Eleanor Grosch interview

Eleanor Grosch, Pushmepullyou Design, illustration, interview

I first stumbled upon Eleanor’s work while out shoe shopping a few years ago. I found a menagerie of Keds slip-on shoes with the loveliest animal patterns ever-imaginable…doves, giraffes, camels, and even cows! It was love at first sight!

Since that shopping extravaganza, I came to learn that the wonderful Ms. Grosch was behind those whimsical designs. Her work incorporates carefully chosen color palettes with geometric shapes and attentive lines, much in the style of her hero, Charley Harper.

In addition to designing for Keds, Eleanor has also designed for Alien Workshop, Urban Outfitters, and Chronicle Books. Her work diversely appears on rock posters, skateboards, apparel, and various publications. This past April, Print Magazine honored Eleanor as one of their New Visual Artists of 2008.

Before we bite into the meat of this interview, I’ve gathered a few nibbles and goodies of Eleanor’s work from the past years:

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Where are you from originally?

I’m from Tampa, FL originally.  I grew up there and went to the University of South Florida for Fine Art.

What made you move all the way from Florida to Philadelphia & how do you like it there? I’ve never been!

I wanted some adventure!  My best friend Jenny and I had just visited NYC for the first time and we fell in love with it.  We were both 23 and really naive.  We went back a year later with the intention to move and realized that we just weren’t a good fit for the big city.  So, a bit defeated, we returned to Florida and took a look at visiting some other cities that maybe wouldn’t be just so fast-paced.  Eventually we visited Philly and it felt right so we moved a month later.  I love Philadelphia so much!  It’s perfect for me.  I love to ride a bike around, and it’s a small enough city to allow that easily.  Also, it’s pretty cheap to live here.  Everything is laid-back and cool here.

How about some background info on “Pushmepullyou Design?” Where did the name come from?
I had always liked Dr.Doolittle, and the name came from his two-headed llama, the pushmepullyou.

When did you first become interested in illustration/graphic design?
When I was born! I think once my parents saw that I loved to draw they encouraged that in me. I’ve always wanted to be an illustrator. When I saw Gigposters.com, I knew the design part was for me also.
Eleanor Grosch, Pushmepullyou Design, Interview, Illustration

That’s great that your parents were so encouraging. Were they always supportive of your decision in becoming an illustrator?
To a degree, they were supportive. They always wanted me to do what I love and to be happy, but they were concerned about the money side of things. That’s why they wanted me to go to a state university so that my loans would be low or non-existent. It worked out okay! My Parents are pretty relieved I think!

What was the first drawing you remember making and how old were you?
That would definitely be the “famous” (in my family, anyway!!) picture of me as a potato-shaped person falling off my chair and my potato-shaped mom coming to rescue me. I think I was 2 and a half or so.

Eleanor Grosch, Pushmepullyou Design, Interview, Illustration

That drawing is fantastic! Thanks for sharing it!

How did you like art school?
I loved college. I went to a state school with a very general Fine Art program, so I got exposed to a lot of different types of art making. I took a ceramics class and a sculpture class along with traditional drawing and then even some electronic media. It was great!

It sounds like a lot of fun! What drew you to screenprinting?
I had taken a class on Printmaking and we covered screenprinting in that class. I liked it okay, but it seemed like a lot of work! I later realized that I could do it pretty easily at home and that the work was worth it because once set up, the edition could be as big as I wanted. I think the largely shape-based quality of my work lends itself well to screenprinting.

What was your first design gig?
A poster for Fin Fang Foom (a band) through the Orpheum in Tampa, FL. I used to dance there on a Saturday and I remember seeing my poster up for the first time! What a thrill!!

The geometry, lines, and animals in your work remind me a lot of one of my favorite illustrators, Charley Harper. When/how were you introduced to his work?
I love Charley too! He’s the master. I was introduced to his work through my projects with Alien Workshop. The guys at AWS are all big fans of his too!

