Artist is attracted to natural beauty and the great outdoors
Story BY Danielle Portteus
Photos by Tom Hawley
Rusty Frentner started drawing animals as soon as he could hold a pencil.
The Milan High School graduate, now 60, has painted everything from the smallest bird to the largest horse.
Growing up on farm served as his inspiration for a career that has lasted nearly six decades.
“I started drawing because I wanted to be a cowboy,” Rusty recalls. “And, I had horses.”
In high school the artist changed his focus a little bit.
“I would draw all the pretty girls,” the painter joked.
In 1984, Rusty returned to wildlife.
The Pittsfield Township resident grew up with a family filled with artists. His brother Tim would draw cars. His sister, Christine, also was drawn to recreating animals on paper. His parents, Carol and Don Frentner, also were creative.
“Art work is in my blood,” he said.
The family lived on 10 acres. Rusty remembers roaming through cow pastures and spending the days with his horses and exploring the world.
“I am an amateur naturalist,” he said. “I was always fascinated by animals. In high school, I took an independent study and created a guide of the moths and butterflies I had.”
Today, one of his most requested animals to paint is wolves.
“They are really detailed,” Rusty said. “They can take about 40 to 50 hours to paint.”
Though he is open to painting a variety of creatures, Rusty prefers those that live within the United States, Canada and Mexico.
“I mainly focus on North American wildlife but I will do other exotic animals by request.”
In recent years, Rusty has changed the way he paints.
“I’ve been focusing on how to be more impressionistic with my work,” he explained. “I think a lot of people like it.”
Recently, Rusty was invited to show a few pieces of his work at a gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, in April and May. He has also been featured in a number of national magazines.
Rusty is a member of the National Oil/Acrylic Painters Society and Oil Painters of America. Though he typically prefers to work with acrylics and oils, Rusty has also used watercolors particularly when he was younger.
Once a month, no matter the weather, Rusty participates in an En Plein Air club visiting Kensington Metropark to paint.
“I love the comradery,” he said.
One of his greatest accomplishments was getting his painting on a Duck Stamp. In the mid-1980s, Rusty found the contest through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and submitted a waterfowl painting. He kept that up and in 1995 was selected to have his painting of a Canada goose on the stamp, which was released in 1996.
Rusty also participated in a Wildlife Art Magazine competition where one of his pieces, a painting of a wolf, was selected and recreated through Art Licensing.
Lately, the painter is shifting his focus to National Parks.
“One of my goals is to hit all of the National Parks and paint them,” he said. “I still have a lot to go.”