Charles Nuttall was the only son of English-born parents James Nuttall, house-painter and decorator, and his wife Caroline. Charles was encouraged by his parents to pursue a career in art and enrolled at the National Gallery school of design in 1895. Under the drawing master Frederick McCubbin, Nuttall's draughtsmanship developed into a confident, brisk, linear style. He established himself at studios in Collins Street Melbourne where he produced drawings, cartoons, and magazine and book illustrations. Slightly built and amiable, with a keen sense of humour and adventure, Nuttall was politically conservative, Anglican and strongly nationalist. He drew for the Melbourne Punch, Table Talk, the Sydney Bulletin, New Idea and the British Daily Graphic. During the First World War, he had drawings included in an exhibition of war cartoons in Melbourne. He also had a solo drawing show at Melbourne in 1916, and he showed his drawings in London in 1917 jointly with war cartoons by a fellow MelbournePunch cartoonist, George Dancey.