Eleanor Grosch, Pushmepullyou Design, Interview, Illustration

Who are some current artists that you admire?
I love Dirk Fowler, Methane Studios, Tim Gough, Jason Munn, and Kevin Mercer. They’re great!!

Who/what else inspires you?
I try to be open to inspiration every day. You never know when a color-scheme or a shape might catch your eye.

What is a typical day for you like?
I love to work out, so I start my day with breakfast (bear naked granola – yum!) and a run or a spinning class. Then I come home, shower, and turn on the TV. Then I start to draw or design and usually either stay at that or interrupt to screenprint downstairs. I always take a break for lunch and then again for dinner, and I sometimes even get a chance to meet a friend for coffee or a drawing break. It’s a great life!

Eleanor was kind enough to show us around her home and studio.

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How fun! I remember being first introduced to your work via the designs you made for Keds. Did you ever imagine your work would be on the feet of people walking around the world? How did you land that gig?
Absolutely not! It was the most amazing thing! I got set up with Keds through an interview in NYLON, which I had gotten through being at Flatstock. I later found out that Jason Munn had recommended me to the writer who was asking around for new artists (Thank you, Jason!!)

How would you describe your creative process?
I turn on the TV and start messing around on the computer. I’d love to pin it down more, but it’s pretty crappy and simple, really. I think a lot of people might be disappointed to find out that someone’s creative process is so normal.

I asked Eleanor to show us the steps she takes in drawing an animal. For this exercise, I had her draw an animal she hasn’t drawn before…a sloth

1. I start by doing a simple Google search for the animal I’m about to draw. Then I paste the pic into Illustrator so I can begin work.
Eleanor Grosch, Pushmepullyou Design, Interview, Illustration

2. I create the few basic shapes with the shape tool in Illustrator so that I have my basis to start
Eleanor Grosch, Pushmepullyou Design, Interview, Illustration

3. After that, I adjust the points to create a bit more accuracy in the shapes if necessary.
Eleanor Grosch, Pushmepullyou Design, Interview, Illustration

4. Then I create the appendages and a few details to add to the animal.

5. For this sloth illustration, I created some long hair strands because the shape of a sloth’s body is so basic that a few hairs really add a lot.

6. Usually if I’m making lines like these, I’ll create a set and then “drag copy” the group in Illustrator to save me time and work. (Notice the same group used about 4 times at different angles on the back)

Eleanor Grosch, Pushmepullyou Design, Interview, Illustration

7. Adding more detail to the head is accomplished by using two shapes and dividing them with the Pathfinder palette’s “divide” feature.

8. Then I add more detail to the face and copy the eye area and reflect it to create the other side.
Eleanor Grosch, Pushmepullyou Design, Interview, Illustration

9. Two more strands of hair complete the drawing.  Done!


Recently, Print Magazine chose you as one of their picks for New Visual Artists of 2008. That’s pretty monumental. What was your initial reaction when you found out?

Yes, that was totally awesome!  I couldn’t believe that I got through to the final 30.  I was jump-up-and-down happy when I found out that I made it!!

Has much changed for you since that point?
Not much has changed for me since then, unfortunately.  I did get to work with Pentagram, though, so that was great.

You’ve designed everything from posters, pillows, skateboards, shoes, and accessories. What do you hope will be next?
I’m hoping to get into designing bedding and bike graphics.  That would be so great!!

What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on a lot of products at the moment.  There will be some bike stuff coming out next year!

If you could recommend two books to another designer, what would they be?
[ Non-design ]
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Loved it!!!!)
[ Design ]
A History of Graphic Design by Phillip Meggs – a great overview of where things came from
Anything about Soviet Design

And finally, what’s one thing your fans & most people don’t know about you?
Here’s one that’s pretty cool: I’m a trapeze artist!

Eleanor Grosch, Pushmepullyou Design, Interview, Illustration
We would like to thank Eleanor for taking the time to share with us. You can see the rest of her work, and keep up-to-date with her shows and happenings on her website. Eleanor is represented by Agency Rush (Brighton, England).

