Chester “Chet” Horn Dippel (March 12, 1919 – August 30, 2007) was an artist who did some notable sketches of Oakland scenes in the late 1980s. He did a lot of commercial art, but was also known both for painting and sculpture.
He married Constance Joella Waller (Dippel) and they had 2 children: Martha “Marty” Constance Dippel (Malkani) and Conrad Christopher Dippel.
The following is from a biography courtesy Conrad Dippel.
Dippel was born March 12, 1919, in Wilkinsburg, PA, to Cameron Dippel and Jean Dippel (McLaren). His father was of German descent, and his mother was born in Scotland. Chester was the youngest of three children. In 1928, his parents decided to move the family to California, where they believed the opportunities would be better, and where "the sun would shine all of the time." They lived first in Glendale, then in San Diego, where Chet graduated from Hoover High School, and finally in Los Angeles. As a teenager, Chet’s passions were tennis and art.
In Los Angeles, Chet enrolled in the Frank Wiggins Trade School, which focused on design. (The school is now known as the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.) Chet specialized in hand-lettering, which was an important part of commercial art at the time. Within a year, he was offered a working scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, where he studied half-day and worked half-day in commercial art. Among his various jobs was the hand-lettering and paste-up of movie ads for the Los Angeles newspapers. After his courses were finished at Chouinard, he began working full-time for Allied Artists, a firm with a staff of 25 artists who produced art for the advertising industry.
This employment ended with World War II. In 1941, at the age of 23, Chet was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served mostly in the Pacific, and the army used his artistic skills by employing him in map making. At the end of the war, he was ordered to remain in the army as part of the Occupation Force in Japan, so he was not able to return home until 1946.
In 1942, Chet visited his friends and co-workers at Allied Artists while on furlough. “His” desk was then occupied by a woman artist, Constance Joella Waller. They corresponded throughout the rest of the war, and were married a few months after his return to California, on June 2, 1946. Together, they decided to open their own, independent advertising firm in suburban Los Angeles, which they operated for about 15 years. More interested in the fine arts, they then owned and operated an artist supply and framing store.
In 1970, they sold everything that they owned and moved to Portugal, and then to England. In 1972, they decided to return to California, but this time to the Bay Area, where they owned another framing store in Mountain View. And finally, they moved to Oakland in 1974.
Time in Oakland (1974 - 1992)
- 1974-1976: Boyd Avenue, Rockridge
- 1976-1993: 531 - 32nd Street, near Telegraph
Both Chet and Connie had pursued their own creative art throughout their lives. In Oakland, they decided to focus more exclusively on it. Chet Dippel produced hundreds of drawings, in either pen-and-ink or black marker, sometimes with color. He also worked on canvas primarily with with acrylics, but often with mixed media. In addition, he produced a number of sculptures. Over the years, he had a few local shows of his paintings in Southern California and one in San Francisco, and he sold a number of pieces to private collectors.
He sold hundreds of drawings. For the almost two decades he lived in Oakland, he and his wife would travel around California making unsolicited sketches of commercial establishments, and when finished attempt to sell them to the owners, or barter them for goods in exchange. They kept incomplete records of these transactions, but from the recorded sales in Oakland alone Chet sold drawings to the following establishments:
- Carolyn’s Restaurant
- Headquarters Hair Salon
- My Own Thing
- Towada's Flowers
- Madison Drugs
- Turquoise Sky
- The Graduate Bar
- The Cheese Wheel
- Hairy Ways
- Kerry House Restaurant
- McNally's Irish Pub
- Walden Pond Books
- The Focal Point Optical
- Grand Central Station
- Yoshi's Restaurant
The home that they purchased on 32nd Street was a three-story dwelling built just after the 1906 SF earthquake. When they purchased it, it has been turned into a boarding house and had been quite neglected. They restored it and returned it into a family home. It also became a meeting place for many in the artistic community.
Chet Dippel lived in Oakland longer than he lived anywhere else, and it was his most productive time as an artist. Dippel and his wife left Oakland in 1992, and moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where Chet died in 2007. He continued painting until the final month of his life.
As a side note of Oakland interest, their adult daughter Marty Malkani (born Martha Constance Dippel) resided with them at 32nd Street. She was a graduate of California College of the Arts (then, California College of Arts and Crafts). She was a fabric artist, costume designer and performance artist in Oakland, and a founding member of Nightletter Theater, which has performed in the Bay Area and in Europe. Marty died suddenly in 1989.
A sample of some of Chet's art, courtesy of Conrad Dippel.