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Biography of Charles F. Keck 1913 - 2003

Charles F. Keck. Portrait of the artist, taken Mother's Day 2003 by his son Edward G. Keck.Charles F. Keck was born in Wapello, Iowa on February 18, 1913. At the time his father was the owner of several businesses and his mother was active in the social life of the town. She was also an amateur painter and writer. He had a brother who was sixteen and a sister who was twelve years old.

When he was six years old his family left Iowa for Corpus Christi, Texas, where his father intended to buy property. Their plans were changed by the hurricane that hit the area in 1919 shortly after they arrived there. The property his father planned to buy was completely destroyed. They moved to Los Angeles, California in 1920.

Charles's family traveled by automobile throughout the West and even as a young boy he made sketches and wrote journals about their trips. He attended Los Angeles schools, graduating from Fairfax High School where he was Art Editor of the Yearbook in 1932.

He studied Art at Los Angeles City College for two years and after graduation, won a three year scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. While there he studied watercolor with Millard Sheets, Phil Paradise, Phil Dike, Don Graham and many others. He especially remembered Lawrence Murphy who taught Life Drawing.

After Art School Charles worked at Columbia Pictures Cartoon Studio as a background artist.
During the breaks between jobs at the studio, he was able to travel, taking a freighter trip to the Caribbean in 1939, which was the trip of his lifetime and many colorful paintings were produced from the sketches he made on the trip. In 1940, he took a trip to Alaska, little knowing that in two years he would be spending almost four years there. He painted many pictures on that trip, also. His watercolors (which was his favorite medium), drawings, and a few oil paintings began to be accepted in major juried art shows. He was very prolific in the period 1940 -41 and was becoming recognized as one of the "up and coming" young artists. In January 1942 he was drafted into the Army.

He served in the Signal Corps in Alaska but after a few months was transferred to Special Services, where with his friend, Howard Kosbau, he helped upgrade a small Army Newspaper, The Sourdough Sentinel , to a circulation of over 10,000. He served as Assistant Editor and also had a cartoon strip and a Ripley type feature, Fascinating Alaska, which he drew in collaboration with a friend, Luther Norris. Working on the newspaper in Alaska opened many opportunities to meet celebrities who visited the area. He also sold many paintings of Alaskan scenes while there and he was also active in the USO in Anchorage, designing many of the sets for the plays and skits that were produced there.

After the war, he and his wife, Eugenia, whom he married in Alaska in 1945, returned to Los Angeles where he taught at Hollywood Art Center School for a few years, then returned to UCLA to get his Master's Degree in Art Teaching. While there he served as a Teaching Assistant in the Art Department.

Charles taught Art for 26 years at Lincoln High School in East Los Angeles and two years at Garfield High School, retiring in 1982. He enjoyed teaching. He especially enjoyed the period when he was in charge of stage and helped produce exciting sets and backdrops for the various productions. During vacations from teaching, he and his family which grew to his wife and four children traveled over much of the United States and Canada by car. He made sketches on these trips. He also took photographs and made hundreds of color slides. However, he never painted from photographs.

Over the years he produced hundreds of watercolors, some of which were exhibited in traveling shows with the California Watercolor Society, the Laguna Beach Art Gallery, and many other shows. He also painted in oil, pastel, and other media. He continued to paint for several years after his retirement from teaching in 1982. His paintings reflect the different seasons, moods, and landscapes of rural California as it was before the miles of housing developments which have burgeoned in recent years. He also painted the urban scenes of prewar Los Angeles in 1938 and 1939. Like some other artists of his generation, he produced works of abstract expressionism in various media, many of which you will see on his web site. Presently, he is best known as a California Scene Painter. The principal dealers of his work are Sandy Hunter at the California Art Gallery in Laguna Beach ( and Michael Kelley of the Kelley Art Gallery in Pasadena who owns and sells a number of Charles's paintings (

Charles died on October 30, 2003 of Pulmonary Fibrosis and is buried in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.

We hope these paintings bring back happy memories.

Official Charles F. Keck Biography written by Eugenia Keck.

Click here for a supplemental capsule to the biography

Find more information and examples of work by Charles F. Keck on the rest of this web site. All text and images Copyright 2003-2006, The Estate of Charles F. Keck. Unauthorized use, display, duplication and distribution of any part of this site or depicted works strictly prohibited.