Charley Harper for Ford Times.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Like so many other design-ey folks on the web, I am a huge Charley Harper fan. This is for many reasons: First of all, I love that he was a screen printer. His slick style of combining simple geometric shapes to create abstracted versions things we are all familiar with really lends itself to the mass/void technique in which screen print designs are based. Second, I love the era of his artwork. Third, he was really clever! His work had a sense of humor. Almost all of his art prints came with a little descriptive poem that he wrote describing the scene or the subjects of the prints. Fourth, he used great colors. I can probably come up with the 5th, 6th, and 7th reasons, but you get the idea. So far, I have one of Charley's serigraphs (fancy name for screen print). Beetle Battle, dated 1971. I snagged it on a whim with a "Make an Offer" auction on Ebay a few years ago. Needless to say, it's the pride and joy of my little art collection.

Not the greatest photo. I snapped this one when I first took it out of the box. I was so excited!
You can see it in the background of this product shot.
A few years ago, when I was first reading up on Charley and his work and learned that one of his first long-standing illustration jobs was for Ford Times. Ford Times was a free monthly publication that Ford printed as a promotional piece. It's main objective was to get Americans out onto the road exploring our great country, in Ford cars, of course!

Ford Times had running articles on American landmarks, restaurants to try when you're traveling, and articles on the newest innovations in the auto world. I started buying vintage Ford Times issues here and there about 3 years ago, and have amassed a decent little collection. Harper illustrated the two issue covers from 1954 shown here. I love that squirrel.


He started out illustrating recipes and miscellaneous articles, then moved on to the features that he became known for. Like the his "Feeding Station Birds" about American birds and "Horseless Carriage Adventures" about landmarks you can explore with your car. Below is a portion of his birds feature. You can see the instructions on the left side of the page for ordering the prints of the birds. Only $4.50 each! 



These little publications are great pieces of history. I enjoy reading through them and getting an idea of the times and how things have changed. I was looking through a few of my newly-acquired issues and came across this column that made me laugh:


I should read up on these helpful tips! You can read more about Charley Harper and his work for Ford Times in the "Ford Times Retrospective" on the Charley Harper Prints website.

4 comments:

  1. That is such an awesome piece of art!! I was lucky enough to be able to buy the Coffee Table book Todd Oldham got published.

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  2. Thanks! I'm a little embarrassed, though. It's one of my favorite things, ever, and I don't have any good photos of it! I have that book, too. Love it.

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  3. You might want to check these out, too: Charley Harper travel posters made for the U.S. government. Some still available, free shipping! http://retrorenovation.com/2011/09/29/charley-harper-posters-straight-from-u-s-government-original-stockpiles-cheap-free-shipping-no-tax/

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    1. Hi Pam. Yes! I have the Sierra Range one. It's big and beautiful! I really should order the rest of them, they're such a great deal.

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