H. “Rusty” Platz III

H. “Rusty” Platz III is the artist name of Henry Thomas Platz III. The third is important because there were two other Henry’s before him: his grandfather was Henry Thomas Platz Sr. and was called Henry; then his dad came along, and he was Henry Thomas Platz Jr. They called him Hank. “Then I came along, and I had red hair and they didn’t want to call me little Hank, so they called me “Rusty” and Rusty has lingered for some eighty years.” The quote marks on “Rusty” identify it as a nickname. He signs his name on his paintings as H. Platz III with the III identified as three dots, which is his signature or logo as far as design terms go.

Path into Art

Rusty was born in San Diego where his Dad worked designing armament for aircraft during WWII. He was transferred to New Orleans, where Rusty’s brother was born in New Orleans. His grandfather started his own business near Detroit manufacturing air hoists and balancers, that he designed, which were used on the automobile assembly line. It helped you take 100 pounds or an object and move it with your hand wherever you wanted, like a kid with a small bucket of sand. So, the Platz family moved to St. Clair Shores, MI, which then was a rural suburb of Detroit.

Rusty loved to explore the woods and play and fish in the creek near his home. His mother would warn them not to get in the river but sure enough they would get an old cement tub go float around the Milky River fishing or relive the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. His mom never did find out about that. He’d fish and try and snare rabbits there too. He’s loved the outdoors all his life. 

Rusty was raised Roman Catholic. He went to a parochial high school which was an all-boys school. His wife, who he met his senior year and her junior year, went to the all-girls school. The nine-foot cyclone fence between the two schools didn’t keep them from falling in love. The boys high school used to host a record hop every Friday night and it became known as the place to be. The parents liked it because the kids had to be there at 8:00pm to get their hands stamped. If you showed up at five minutes after eight you didn’t get in. And the kids couldn’t leave until at least eleven. So, the parents knew that between eight and eleven their kids would be safe at the record hop; some parents would patrol the parking lot to make sure that there was no hanky-panky going on. That’s where Rusty met Phyllis Ann Stemmelen. They continued to date after Rusty finished high school.

Growing up Rusty wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do. In High School he got involved in Boy Scouts and became an Eagle Scout. He worked summers at a scout ranch in Michigan where he worked in the  nature center. They caught the miscellaneous rattlesnakes now and then for display, which also included rabbits, turtles, chipmunks and racoons. After doing this for a year, he got involved in the ranch side of the camp doing repairs, mowing grass, stacking hay and being a fireman when needed.  He designed a t-shirt called the “ranch engineers” that included a T-square and horseshoes. The ranch had about twenty-three horses and four burros and Rusty became a wrangler taking care of the horses. 

Every summer morning, and weekends too, he’d saddle up and bridle some ten or twenty horses and take scouts on trail rides and teach them horsemanship classes for their merit badge. When they weren’t doing that, they had acres and acres to explore and tend. They ended up building a lake. Rusty learned to drive a bulldozer and dynamite stumps. It was thrilling for a nineteen-year-old to blow stumps up into the air about twenty or thirty feet. As he was getting ready to head to college, Rusty told his dad that he’d like to be a cattleman, raise horses for pleasure and raise beef for profit. His dad said, “Well son that isn’t going to work you know.” Still a love for the outdoors runs deep in Rusty’s soul and in his art.

From a young age Rusty liked to draw. In the seventh grade his teacher, Sister Arlene came by and saw a drawing he had made of a plane that wasn’t just flat; it had perspective. She said, “I think you are going to be an artist.” In high school he didn’t take any art classes. Still, he was always drawing. This got him in trouble one day in a high school history class, when the instructor caught him drawing. He got an F in that class for the first quarter and he then had a “Meet your Maker” conversation with his Father. That turned things around for Rusty academically, getting straight A’s in History after that. 

