Local illustrator Charles Clatterbuck, 76, embraced computer programming to modernize his artistic capabilities and was able to publish a children’s book, A Leprechaun Named Big Hat, in the process.
Clatterbuck attended Walden School of Multimedia (Walden) in Anaheim for graphic art and earned a degree at 65. At Walden, Clatterbuck learned how to upload his illustrations to Photoshop and now uses a tablet and a tablet-pen to colorize his pencil-drawn illustrations.
“This technique has taken over for me,” he said.
To publish the book, Clatterbuck collaborated with his daughter, Denise Beck. He created a new series of leprechaun illustrations, and Beck wrote the storyline behind all of the characters.
Clatterbuck’s past collections of characters have been featured at art shows around Long Beach. During his shows, admirers of his work asked him what the back stories of the characters were, and that’s when the idea for a children’s book began.
To develop back stories, Beck gave each leprechaun a name. Then, he began researching leprechaun myths, which snowballed into a story about the main character, Big Hat, who decided to “break the silence between humans and [leprechauns], risking everything,”Beck said.
Clatterbuck has several series of characters, including clowns, pirates, trolls, and his upcoming set of jesters. His method of drawing characters starts with one facial feature such as the nose and then continues from that focal point. He never knows what the final character will look like.
“Attitude is the most important aspect of a character,” Clatterbuck said, revealing that he gets many of his facial-feature ideas from watching people at the gym.
The inner artist
“My eighth-grade teacher just marveled over the dumbest pictures [I drew] of stick figures, but it evidently told a story, and she got a hold of my parents and said [my art] was just wonderful,” he said. “And that just set me off. I said, ‘Maybe I can do this; maybe I can draw.’”
Around that time, he spent many hours in study hall drawing pin-up girls from “cheesecake” calendars, which is how he learned how to draw.
“Drawing is not taught,” he said. “It’s something that comes out from inside.”
He continued to develop his artistic abilities at Kent State University in Ohio, where he received a bachelor’s of fine arts at 20.
The working artist
After college, Clatterbuck soon began working as an art director at a department store called O’Neil’s, where he says he was highly paid to hire and manage 17 women artists who supplied 10 department stores with black-and-white pastel paintings of shoes.
“Most artists specialize in fields,” Clatterbuck said. “I can do just about any kind of drawing, like cartoon drawings, drawings of inventions and architectural drawings.”
One of Clatterbuck’s less successful jobs was selling sculptures in the mall.
“These other women would come along with dainty [trinkets]. People would come by raving and ask, ‘how much is it?’ and she’d say, ‘Oh, a dollar and a quarter, a dollar and a quarter.’ She’d go home with like $200 at the end of the day,” Clatterbuck said. “And I was just standing there saying, ‘Hey, come here, man. Do you want to take a look at this?”
Clatterbuck worked in advertising for a short time, producing ad campaigns for Camel cigarettes and used car companies, but playing the drums with a house band at hotels was his most successful and long-term job. He learned how to play the drums at age 5 from a vaudevillian who was a strict mentor and insisted that there was only one right way to play the drums.
When Clatterbuck was drafted into the U.S. Army between World War ll and the Korean War, he played drums for funerals.
“I hated the Army with a passion, and they wouldn’t let me go,” he said. “They said, ‘No, you’re the head of the drum section, so you’re not allowed to go.’”
But the real reason he hated the Army was that he wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force. He had trained to become a pilot in high school in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), but ultimately wasn’t permitted to fly because of bad eyesight. Instead, he became known to his peers as “the guy who could get you out of the Army,” Clatterbuck said. “I showed them how to write a letter to their congressmen.”
To view Clatterbuck’s illustrations, visit artwanted.com and search for Charles Clatterbuck.
To purchase the book A Leprechaun Named Big Hat, visit blurb.com/books/784419.