You can purchase original prints, posters, and t-shirts from Eleanor at her shop.


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61 comments

Thanks for sharing – love your work and especially the pictures of your home!

thank you for this! great post! i love eleanor. love her studio too… beautiful…

Execution of vector art is easy. It’s coming up with unique concepts that presents the challenge. In the case of Eleanor Grosch, I am not impressed.

She says Charlie Harper is her hero – at least she gives him this much credit. Her style is not inspired or unique, but rather a carbon copy of his. I think she owes his family a check.

Stinky |

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Yay, I love Eleanor Grosch!

I bought a bunch of beautiful gig posters from her about three years ago, for bands I’d never heard of!
See here:
http://worldofkane.blogspot.com/2005/10/eleanor-grosch.html

I’d never made the Charley Harper connection before, but now it seems so obvious.
Mind you, the reference I heard of Harper was on the commentary for a ‘Samurai Jack’ episode, about a year before the Todd Oldham book came out.

Did you know there’s a whole bunch of new Harper books (and flash cards and a pin puzzle) out from Ammo?

Wow. Can you believe I’d never seen the work of Charley Harper before? His style is so unique! You can also see the inspiration he’s had on that other famous AWS artist, Don Pendleton.

Thanks for turning me on to such an amazing artist and obvious inspiration!

John |

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Thanks for the inspiration! Lovely stuff! I especially like your grimace on the trapeze. (most unexpected) I’d love to see a series of trapeze artist self portraits with your anchor tattoo!! :o )

Anna |

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Great interview Grace! You have that knack of opening people up and making them feel comfortable. I think I had a push me pull you toy when I was a kid.
I wasn’t really familiar with her stuff, tho I know CH. ANd now I now her!

This is really sad, Grain Edit is a great blog but this artist (in my opinion) should have never made the cut as a feature. There is absolutely nothing original about this work. She has taken Charlie Harper’s work and just plain copied it. Charlie harper was an actual painter not a vector artist if he is such a hero to her maybe she should have learned his medium….
I agree with Stinky send that family a check! Maybe Urban Outfitters should.

Disappointed |

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Harsh! I believe she found out about Charley Harper long after she started creating vector animals. Give the girl a break…..

jonathan |

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From Eleanor: Haha! Yes, total hack!! To those who do like my work, thanks so much! I really, really appreciate that you guys are into what I’m doing.

thank you for this wonderful article! i learned so much about eleanor grosch, especially the part about being a trapeze artist! haha :) i’ve been a fan of those keds shoe designs as well!!! now i am a big fan of eleanor grosch!

wendy |

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Wonderful interview, it really manifests the charm in this lovely artist!

hey art snobs, go eat cheese and down pricey wine you silver-spoon-in-your-mouth jerks! I’m all about Ms. Grosch! forget all the haters!

Chinchilla Jack |

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I love Eleanor’s work as well as the work of Charley Harper. People need to recognize the difference between being influenced and inspired by someone else’s work and plagiarism. Eleanor Grosch is no thief, she is a true artist!

Gerry |

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Charley Harper worked for 60 years doesn’t he deserve the credit for his work. I could point out several almost exact copies in her work. Is that fair to him? If you worked your whole life on something would you want someone to come along and be “inspired” to the depths Ms. Grosch is? She actually has a few nice pieces that don’t look like Charley Harper maybe she should move in that direction. She probably wouldn’t get called out so much on the blogs.

Disappointed |

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wow, great article. i love eleanor’s work and i’ve been following it a long time. she has a unique style and remains humble even after all her success. i guess this is why these sad haters are trying to knock her down — she makes it look easy. that’s what comes with fame and success: jealousy. mo’ money, mo’ problems.

eoin |

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i love eleanor’s workspace! bike graphics! omg! i love it :D

in response to Disappointed:
where are these “almost exact copies?” i’m familiar with eleanor’s and charley harper’s work, and i see some similarities, inspirations, but no ripoffs.
i’ve never seen this attitude on any blog about her. it’s offensive.

eoin |

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Its the small things that show insights about our favorite artists. Great interview Grace! fun read!

