First books, with few or no words, are designed to produce smiles first and then an interest in an elementary story line. With a limited number of characters, little or no conflict and resolution, these tales for beginners are short and sweet.
So pleasing, so hopeful — so like a Charley Harper illustration are the early years we measured by sounds, smells and sights.
In a style Harper calls minimal realism, the six-decade career illustrator renders only the most important details of a subject. He assumes the viewer understands the nature of the subject, and then takes off in a singular, simplistic style.
By flattening out the picture frame and creating depth with overlapping images, the resulting patterns and designs are striking and unique interpretations of the subject matter. They inform, entertain and enlarge the visual experience.
In the 1950s “Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cookbook,” Harper’s illustrations use sight gags to build the characters of a newlywed couple.
The pair is humorously depicted as they grapple with domestic challenges. The recipes that celebrate the happy union are illustrated with wit and a wink. (The potatoes really have eyes.)
Charley Harper is a man who spins gold from the most rudimentary subjects. His joyous style illuminates nature’s smallest moments and recalls the most beautiful of all life’s seasons, childhood.