Later on, as his dad said, “Son, you’re going to be going to college soon. What do you want to do? Rusty had thought that since he liked to draw buildings, he might be an architect. But he got as far as differential calculus and realized he wasn’t cut out for that. Rusty told his dad, “I’d like to be an artist.” His dad rolled his eyes, but he was a smart man and he said, “Son, tomorrow I want you to go downtown to all the advertising agencies and art studios and ask them, “Where could I go to art school that when I finished, I could get a job?” Rusty’s idea of living in a loft and drawing naked ladies all day long met the reality of his dad’s pragmatism. To his credit the next day Rusty went downtown and asked around. The advertising agencies and artists all told him to go to Pratt Art Institute in New York or go to the Art Center School in Los Angeles. Being in the Midwest he considered New York and Los Angeles. He had received a catalogue from the Art Center School in Los Angeles and leafing through it thought, “this is right up my alley.” 

The Art Center School in Los Angeles

Rusty applied to the Art Center School and learned that he had to submit a portfolio.  He had never taken an art class, so he had to scramble. He collected ten or more drawings and paintings he had done and submitted them, crossed his fingers, and sure enough he got accepted. In 1962, he drove his little car cross country, his first road trip by himself, all the way to Los Angeles. 

The first day he had a figure drawing class with Harry Carmean with a pretty model like he had imagined. He thought “I know I’m going to like this profession.” But after three weeks of classes at the Art Center, Rusty realized that he was way in over his head. It was the first time that he had ever had any art classes. He had classmates who had already had graduated from college and others who were working in the art field. He went to the registrar, Karla Martell and said “I’m in trouble. I am way in over my head.” She said, “Don’t worry about it. The other students have to break a lot of bad habits. You can start out and learn the right way to do things.”

It took Rusty twice as long to do everything, but he finally got caught up to his classmates. There was no way to shortcut the learning process. He had to work hard. “If you’re taking a history class, you can kind of skim 300 pages of reading and wing it, but with an art class where you have to have three or four roughs on the wall in the morning for presentation, they have to be done and you have to be there. There’s no instantaneous production of art work,” Rusty comments.

Rusty came home for the summer to work. He was drafted, so he spent two years in the army. He went through Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Then went on to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for Advanced Individual Training in Artillery and was finally stationed at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs, Colorado, which was nice for him because he loved the outdoors.

After his time of service, he left the Army with an Honorable Discharge, and could get a little VA help with tuition and the things he wanted to do with his life. After two years and a whole lot of letters and phone calls he married his sweetheart, Phyllis whom he had met six years before at the record hop. They worked for a year and saved money. Then they decided to move back to California for Rusty to finish his degree at the Art Center School. By then Phyllis had her teaching credential. Rusty says that his wife was made for him. “When I was born, God said, ‘Boy, this poor little guy is going to need some help. I’ll take care of this.’ Nine months and two days later my wife was born and she’s the one that takes care of me so well!” Rusty says. 

Rusty and Phyllis celebrated fifty-six years of marriage in 2022. She’s stuck with Rusty through good and bad times, raising their two boys, both of who are married with three children each.

To make it through Art School the first year they lived off their savings. Rusty also got a job with a competitor to the manufacturing company he worked with in his after high school years in Michigan. The day he got hired on, he got orders from the Army that he had to attend a two-week summer camp in North Dakota. Rusty was able to get a hardship deferment and they patched it together, but it was tight. At that time, they were down to seventy-five dollars to pay for rent and feed their son. 

He took night classes at Art Center after work. The Art Center was on a tri-semester system. You could do four years in two years and eight months if you wanted to go year-round. Rusty ended up finishing early, and he looks back on some of the best instructors he ever had in his life. They were all working professionals, like Harry Carmean who taught life drawing, and Joe Henninger, head of the Illustration Department who was an illustrator for national accounts and did the ads for Strathmore Paper and Kolinsky brushes. He had Ted Youngkin an Industrial Designer and Eugene Fleury, a production designer with Disney as instructors, and took two semesters just studying color from Al King. He had two semesters just learning perspective with William Brewer. Rusty and classmates would observe in other classes to see what was going on. John Lagatta and Don Putman were famous instructors. It was a close network of teachers and students. 

With well-known teachers who were also working artists, the Art Center had an international reputation. Back then the Art Center was at in an old mansion in South Hollywood. There were about six hundred students, and only twenty percent of them were from California. Twenty percent were from overseas, and the other sixty percent from across the US. There was a lot of competition. Studio classes were five days a week and academics on Saturday.

