Charles Skaggs began his career early.Â â€œWhen I was in high school, I arranged my schedule so I could get off at noon.â€ He apprenticed himself to illustrator, Bob Richey in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.Â â€œIn those days, good typesetting was expensive,â€ Skaggs said.Â â€œMy hand lettering was less expensive.â€Â He left Kentucky for Cincinnati after high school to work for Kroger Grocery and Baking Company.
From Cincinnati, Skaggs went to Chicago to work on advertising including ads for Wrigley gum and Schlitz beer.
â€œIt was an exciting, fertile time for the graphic arts,â€ said Skaggs.Â In Chicago and later New York right after the war, hundreds of talented young people â€œeager to do somethingâ€ entered the city.Â â€œThere was this creative explosion of music and drama.â€
Skaggs worked on book jackets for Knopf and for a â€œvery fancy and exclusive publisher called Peter Pauper Pressâ€ as well as Simon & Schuster, Harper Row and Macmillan publishing companies.Â His favorite bookÂ to design was â€œDraculaâ€ although he also loved designing â€œThe Go-Betweenâ€ by L.P. Hartley and David B. Whartonâ€™s â€œThe Alaska Gold Rushâ€.Â â€œA lot of people looked down on lettering,â€ but Skaggs loved absorbing the history of typography and forms.
During this time he became acquainted with Frederick Goudy and W.A. Dwiggins, leading figures in calligraphy, type and book design.Â Dwiggins was Knopfâ€™s prime book designer.Â â€œFred Goudy and W. A. Dwiggins became my idols.Â They were a treasure beyond description. I like to say that it was like sitting at Christâ€™s left elbow,â€ said Skaggs.
Skaggs said, he had designed and collected books since I was about 30.Â He also collected wood engravings and etchings.Â In 2001, Skaggs donated his considerable library of books, printed materials, articles and letters to Smith College.Â The school exhibit includes an online exhibit located at http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/rarebook/exhibitions/skaggs/.
A retrospective exhibit of more than 60 years of the art of Charles Skaggs is on display until Aug. 3 in the Lillian Pratt Resident Art Gallery at Franke Tobey Jones, 5340 North Bristol in Tacoma.Â The eclectic exhibit includes book covers, articles and abstract artwork, is free and open to the public.
â€œAll of these were an excuse to include different styles of the alphabet,â€ Skaggs said as he waved his hand indicating the two walls of displays.Â â€œThe layman image of an artist is someone who does pretty pictures and I donâ€™t do pretty pictures.Â Iâ€™m appreciative of extraordinary illustrative as distinct from fine art.Â I love using colors.Â I love the feel of burlap and canvas.Â When you choose to do brushwork, those surfaces are so receptive to the brush work,â€ he said.Â burlap and canvas.Â When you choose to do brushwork, those surfaces are so receptive to the brush work,â€ he said.