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If you've been reading along with me for a bit, you already know that I am a huge fan of Charley Harper's unique artistic style and his minimalistic animal illustrations. You may have also already sewn my last Charley Harper inspired quilt, Bird Watching. This Cincinnati quilt pattern that I'm bringing you today, offers more insight into the man behind the artwork. Each quilt block creates a frame, or a window, if you will, to showcase the individual bird illustrations.
A Cincinnati Man
In my previous CH post I briefly brushed over a few facts about him – one being that he spent the majority of his life living in Cincinnati. Harper's early years living on a farm in West Virginia were incredibly influential, however it wasn't until he moved to Ohio and began attending the Art Academy of Cincinnati that his skills as an illustrator truly began to flourish.
Also while at the academy, Harper became close friends with a fellow art student, Edie McKee, whom he married shortly after graduation in 1947. He saw Edie as a peer and partner in creating art and together, with their son Brett, they eventually formed Harper Studios.
As a nature artist, Harper saw the forests and creatures of Ohio as his true inspiration and guide. During his long career as an artist (over 50 years!), he placed his stamp on Cincinnati by illustrating animals for many nature-based organizations including the Cincinnati Zoo, the Cincinnati Nature Center, the Hamilton County Part District (Ohio) as well as multiple posters and prints for the National Park District.
Fun fact: Just outside of Chicago in the village of Oak Park is Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio along with many other beautiful houses designed by him. Before finishing this quilt I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to get a pic of a Charley Harper quilt next to a FLW house? Two great midwestern artists colliding. Actually, if I throw myself into the mix, let's just say three midwestern artists. 🙂
A Cincinnati Quilt
My first Charley Harper quilt emphasized his style, – influenced by Cubism and Minimalism. Bird Watching uses big, bold shapes and large templates to achieve minimal cuts and seams with maximum impact. I think, however, if CH was here now, he would really like this Cincinnati quilt. Once when asked to describe his style he said,
When I look at a wildlife ..., I don't see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced...; and herein lies the lure of the painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe.
With this Cincinnati quilt pattern, I've created multiple small rectangles for Harper's ordered universe. With exciting shapes, color combinations and quilted textures, you too can recreate this design – using just a few strips and lots of imagination!
Quilting Notions and Tools
Sewing Machine 101