I’d also love to see these so-called “exact copies” of Charley’s awesome work. Could you send them to me? Maybe someone’s ripping me off! Also, I’ve never read a blog where I’ve been “called out” except for the 2 undeserved rude comments on this one. “Disappointed” and “Stinky” – you guys are an embarrassment to this great blog.

Lovely interview. While I see the similarities between CH and EG, I opine that she’s offering an enchanting offspring of Charley’s work–they’re not carbon copies, but instead use his exquisite creations as blueprints. Lobbing claims of “no originality” does an injustice to Eleanor and her virtuosic attention to craft.

Jason |

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what a great interview! i love the sloth-in-progress and the photos of eleanor’s home – well, i loved it all actually!

I never said Eleanor Grosch ripped off any specific Charlie Harper illustration. I said “her style is not inspired or unique, but rather a carbon copy of his.”

I propose somebody take the time to create an online quiz that would display 10 works – 5 bird illustrations by Harper, and 5 by Grosch. The user would be instructed to attempt to associate each work with one artist or the other. I think the results would be interesting. Obviously, it must be accounted for that most people who would see the quiz would likely be familiar with specific pieces of work from one or both artists, and this would undoubtedly skew the results. The most-telling participants would be those who are previously unfamiliar with either artist.

Stinky |

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The fox illustration and the cardinal are very very close to his and the work you did for chronicle also. It seems your on a first name basis with Charley Harper so I guess its okay. I guess you guys didn’t look at the flickr comments yet? http://www.flickr.com/photos/grainspace/3096825269/

Dissapointed |

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Interesting proposal Stinky. But at that point what difference would it make who created which piece of art? All your quiz would prove is how pointless your outrage is. If Eleanor’s work and Charley Harper’s work can be placed side by side anonymously, and can be attributed to each artist interchangeably, then you have just suggested that Eleanor is as good an artist as Charley Harper. Which I agree with. Why not just appreciate how wonderful Eleanor’s pieces are, as the observer unfamiliar with either Harper’s or Grosch’s work would. It’s just really good art!

Gerry |

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I just wanted to say thank you so much for the insight into Illustrator in that interview. I have never been able to figure out Illustrator at all but after reading Eleanor’s instructions I managed to use it to draw a frog. I’m feeling very smug satisfied, even though my frog is not a patch on Eleanor Grosch’s beautiful creatures!

I love reading about artists that are just like me!

Hey, Laura!

I’m so glad that you drew a frog in illustrator! It’s a hard program to get a handle on at first, but soon you’ll be well on your way. Keep at it!

Although there is a particular aspect of Eleanor’s work that shows an obvious Harper influence, it is not the entirety of her work as you can clearly see in the examples that illustrate Dave’s article, or in the posters I purchased from her (see my post above).
And as far as her geometric vector renderings; the mid-20 century was rich with examples of this approach, from Stig Lindberg to Alexander Girard.

It’s been fascinating to see how the comments have progressed throughout the day. I stand by our decision in interviewing Eleanor, and thank her for being such a good sport and thank everyone for the comments. Many may agree that her work is reminiscent of Mr. Harper’s, however it’s not a blatant “carbon copy” of it. To even be compared to an extraordinary artist like Harper is honorable, and I think Eleanor deserves that honor.

A wonderful interview with a wonderful artist. Eleanor is truly talented and a super sweet lady on top of that. Congrats Eleanor, we have missed you at Flatstock.

A great feature, thanks for taking us into the more personal side of the artist. And Eleanor, I love how you get into the thick of these comments, your awesome, just like your work!

OCINAD |

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this was a great article. it’s quite personal, which is really encouraging, especially from a fellow Floridianite. you can tell if a person is in love with what they do when they can’t help but try to teach you something new. Any naysayers mad enough to spout jealous words ON A FREAkING blog might not have had someone to rescue them on a from a fall from a chair. please keep up the good work Eleanor and Grain Edit.

chadwick III |

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This was a great article on an interesting artist. I really like how the interview touched on seemingly every aspect you would like to know about an artist. Wonderful job!

