Charles Vickery awed us with his dramatic paintings and charmed us with his humble demeanor. Although he died in September of 1998 at the age of 85, we can look back with pride at the extraordinary career of an extraordinary man.What Vickery is best known for and will be most remembered for is his ability to paint the infinite moods of water. But what initially stumps everyone is how this talent and passion for the sea could come from a man who lived so far from it.Born in Hinsdale, Illinois in 1913, his talent was obvious at an early age. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Fine Art, but he often credited Lake Michigan as being his greatest instructor. The inspiration it provided and the lessons it taught him were far more meaningful to him than the study of tiresome fundamentalsHe believed constant observation of the subject is as essential for the experienced artist as it is for the beginner. “Going to the source” was absolutely critical. Capturing the elusive essence of the sea is not something you can do by looking at photographs.When he opened his first art studio in Western Springs, IL in 1937, his work was highly experimental and paintings sold for as little as five dollars or, in some cases, a dish of ice cream. Early on, he supported himself as a surveyor’s assistant, a silkscreen operator, a mail clerk and a woodworker.The early days found him “along the shores of Lake Michigan living in a tent and eating peanut butter sandwiches,” the artist once said. “Many hours and many years were spent in all kinds of weather studying wave actions and the color of sky and water.”In 1951 Eleanor Jewitt, a respected art critic for the Chicago Tribune, first discovered his ability. He was greatly encouraged by her reviews. Similar praise would follow, and before long, he was regarded as one of the finest seascape artists of our time.