Rusty started out with about twenty-five students in his first semester. Only about a quarter of them graduated. There were only two of us who graduated in Environmental Design. “So, they weeded you out,” Rusty says. The students were reviewed every semester. If you weren’t up to snuff, they told you to pack your bags and go home and save money because it wasn’t working out. Just before graduation, The Art Center School changed its name to the Art Center College of Design. Graduating with honors from the Art Center paid off for the rest of Rusty’s life. He never really had to look for a job. 

Working as a Designer and Illustrator

When he graduated with a major in Environmental Design and a minor in Illustration allowing him to design interiors and exteriors like parks and exhibits, he was interviewed by Raymond Loewy the father of Industrial Design was the owner and partner of Loewy/Snaith, a leader in industrial design, in New York. Raymond, liked his portfolio, offered him a job saying “I’ll see you in a week in New York.” 

Rusty walked out the door thinking to himself, “Oh my gosh. I don’t want to go to New York. In New York I can’t hunt and fish, and it will be hard to raise our two children.” Rusty ended up turning down the job. The Platz family stayed in L.A., where Rusty worked for Morganelli Heumann and Associates and designed stores and graphics for I. Magnin, Joseph Magnin and Jerry Magnin’s store in Beverly Hills.  Other stores included, Hecht Co. in Washington, DC, Stix,Baer,Fuller in St. Louis, Fashion Bar in Denver and ZCMI in Salt Lake City. He did that for two years. Then he started itching to get out of L.A., even though he was only nine blocks off the beach in Santa Monica. He used to surf almost every night and surf fish too, catching surf perch and Corvina, and fishing at Huntington Beach for Bonita, which is a similar to a tuna. They ate a lot of fresh fish!

He put out the word that he wanted out of L.A., and was interviewed in Pittsburgh, and Madison, WI which was too far east for his liking, and Denver, which was a better location but didn’t work out. Then he got a call from a recruiter at John Graham and Company in Seattle. The only thing he knew about Seattle at the time was the Space Needle was there and that it rained a lot. That week the National Geographic arrived and it had an article on Seattle which was fortuitous to learn more about that place.  They flew Rusty up. When he arrived, there were only three notable buildings in Seattle: The Smith Tower, which was the tallest building west of the Mississippi, the Space Needle, and the Seafirst building which was the box the Space Needle came in!

The architectural firm had designed the Space Needle among other big projects. Rusty took the job and worked on store design for a year, then went into architectural design, and then back to store design. After five years he got to the point where he was just meeting with clients and their lawyers, flying around, sitting in hotels and in conference rooms, and not doing the creative work he wanted to do. 

Rusty went to Phyllis for wisdom. She told him, “You’re coming home complaining about this and that. You went to the Art Center School to do what makes you happy, and now you’re not happy.” So, Rusty quit his job and became a freelance illustrator and designer. He designed logos for corporate identity, worked for architects, and illustrated for books, magazines, newspapers and annual reports. He specialized in architectural illustration and did thousands of illustrations.  

During his years of working for Morganelli Heumann and Associates, Rusty became a member of the Society of Illustrators. Through that society he participated in the U.S. Air Force’s documentary art program. Periodically he’d get to fly with the Air Force and carry the rank of Colonel, so he could go almost anywhere to sketch or gather reference material. The requirement was that you had to do one painting a year and submit it to the US Air Force art collection. In the fall, all the artists submitted a painting. The illustrators would be flown in an Air Force plane, like a C-130 or whatever was heading East, and fly them to Andrews Air Force base and then bussed them to barracks at the Bolling Air Force Base near Washington D.C. They were required to go to the formal presentation of the paintings to the Secretary of the Air Force and Secretary of Defense and other officials. After that, they had the rest of the week off. The painters of the group would go down to Virginia and paint and gather research of the farms in their fall glory. Rusty would always come back with a big pumpkin because you never could get a big one in L.A. It was a lot of fun.

