Chuck Rak is an unassuming man with a great sense of humor and an amazing talent. He is a caricature artist. Chuck lives in Austin, but has traveled “all fifty states many times over” and has visited many countries around the world. He travels with his easel and the implements of his trade and delights people where ever he goes. Lately he has been filling the walls of the Iron Horse Pub with caricatures of the “locals and the movers and shakers of Wichita Falls”. This was his second trip to the Falls and the pub in a year, and he has become quite popular.
Chuck came from an “academic family” but due to a learning disorder, dyslexia, he never excelled at academics. However, his talent and love of art have “served him well”. Chuck went to college at the University of Arizona and went on to the Massachusetts College of Art where he honed his craft. Chuck’s skills don’t just stop at caricatures. He paints, uses pastels, and sketches as well.
“From early childhood, I was doing art. In the seventh grade I used to sketch my teachers from sitting in the back of the room, just getting better and better at it. I never paid attention in class. I just wasn’t interested, but I was doing some really comical and insulting caricatures,” he said with a sly grin. “The kids loved them. I was popular with the kids, but the teachers didn’t appreciate it, although one of them did encourage me. I remember that man still. He kept encouraging me because I was getting good at it.”
Chuck’s parents recognized his talent and put him in art classes at the age of 7. “I just kept improving, and I took art classes in high school and kept up with it. I was addicted to drawing better and better. As I said, I was closed off to academics; so, it appealed to me,” he said.
He grew up outside of Boston, and after college he showed his work at art shows. “I started with mall shows in the Cleveland (Ohio) area, which was a very far off and exotic place to me at that time,’ he said. “And then I kept on exploring the country and other countries. I was 29-years-old when I completed my tour of all fifty states. I sketched at county fairs and bars and any place that seemed appropriate where I could work. I just did the best I could. I was never in to speed or fast drawing. I was very intrigued with doing quality work and to get it to look like that person.”
He has always been good at reading people due to his father being a psychiatrist, and that helps him to make each drawing personal to the subject. “I like to draw people that are a little older,” he explained. “I don’t like to do bars where there are too many young people. They are distracted by the “meat market”. I like to go where the middle-aged movers and shakers go. They are a little better behaved, and they have more character, so, it works out well. I also like it when they are a little misbehaved. You can see more character, and they are irreverent—which is good for my business.”
“I am very good at what I do. Every caricature artist isn’t the same. I am one of the better ones. John Dickenson (one of the owners of Iron Horse Pub) is someone that appreciates quality, and that is the kind of people that I want to work with. I would love to come back here. This is a very friendly community,” Chuck said, but he doesn’t want to come during tornado season he stressed.
“Doing caricatures is very intense work. It takes a lot of concentration and little else. It is just a way of translating what I am observing with pattern recognition and character traits into a graphic piece,” he said modestly. “I also have written a book about my travels. It is called Bahaca, which means tent in Portuguese. I spent a lot of time in Brazil and learned that language through total immersion.”
He has a gypsy soul and travels all summer doing fairs and festivals. “I really enjoy traveling around, and everything depends on how a person is and how they treat each other; and that’s why I like the Iron Horse Pub. They are so welcoming, and they’re considerate. I think it pays to treat people well no matter what kind of business you’re in, and it creates a better situation for all those concerned,” Chuck said.
And that sense of humor came out when asked if there was anything else he wanted to share. He replied, “There are other things, but I have been advised to not share them,” he said smiling.
– Cindy Kahler Thomas