Charles F Keck the Father
comments about the man by one of his sons
You might like to know that my father did have more interests in his life than painting watercolors. He tried his hand at oil painting as well as a whole range of crafts required to earn his degree. Some of his pottery and silver work is quite beautiful to behold. His oil paintings
are beautifully executed, often in a more controlled style than his watercolors.
The man I knew saved nearly everything. He spent hours tinkering in his studio after work, building cameras out of whatever he could find in the local used camera and thrift shops. While tinkering, he would keep a tobacco pipe lit most of the time, as he had given up cigarettes after
While I never knew him to make a painting from a photograph, I suppose photography did take him away from painting to a large extent. He shot thousands and thousands of photographs, most often he made slides when color reversal film became popular. He delighted in testing one of his
new creations, cobbled together from old Exacta and Kodak camera parts. I think he enjoyed the tinkering and testing part more than the subjects of his photographs. He loved to flip through slides, in private with a small piece of paper for a screen, or on special occasions with
the few family friends that had not already died. To save money, he created tools to stamp slide mounts out of Corn Flakes boxes; they were easy to come by as he ate Corn Flakes every morning. It was difficult for us to understand why he was so thrifty until much later, when we realized
the difficulties of being the bread winner, raising four children on a high school teacher's salary. Naturally, he could not have accomplished that feat without the tireless devotion of my mother.
Dad was a real teacher. He infected all of us with a natural desire to help and teach people (my mother just helped everyone no matter what, she still does). Sister Linda became a professional school teacher and married one too. This teaching of his did not extend much
to teaching us how to paint, however he did try a little bit. As young people often learn by example, all Kecks today have cameras and use them more often than most people do. We all had the pleasure of winding the roll film until those little arrows and numbers lined up and then
making our first pictures at an early age. You could say that we all started with medium format film cameras, as most people at the time did.
Teaching didn't just mean lectures. He and my mother arranged private music lesions for all of us. He studied violin for a number of years. He was still able to get a tune out by the time I came into this world in the 1950's.
Left, a photograph of my father's Bruno Artist violin, which he kept to himself. After putting new strings on it and having a few small cracks repaired, it does produce a mellow sort of tone suitable for the type of music he liked.
Dad loved classical music. While grading papers, tinkering with cameras, or looking at his slides, he often listened to the local classical station on the radio or occasionally played records. For a while, he was an avid fan of pipe organ music, which was more of the
pop variety than serious Bach.
I have his violin today, although the bow that came with it was hopelessly demolished. I believe that he was the original owner of it. The violin was probably a gift from his mother. It had so much wear on the fingerboard that Callier the violin maker had to remove
a great deal of pitting. He played mostly in the 3rd and 5th positions ( doesn't everyone? ).
Dad really was an artist. I think it was genetic or something. Sure, he worked very hard to cultivate his talent, and his level of discrimination ( not racial - he had discrimination in the sense of judging whether something was good or bad ) was very high,
so high that often he had an outwardly negative outlook on many things.
He certainly didn't want me to become an artist, no way. Unfortunately, he didn't really seem to want me to become anything else either. I can tell you, he must have had a really tough time, and he certainly faced harsh criticism along the way during his artistic career. Again, he
was an artist. He infected all of us with it, and I suppose if my mother hadn't been so busy raising us, I'd have to say she too would have pursued the arts.
Every year that goes by, I feel more like exploring the arts, driven to it. I've spent my life tinkering and fixing too, and
regrettably, teaching any chance I get. My late brother Donald became an architect and designer. My sister Alice raised another architect and artist. Sister Linda is absorbed in the arts. Now, my mother deals with galleries and well, art. I'm not trying to say that we're all so
special, however I'm telling you, dad was an artist all the way.
In addition to the rest of all of it, dad loved to drive, camp and hike. Sunday drives on "the old road" were the norm as were frequent visits to Angeles Crest. He loved the country and just about everything to do with it. At 29 cents for
a gallon of gas and three months off during school vacation, there were ample opportunities for trips. We saw most of the parks in the western United States on the longer road trips.
I wish I could tell you more about the man who was my father. It's tough to hear people talk about him as if they knew him. For those of us who did, we each have our version, our take, and a very special love and appreciation for him that experts will never figure out.
Spend a while with one of his paintings though, and you'll be closer to what he was about than anyone can tell you.
At some point, we'll put some of his abstract work on this site so that you can see the rest of the range in his style and ability. Right now, out of courtesy to the galleries, we're holding back on that for just a little more. Also, as we go through the thousands of photographs
he made, we may post some of them here to give you another reference into the past, and the life of a good man, a man whose smile and handshake were his word, and a man that was once your good neighbor.