While he was working in L.A., he also became a member of the Industrial Designers Society of America. They used to have an annual meeting in Yosemite National Park, at the Yosemite Lodge there. The designers would sit around at night and have coffee and drinks. Rusty would talk with Saul Bass who did movie titles for Anatomy of a Murder, North by Northwest, Psycho and other movies. and other designers who were famous in their fields. “We’d shoot the bull and talk design and it was just fantastic.”

During his freelancing years in Washington, Rusty had been involved with the Society of Professional Graphic Artists and had served as its president. You had to be a studio owner and have employees or be independent, working for yourself in the field. The group was formed to support and encourage graphic artists. In that group Rusty had a reputation as “the guy who wants to get paid.” If he picked up a job for a new client he asked for fifty percent up front. If they complained that they had credit everywhere, Rusty would say, “well you don’t have credit with me.” Rusty and others kept busy and advocated for graphic artists and illustrators at the state level getting the state to remove the sales tax from illustrations that were used for annual reports and etc. We were able to file tax as a service rather than as a retail sale as the agencies never kept the artist’s work, they just used it.

Puget Sound Group of Painters

While working as an illustrator, Rusty continued to develop as an artist. In 1974, he was invited to be a member of the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters. They were made up of artists and illustrators, people who were successful in the field. After he joined, unbeknownst, he and Phyllis were all set to go to their annual meeting that was a big auction. But they couldn’t get a babysitter so Phyllis stayed home. It turned out to be an all-night auction with an all-male group. That evening Rusty called her and said that he was so glad that we didn’t get a babysitter because it is an all-male group. “God was looking over me again, saving my tail,” Rusty reflects. The auction was a big deal with three hundred leaders from all sectors of business in Seattle, all guys. Members of the Puget Sound group would put on a play using a set they had created, with costumes and all and at some point, during the play a nude model would briefly appear in the play. They had a mailing list of over a thousand Seattle area leaders like the Chief of Police, politicians, CEO’s, bankers. “Everybody was there. There would be free drinks, a dinner, and then they’d auction off these paintings. We’d make sixty or seventy thousand bucks that night. Our costs were only about twenty-five thousand. We’d have all this money to give away for scholarships.” Besides that, annual event, the members met monthly for dinner and drinks. Rusty became a board member for the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters, then treasurer, then vice president, then he became president. During his tenure as president, they published a book celebrating Seventy Years of the Puget Sound Group. 

Six years after joining the Puget Sound Group he joined the Northwest Watercolor Society at which time he was voted in as a signature member. In 1986, Rusty was voted in to the American Artists of the Rockies Association.

Seattle Central Community College

Rusty worked as a freelance illustrator for twelve years. For a couple of years, he taught night classes at Seattle Central Community College. He enjoyed teaching drawing classes, though it was the first time he had ever taught. One night while he was teaching, he had one of his most embarrassing moments. He had twenty students in the Life Drawing class. A Danish model was up on a platform a foot off the floor. She was lit by flood lights. He turned around and saw all his students with shocked faces. She had locker her knees and passed out and as he turned to see what was happening, she fell off the platform and onto him. Rusty went to the floor, with flood lights crashing down around him. She eventually came to. She was panicking, so Rusty had the class take a break and took her for some coffee. This was not exactly his youthful image of the glamorous life of an artist, but at least it eas a good story later.

A position opened up at Seattle Central, and the leaders there liked the way Rusty taught. Rusty wasn’t keen on that because he was busy working. But they came back the next year and said, “We’d really like to have you.” He applied and got the job as an instructor in the two-year advertising art program. Students could come through the program and get a job after two years of study. Their competition at the time was the Art Institute of Seattle. They started out the year with one class of twenty-five students. Rusty had to quickly learn how to do lesson plans. Figure out the classes he was going to teach like graphic design, corporate design, lettering, typography, drawing, painting and illustration. The program was set up very much like the Art Center with very professional classes. The students were expected to meet deadlines. If his class started and nine and you had to have three drawings on the wall, the expectation was that the students would have three drawings at the wall at nine. “The important part of being a freelance illustrator or designer is that you have to meet deadlines. Deadlines. Deadlines. Deadlines are your life,” Rusty says. His classes prepared students for that. If they came in at five after nine with some excuse, Rusty would say, I’m sorry but you missed the deadline. And they’d lost grade points. “There’s no use having a deadline, if you’re not going to hold to it.” 

