Charles L. Peterson was born and raised in Elgin, Illinois. His childhood was a happy mix of life in that small city and many long visits to his grandparent’s rural Illinois farm. He was the third son of Swedish immigrants who stressed values such as hard work, honesty and duty to one’s community that strongly influence his life to this day. He fondly remembers his childhood being filled with sandlot baseball games, delivering papers on his bicycle, and being very involved in the Boy Scouts achieving Eagle Scout status and leading a contingent of scouts trained in American Indian dance to the Jamboree in Paris France. He was an excellent student and participated in a wide variety of activities including wrestling, band, drama performances and student council president. He was particularly fond of outdoor activities and spent many a summer corralling horses and canoeing at Camp Big Timber. Beyond all of this though, Chick (his lifelong nickname) found a great deal of satisfaction in expressing himself through drawings and although he didn’t begin to dream of his love of drawing as a viable career until many years later, it was with these first drawings, mostly of horses, cowboys, and Indians, that his interest in painting began.
After serving in the Pacific during World War II, Chick studied at Chicago’s Art Institute and graduated from the American Academy of Art in 1949. He then worked briefly in layout and illustration at Leo Burnett Advertising and Hart Schaffner and Marx. This was mostly preliminary layout design work which left little opportunity for the use of his creative skills. With the encouragement of lifelong friend, Ray Barnhart, he pursued a liberal arts education at Marietta College in Ohio. He was able to complete an undergraduate degree as a Phi Beta Kappa with cum laude honors in two years. He then earned a Masters in Fine Arts at Ohio University in ’54. The beginning of a teaching career included a professorship at Concord College, during which time he continued to advance his own training by taking summer sessions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Not only did Chick’s experience at UW-Madison offer him courses of interest and the pleasure of participation in the sailing club, it’s where he met his future wife Susan. He was a professor and eventually department head at Marietta College until 1973. The college named him a Distinguished Alumnus in 1985 and conferred him with an honorary Doctor of Humanities in 1988 at which time he became the inaugural inductee into their Alumni Faculty Hall of Fame.
After retiring from teaching in 1973 Chick and Sue moved their family (Three daughters – Eve, Beth, and Sara) to Door County, Wisconsin. This was a place that held great interest for him as a family vacation spot since the late 1950’s but also aesthetically. They built a studio and gallery and he began what is often referred to his ‘second career’. Chick’s artwork would eventually receive national and international attention, giving him with what he considers a good life; a career and location of choice, while providing for his family. A lifelong sailor, he was dedicated to maritime themes and for many years did illustrations for Wooden Boat, Sail, and Cruising World magazines. In 1982 he was invited by Mystic Maritime Museum Gallery, to send two pieces to the Mystic International. He has since exhibited regularly there, twice winning the Hoyne award, and being listed by the gallery as a Modern Marine Master. His most recent award from Mystic was the Museum Purchase Award at the 27th International in 2006. Russell Jinishian, recognized as an authority on maritime art of the 20th and 21st centuries, included his piece “Sabbath at Sea” in his recent book Bound for Blue Water Contemporary American Marine Art.
A parallel interest in the preservation of the American community led to paintings that became a series of signed limited edition fine art reproductions. Working with Mark Quale of White Door Publishing Company, Chick completed over 60 paintings which were reproduced under the title The Memories Collection. The popularity of that series earned him a listing by US Art Magazine as being among the top ten of the national print industry from 1990 onward and in 1995 earned him a place in their prestigious Hall of Fame. In conjunction with the series two books were published, Of Time and Place, which won the Printing Industries of America, Inc. award “Best of Category for 1997” and Reflections in 1999. The American Academy of Art mounted a retrospective of C.L. Peterson’s work in January 2007. Although Chick is now of the age that for many speaks of stepping down or retiring from one’s career he is, in fact, still full of enthusiasm and energy and continues to paint most every day, producing paintings, drawings, miniatures, designing work specifically for reproduction as well as creating specific works of art that have been commissioned by private or corporate interests.
For a detailed biography on Charles L. Peterson please see A Time and Place and Reflections. The books include additional pictures of paintings and more comprehensive information, including accounts of the intellectual framework involved in the creation of his paintings.
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