrators whose style stands out so unmistakably and so unique as Charley Harper. Most of us can browse through our children’s bookshelves and pick out his works in an instant, books on colors, ABCs, shapes. The thing that stands out most of all is the simplicity of his work. Here’s a quote of his that really explains this well, “when I look at wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns…in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle.” How beautiful for our children to think about something their little imaginations often do all on their own.

This “minimal realism” is what lends itself to his colorful, bold art, not fussy with lots of details of texture and shading, just whimsical illustrations. Minimal means smaller amount, so he wasn’t trying to create a picture that’s as accurate or “real” as possible. Take for instance this red bird,

Red-and-fed Charley Harper

What shapes do you see? Can your child point out the teardrop, the triangles that create the beak, the triangle tail? How about the rectangles on the branch? We are huge fans of this book—the illustrations and photos are wonderful. If you have access to this book or are at the library, let your child browse through and take note of Charley Harper’s style.

Today, we are going to be creating our very own Charley Harper inspired piece. You will need newspaper, construction paper, white paper, glue stick, scissors, and a pencil or black marker.

harper supplies

Using the newspaper, cut or tear out pieces that will be the branch in the picture. Glue them down with your glue stick.

charley harper art project for kids

Next start cutting different shapes out of the construction paper. Teardrops, triangles, semi-circles. Pretty soon shapes will turn into animals when you layer them on top of each other.

charley harper art project

charley harper art project

Using a pencil or marker, fill in the legs. Charley Harper was known for very simple legs, just a straight line and a dot. Easy as can be. If you’d like to add any additional birds or leaves, go ahead and glue those down as well.

charley harper project for kids

charley harper art project
Before you know it, your own shapes will have a life of their own, one of birds and nature, your own “one small rectangle” in a “world of chaos”.

Kids art project inspired by Charley Harper

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8 Responses to “Kids for Art! Art for Kids! | Charley Harper”

  1. Jillian In Italy Says:

    November 12th, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Fantastic! He’s one of my favourite artists!

    Deborah Reply:

    Us too! I just love the non-fussiness of everything he does.


  2. rachael {imagine gnats} Says:

    November 12th, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    i love this!

    Deborah Reply:

    Thanks Rachael!


  3. Molly Says:

    November 17th, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    I love how the art came out! It’s great.

    This is a really nice how-to book on Charley Harper birds, if anyone is interested:

    Deborah Reply:

    Thanks Molly! Appreciate your kind words.


  4. Cassi Says:

    May 21st, 2014 at 1:36 am

    I love Charley Harper so I’m thrilled to be able to share this on The Crafty Crow as a way for kids to be exposed to his work!

  5. Lexie Says:

    June 3rd, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Hi Deborah!
    Thanks for this project! I have included a Pin and link on my post about Telephone by Mac Barnett.

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