- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE, Ark. (AP) - Chuck Bracke was attending Northwestern University to study business administration, in deference to his father, but knew his heart wasn’t in it.

“I hated everything about it,” he said during an interview.

Having been interested in drawing since grade school, Bracke had a yen to make a career in commercial art. And, as fate would have it, a chance to do just that came riding up one day while he was on campus.

“One day a car drove up, and it was a woman with a guy named Richard Martin Fletcher. He was a cartoonist for a syndicated strip. … He drove up in his Packard with this beautiful girl, and talked about him being an artist. Between the Packard and the beautiful girl, I said, ‘That’s the life for me.’”

With prodding from his mother, Bracke showed Fletcher some of the pieces he’d drawn over the years. “He thought I had some talent,” Bracke said.

So, without much convincing, Bracke soon ended up a commercial art student at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, where Fletcher was a teacher — despite the wishes of his father.

After graduating, Bracke went into the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Guam during the Korean War. He worked as a draftsman there, doing technical illustrations for training aids, but found a way to show his humorous side with another kind of drawing.

Bracke talked his way into writing and illustrating a comic strip for the military base newspaper. Called, “Boondock Basil,” his ongoing story featured the shenanigans of enlisted men making fun of officers.

As one might guess, the artist soon ended up being called in to the office of a superior to talk about the comic strip. But as a testament to his talent with pen and pun, it turned out the officer loved Bracke’s work.

After leaving the service, he took his first art job in California. “I started at $47.50 a week, and I was thrilled to have it,” he said with a contagious grin.

Soon, Bracke decided to return to Chicago, where his mother and sisters lived. He spent the next decades there, working for numerous art studios, and catching a good bit of freelance work.

Projects have included cartoon books for children, an amusingly offbeat calendar for a pharmaceutical company, an illustrated book on fishing, editorial cartoons, drawings for the American Medical Association, and even a campaign for Old Style Beer.

A couple of his favorite designs have been a full-page advertisement drawing in the Chicago Tribune of the White Sox, and a comic strip for Wrigley’s Gum featured full-color in Sunday edition newspapers.

The Sentinel-Record (https://bit.ly/1IT4iCZ ) reports that he’s also won national awards for his commercial drawing designs, including one for a women’s clothing shop.

Having illustrated two books on his beloved sport of golf, it’s no stretch to understand why Bracke retired to Hot Springs Village some 24 years ago.

His love for the links ended up carrying him into a local project, too. Bracke had the “Golf Limericks” weekly feature in the Hot Springs Village Voice for two years.

But Bracke spends most of his creative time closer to the fine art world these days, painting acrylic landscapes on canvas.

He said of those works, “I don’t do the gallery thing; I give them away. If I sell one, it’s like one of the family.”

Bracke catches himself smiling while cartooning, he said, but not so much when painting, as he’s often disappointed by the latter’s turnout.

Opportunity for a little smiling work came up recently, though, when Bracke was asked to do caricatures of men who work on the vehicles at the local car museum Holly Classics.

He had drawn a set of the original workers some years ago, but when the museum burned this spring, that large-scale work was lost.

Fortunately, a quality photograph had been taken of the piece, and HSV resident and photographer Susan Elderton offered her skills at digital magic to merge Bracke’s newest additional caricatures with the originals. This visual homage will be on display during an upcoming open house event at Holly Classics.

Bracke’s joy spilled out while talking about his career with pen and ink, saying, “I’ve been lucky to have a profession I love. I was so enthusiastic, I couldn’t wait to get to work.”

Perhaps there is no greater success than that.

___

Information from: The Sentinel-Record, https://www.hotsr.com

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