"Charles Keeping was born and grew up in Lambeth, London, in a terraced house that housed three generations. He lived in an inner city environment of street markets and working horses that would inform his work his entire life. Charles and his elder sister, Grace, drew and made up stories from an early age, on surplus newsstand placards brought home by their father, Charles Keeping senior, who distributed newspapers to shops and newsstands in the area and boxed under the name Charlie Clarke. Young Charles was interested in little but drawing and horses, and did poorly at school. He left at 14. The Second World War broke out the following year, and when he turned 18 in 1942 he was called up and joined the Royal Navy as a wireless operator. He returned to civvy street in 1946 with a profound depression and a belief that a head wound he had sustained had disfigured him on the inside as well as (temporarily) on the outside, and would cause him to turn evil like Dr Jeckyll becoming Mr Hyde. He received treatment, was institutionalised for a time, and made a full recovery, but perhaps his sympathetic visual treatments of Frankenstein's monster and Grendel, the monster from Beowulf, owe something to this period of his life. He applied for a grant to study art at Regent Street Polytechnic, but for several years was turned down, so he read meters for a gas company during the day and took life drawing classes in the evening. He also worked as a life model, and on one such occasion in 1949 his demonstration of the functions of the muscles of the back attracted the eye of a student called Renate Meyer, who went on to marry him in 1952."
Charles went on to become a renowned and much sought after book illustrator. One of his pet projects was a lavishly illustrated book called Cockney Ding Dong about the songs he had heard as a child. A record was released to coincide with the book and Charles and some of his family are heard singing on it.