Aaron |

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Wonderful interview! Your work is very very good! Congratulations on your award also!:)

Great interview of a talented artist!
I am not taking sides on the Harper debate; certainly not defending her detractors, but I think that it would suit Ms. Grosch to have a thicker skin when it comes to taking criticism as an artist – especially on a blog.

Robin W |

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I think I have to agree with the detractors to a certain point; the Harper influence is a little more than casual. I think the aspect that makes it so hard to divorce her work from Harper’s is her use of animals as a subject, which was one of Harper’s favs. That said, her stuff is much colder and ‘illustrator-y’ (meaning the program :P ) than Harper’s, who added a lot of texture and life that is missing here. Can’t knock her skill as a craftsman in Illustrator, but could see how it could be taken a lot further.

Justin |

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Would second Justin’s comment. In a world such as illustration which abounds with originality and is defined by individuality, Eleanor’s take in tone, subject matter and style is way too close to CH’s for comfort. And rather than acting surprised and defiant in the face of such justifiable criticism, it might serve Eleanor well to concede the point and return to the drawing board afresh ready to shut her detractors up.

skeletor |

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sloth (slôth, slth, slth)
n.
1. Aversion to work or exertion; laziness; indolence.

Ray |

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awesome interview, grace! thanks for exposing more people to Eleanor’s work. I wasn’t familiar with her until now, and her stuff is great! Keep up the good work and cool interviews!

I know that those of you who are being negative might mean well in defending Charley’s work, and I respect that, but I think that there’s a point or two you’re missing. I’ve always drawn animals and will continue to do so, and any work I do can’t help but be from my point of view and through my own hand. It’s simply my own. That’s what any artist offers – their own particular viewpoint. Thank you for reading this interview and thanks to those who left supportive comments! I really appreciate it.

great interview and love her work.
thank you for sharing this interview with us.
keep illustrating eleanor. :)

allison |

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Eleanor I think there is a point or two that you seem to be missing. Charley Harper was a master of illustration who toiled in many styles for decades before settling into the style for which is best known. He created a whole visual language from which you borrow wholesale and he did this before the advent of vector based programs which make it so easy for contemporary illustrators like you. So have a bit of humility please. I think the detractors are simply pointing this out and would hope you develop your own style, that’s all. Good luck.

skeletor |

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Hello, Skeletor,

Hmmm…I don’t know where you’re seeing a lack of humility in my responses. I’d be interested for you to point out to me where I “borrow wholesale” from Charley. I create simple animals in shapes and lines. I don’t see a problem there, do you really?

This artist is totally your style grace. Really awesome work. I love how clean her work is, it’s very refreshing. It’s great to hear about encouraging parents out there and the positive results it creates. Thanks for being so observant and finding this great artist to interview Grace, and I would love to spend some time in that studio. :D

Shaddy |

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Eleanor is an amazing artist, person and inspiration to all the people who read blogs all day and wish they had half of her natural talent. To be able to invent fresh and modern ways to interpret your manifold art influences is what makes art such an integrative and historically important part of our culture.

In defense of Elenor and her work: When I met her in Austin of 2006 we discussed Charley Harper briefly and what I took away from her then is that she had developed her style before she was aware of Harper’s work. It is very similar is spirit but it was arrived at honestly and independently; I can assure everyone of that – and her brother was very nice. :)

Greetings all,
I’m a graphic artist from Cincinnati, the home town of Charley Harper. So I’ve been familiar with his work for most of my life. When i first happened upon the Alien Workshop line of skateboard decks and apparel I immediately saw the similarity in styles, but i respected Eleanor’s refreshing take on the form, and I’m even more pleased that perhaps Charley’s styles of colors and shapes seen in natures creatures has found a suitable heir. This lady is an immense talent who shouldn’t have to defend the merit of her work to anybody. If she never saw any of Harper’s work, fine. If she has every single piece he ever made committed to memory, fine, it’s not the point. All artist’s are influenced by what has come before them, the goal is to elevate the art. I can only wish her (and the nay sayers) best wishes for the future.

glenn riley |

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the haters are out in hordes. inspiration is not mimicry. it is just that. inspiration.

good interview. <3 to Eleanor.

ryan |

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ELEANORRRR!!!!! MAKE SHOES FOR DOODS!!!!!!

