Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Birdy Art? or Charles Harper?

RSPB catalogue Christmas 2013
Recently I received my Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Christmas catalogue. I leafed through it, momentarily I was excited by the items pictured above. I thought, wow? did the RSPB use Charles Harper? As an American I have known about Charles Harper's artwork since I was a kid (over 40 years) often featuring in the children's wildlife magazine Ranger Rick, also Harper's art was a main stay illustrator for Birdwatcher's Digest and the National Audubon Society. With a closer look I found no mention of of Charles Harper or any artist name, just "Birdy" "Birdy design combines vibrant, contemporary styling with a definite nod to the 1950's." Needless to say I was disappointed with the RSPB for it's seemingly generic art on the household items in this "Birdy" style. Until someone can prove to me these are licensed Harper designs, I can't buy them, even though I sort of like it, I would always see it as an designers copy subverting the true artist. As an artist myself every time I abstract a bird I have to acknowledge Harper's influences in my own art, I personally find this a bit to close and I wonder what they were thinking? I support the RSPB and don't want to say anything to scathing about their product development, but I also support the protection of the artist & photographer's writes to their images.

The good news is, I just saw that the Audubon Magazine is giving away a classic!
Charles Harper Book!

Painting by Charley Harper


Published: 11/18/2013
We're giving away five copies of the 40-year anniversary edition of Charles Harper's Birds & Words. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below, and be sure to include a viable email address (it won't show up on the page). The official rules are below. The contest ends at midnight, Friday, November 29, 2013. In the meantime, here's a little about the book from the publisher, AMMO Books. Good luck!
This lovely reissue of the highly collectible 1974 classic is a Charley Harper gem. AMMO has carefully restored all the images and reproduced Birds & Words in its entirety and in its original format.
Hawfinch by T. H. Hyndman
One of my works on paper owing influences from Harper and maybe Picasso. It's hard to denie the artistic connections for me... My father started buying, framing and selling Charles Harper's signed and numbered screen prints in the 1970's. Some still hang on the wall of my parents house today.

UPDATE: "Birdy" is definitely not Charles Harper's designs. As I learnt this from one of comments left by one of my readers below, Birdy is designed by a group that call them self Magpie. Aptly named as we all know Magpies the birds have a habit of stealing things. Even if the designers honestly don't know about Charles Harper, I'm ashamed of the RSPB for having any connection to the "Birdy" line of products, they should know the history and similarity of images like these so famously used by American birding organizations.


  1. Hi Tommy, I'm familiar with these designs from the RSPB and elsewhere, and thought you might be interested in the designers' home page. Love the blog, great to see the orcas, and hoping the waxwings will visit you soon!

    1. And I agree, now I've looked at some of CH's designs, which are far superior too. Love your Hawfinch.