Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Different Kind of Hunter Gatherer

In what now seems a lifetime ago, yours truly was a theater rat. A prop mistress to be exact, handing off various items to the likes of Alec Baldwin and Dana Delaney long before they were ever Jack Donaghy and a Desperate Housewife. While that part of my life has faded into legendary memories one habit just won't die. Chasing down your prop prey. Currently that means haunting antique malls and poking through thrift stores, always on the lookout for kitchen gadgets, distinctive dishes and colorful bowls. I seem to have a bowl itch that will never stay sufficiently scratched. I have enough bowls to serve the Waltons Christmas dinner on Walton's Mountain. One of the items on the search list stashed in my cranial memory stick was a cookbook. A Betty Crocker cookbook. Normally I don't plunk down cash for vintage Betty Crocker stuff, just not my style. But the Dinner for Two cookbook (circa 1958) was one I always had my eye out for. Why? Certainly not for the recipes but for the illustrator.

The great Charley Harper. His artwork is amazing and beautiful. With a few simple shapes and color he immediately captures the nature of a sparrow. He never shied away from life's brutal nature as illustrated in his portrayal of an owl at night from the perspective of the about to be dinner mouse or the incredibly sad statement he reveals in Backhoeasaurus. So when I saw the metal spiral spine in the pile of books at the estate sale I was rummaging through, I held my breath.

Betty Crocker's Dinner for Two cookbook

Really? I had it in my hands? In great condition for being fifty three years old, sitting there just waiting for Karma to steer me towards this little tucked away condo?


Even better? It was half priced day at the estate sale. My discovery cost me exactly one dollar. BWHHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH.

Harper's Outdoor dinners

harper southernbird


These are just a few of the fantastic illustrations. There are some food photos. They are classic mid-century food presentation style images. Elaborate table settings with brass candle sticks, copper salt and pepper shakers and visually busy tablecloths. But it's one of the few cookbooks I didn't buy for the photos. If you'd like to see more of the artwork of Charley Harper, check out Charley Harper Prints.


the dogs' mother said...

How very kewl! I like the pheasant recipe - have the hunter pluck, draw, clean and cut up the pheasant. (Grandfather the fisherman was also grandfather the pheasant hunter.) Thanks for the link.

MakingSpace said...

I always love your stories about your old days as a props mistress, and how that has influenced your eye and your arts and implements collections.

The artwork seems truly original, and I wonder what it is about his style that appeals so strongly.

And such a find!!! Karmic Kitchen, indeed!

Sharon Rudd said...

Charley Harper! He was from my city - and an illustrator, nature lover, and designer extraordinare. My dad was a friend and fan and has a few of Charley's prints. Alas, I think us kids have given our parents all the stylized Charley Harper Christmas ornaments he designed before he died. Charley's son is, however, carrying on the tradition.

Shamy, you not only found yourself a bargain, you found a treasure!

Sharon Rudd said...

You might be interested in this mosaic of Charley Harper's:


MakingSpace said...

Eggy that's so amazing!!! Love these connections...

Dani said...

If there's a drawing that you really love from the cookbook make a copy and I can stitch it up for you. School will be starting soon so I'll need something to do while I wait in the car line.

Big Shamu said...

Froggy,gamebirds still plentiful so keep that recipe handy.

MS, if you look at more of his work, he has a fascinating sense of humor to his work. Like a single blackberry surrounded by a herd of bears.

Froggy, more Charley Harper books and magazines out there so I'll still stay on the hunt.

Dani, funny that you mention that. When I was google-trolling for images I discovered that Charley's images are VERY popular with the stitching crowd. Most likely the simplicity of shapes and color. Will look through and decide but it's not going to be easy to pick out a favorite.

Susan said...

WOW !! what a find - I love the funky scripty menu type as well. Gorgeous, simple illustrations & oh my Toby the red dog ...

Terry and Linda said...

I just bookmarked you and put you in my rss feed! YOu are a hoot!


Big Shamu said...

Linda, I'm pretty sure "hoot" is one of the kinder things I've been called but welcome and welcome to all the furry creatures on your big farm.

Captain Obvious said...

Captain Obvious says:

Captain Obvious has had several large Charlie Harper wildlife posters in his living room for years.

Big Shamu said...

Big Shamu is very envious of Captain Obvious and his Charley Harper posters.

Captain Obvious said...

Captain Obvious says:

Charley Harper...that's what CO meant :)

Captain Obvious has not had much sleep lately.

Because of that, Captain Obvious almost said:

'Captain Obvious has had several large Charlie Harper TGI Friday's quickfire wildlife posters in his living room for years.'

CO missed the 'ie' in the edit.

Captain Obvious also likes this original Ford Times Charley Harper cover that is up on the wall. CO also got that for $1 :)