Great interview, you gonna be in austin?

Dear Eleanor,

I loved the interview. You have a great esthetic and talent!
Love your work!

I don’t think it should be looked upon as ‘bashing’ for pointing out the obvious. Looking at this art (and I’ve never seen anything from eleanor before) it’s the same as charles harper’s work to a ‘t.’
If that’s hating by pointing out the obvious truth, I’m not sure what ‘art’ has come to these days.
I’ve been a fan of Harper’s for years and his distinct style is why I love it. That same style is in this work (most of it, at least). Not in a ‘borrowed’ way but more of like a ‘taken’ way as I see it.
I’m a fan of art. A lover of art and design. One of the best things about an artist is their distinct style that sets them apart from the rest of the world. When that’s not there, it’s just a matter of pushing shapes around with a mouse unfortunately.
Say what you will but if someone with illustrator skills bought charley harper books and sat in a studio all day replicating them, I don’t see how that’s art. That’s more like production or facsimile. And now I’m a ‘hater’ of course for giving my opinion on art but such is life. I’m not a hater; I’m a lover. I LOVE charley harper’s work and this is a watered down version of that for the most part. It’s great to be inspired by another artist…but replicating a style and adopting it as your own doesn’t really put anyone over the top.
It’s the UNIQUENESS and CREATIVITY that I love in an artitsts work. Even if it’s bad…as long as it’s unique I might fall in love with it.
Creativity and originality separate ‘good’ artists from ‘classic’ artists.
Just my opinion. No hate…simple observation from someone who has followed harper’s work for many years and really fallen in love with the trail he has blazed with his own unique style.

christopher |

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Sorry folks, she’s simply not ready for the big leagues. Anyone who fails to see that fact isn’t worth hearing from.

Just read these last few comments and I feel sick. I can’t sit back and take this beating; I wish you guys could actually take a real look at my work. I draw animals, just like Charley Harper, yes, but we have different ways of abstracting and representing the shapes they make. I use a different kind of geometry in my work, tend to focus on one animal instead of a whole scene, and often stick to fewer than 4 colors in my illustrations. In addition, my line qualities are very different from Harper’s and my forms are less rigid. His geometric rigidity is a trademark of his style and works very well for it, but it’s different from what I do. I hope you can take a second look at my artwork and realize that you might be wrong. If you’re only willing to look at the superficial similarities, then that’s kind of a shame.

Eleanor,

The tricky thing is that Harper did so much amazing work and his style evolved a great deal over his career—as I am sure yours will too. The very idea of ‘geometrically abstracted animals’ became his trademark. His styles ranged from simple to complex, fluid to rigid, scenic to isolated, etc.—and he did it all with amazing refinement.

So many people above comment that your work is a Harper rip-off, that it must give you pause. Whether one sees this as the case or not, enough people are mentioning it that it has become an issue. Your stated differences between your work and Harper’s won’t mean much if those ‘superficial similarities’ are still there. This is less about your work and more about the fact that Harper was prolific in terms of volume and stylistic approach.

I, for one, really enjoy your work. That being said, there are times it feels a little too close to Harper’s work (see swan below). Hopefully you can use the negativity of the comments above to inspire you to really define your style. I’d love to see where you go with the work you have already done serving as a springboard for your creative vision.

http://kidistdesigns.com/CharleyHarperSwan.jpg

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10159078@N03/3096825305

Steven |

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Sounds to me like Bob has micro-penis. Gross!

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