Artist Profile: Charles Wysocki

By far one of our best selling puzzle artists, Folk Artist Charles Wysocki is recognized across the globe and his puzzles create a feeling of nostalgia of old time Americana.

Charles Wysocki was born in 1928 in Detroit, Michigan to Polish parents. Though he had a happy childhood, his early enthusiasm was not equally shared by his father who worried about his future and tried to redirect his interests into more stable hobbies for a future income. His mother, however, fully supported his artistic tendencies.

1000 pieces Charles Wysocki Jigsaw Puzzle called Clammers at Hodge’s.

He grew up continuing his art but was drafted during the Korean War. He was stationed in Germany, and after his two year obligation he left the army and and picked up the pen again, although it wasn’t in the way he dreamed: he found a job in the Polish community of Detroit making drawings of tools and car parts for manuals and catalogs.

Eventually he attend the Art Center in Los Angeles, which he as able to do on the G.I. Bill. He majored in design and advertising illustration.

In 1959 that Wysocki formed an advertising agency called “Group West” and became a successful freelance artist for three years, serving such companies as Chrysler and General Tire. Around this time, Wysocki met his wife, Elizabeth, whom he married after six weeks of dating and whom would become a strong influence on Wysocki’s life and art. Elizabeth came from the countryside, and Wysocki would be drawn to the simplicity he found in her upbringing and he loved the wholesome values of the more rural life.

In the five years before Wysocki and Elizabeth’s first child was born, they traveled often to the New England states, of which Wysocki says “I feel the serenity of this life, and it became enhanced on our vacations to New England. We fell immediately in love with this section of our country because the pace so closely resembled our way of thinking—a love for the very small personal closeness of each other’s company and being content with ‘little’ things, happy in activities city folks might find boring.”

He credits his other influences as Rousseau, Edward Hopper, Normal Rockwell, and “of course, Grandma Moses.” While he is considered a folk artist, Wysocki wouldn’t describe himself as that, and he definitely wouldn’t describe himself as primitive. Instead, he says he “consider[s] [him]self simply a painter of early American life with a wide mixture of influences and with a love for the old-fashioned values.”

Hawkriver Hallow – 1000 piece puzzle from artist Charles Wysocki.

In the ‘60s, though Wysocki worked commercially, his heart was always for the simpler style that he felt represented himself. In his free time he worked on the Americana paintings which depict imagined places with details of the places and values familiar to him. These paintings are filled with Wysocki’s signature warmth and sentimentality. A very successful one-man show in which every single piece was sold convinced Wysocki to leave the commercial art world forever. He continued making a living off of original paintings and calendar prints, and then he worked with AMCAL to produce his images on puzzles, collector plates, serving trays, cards, magnets and more.

Wysocki continued painting until the end of his life. He died at the age of 73 in July 2002.