Charles Turzak was born in 1899 in Streator, Illinois. As a child, he began an apprenticeship making violins and he drew cartoons for his school’s yearbook. As he entered high school, WWI was just starting and his artwork featured soldiers and military artillery. In 1920, Turzak graduated from high school and during the same year, he won a cartoon contest sponsored by the Purina Company in St. Louis, Missouri. With his prestige and prize money, he gained entrance into the Art Institute of Chicago, despite objections from his father. Turzak excelled in drawing and woodcarving and he became a member of Delta Phi Delta, an honorary art fraternity. He paid his way through school doing freelance advertising, selling insurance and teaching a class in woodcut and wood engraving at the Academy of Fine Arts.
In 1927, he was commissioned to illustrate a privately printed book titled “Eastward Whoa!”, for which he created ten woodcuts. Also in 1927, he made two prints showing Northwestern University scenes titled “Old College” and “Northwestern University (Chicago Campus)”. He continued the Northwestern University scenes in 1932 with two additional prints, “Men’s Quadrangle” and “Union Building”. In the late 1920s, he gained public recognition for exhibiting and selling a great number of his prints and the notoriety enabled him to establish a commercial career in advertising.
In 1929, Turzak visited Europe to study “The Masters” first hand. He visited England, Austria, France, Germany and Czechoslovakia, exploring museums and the streets and countryside. When he returned to the United States, the great Wall Street Crash was in full swing. Turzak turned three of his watercolors done in Europe into multicolored prints, requiring between four and seven separately registered blocks. He used another of his watercolors, “Czechoslovakian Landscape” into a black and white print.