Rusty became very well liked in spite of being very strict. Students would tell him that he was the toughest teacher they ever had, but the best teacher they ever had. They had a lot of fun as well. He’d horse around with the students and have a great old time. Rusty would ask outside professionals to visit the class, just like they did in his Art Center days. They’d teach a class or do demos; some would even teach for a whole semester.  

Rusty developed as a professor. He took ongoing education classes on how to teach; eventually he was tenured. His student’s filled out end-of year evaluations; his evaluations came back with glowing reports. The administrators doubted his classes could be so phenomenal; but eventually they recruited him to sit in on other professor’s classes to mentor them on how to become better teachers and qualify for tenure. He really loved teaching. Eventually, the program was becoming more computerized and it became time to move on. Saying goodbye was hard. Rusty cried. The students cried. 

Watercolor Artist and Instructor

All during this time Rusty kept busy painting. He participated in shows with the Northwest Watercolor Society. One of his paintings got into the last Puget Sound area exhibition through the Frye Art Museum. He showed his art at the Bellevue Arts Fair and demonstrated painting at the Bellevue Art Museum and Tacoma Art Museum. 

A friend of Rusty’s, Frank Bickford, was teaching watercolor classes at the Edmond’s Senior Center. Frank was tired of teaching, so Rusty took over and taught there for six years. Teaching watercolor to fifteen or twenty students every week was a lot of work. He taught them the importance of preparing a line drawing from a photo. He’d demonstrate painting the scene and provided notes on technique. His students loved it.  The Lynwood Senior Center heard about Rusty, and recruited him. He did one day a week of a morning class in Lynnwood and then later head in the afternoon to Edmonds. “I was only out running around one day a week so I still had time to fish and hunt and paint.” 

Outdoor Painting

Plein Air painting has become popular in the last decades, but Rusty has always done what they called “field painting” or “outdoor painting.” One of his teachers at the Art Center, Paul Souza, taught that way. Students would check the bulletin board a day or two before class to find out where the class was going to meet. They would head to the outdoor location and paint from about nine in the morning to four. Students would be expected to paint three watercolors on those day long excursions. They’d critique the paintings. The next week they would go to a new location and paint new subjects. One week they might be at Knotts Berry Farm, the next painting locomotives at Travel Town, then paint the old buildings in Los Angeles, then go up to Redondo Beach and paint on the beach there. That’s how Rusty started painting outdoors in watercolor. “I went through a lot of paper,” Rusty says. 

Artists in the Puget Sound Group would take a couple of trips each summer to paint outdoors. They’d rent a double decker bus and drove to Roslyn to paint there. They’d drink a few beers and paint, then ride the bus back. “Roslyn would love it when we’d come because our big group would always go to the tavern after painting and have lunch and drinks there,” Rusty remembers. They painted on the Skykomish River and the waterfront in Bremerton. They painted one weekend at Rusty’s cabin on the Chiwawa River near Leavenworth. They did a lot of outdoor painting. 

“I really loved it. Your painting becomes more realistic when you paint outdoors. Painting outdoors at their cabin in Eastern Washington he notices the silver skies and gray clouds in western Washington give way to the warmer skies and colors of eastern Washington. He enjoys painting the climates of the place he is in, and has learned to paint with people watching over his shoulder. Rusty was painting in Idaho one time out on a country road in the middle of nowhere. He looked around behind himself and there was a herd of cows standing at the fence watching him paint. He said, “There’s critics everywhere!” Once he was painting at Jackson Hole in Wyoming at the elk refuge there. He was off the highway a ways painting when he heard a screeching sound of brakes and a car backs up. A guy he knew as an assistant scout master in his son’s scout troop in Kirkland get out and says, “I knew you painted outdoors, but I never thought I’d see you in the middle of Jackson Hole, WY, painting!” 

Rusty loses himself when he paints outdoors. Like when he’d be painting down by the river at their cabin. He’d be so focused on the painting that he wouldn’t hear Phyllis call him for dinner and she’d have to send one of the boys to get him. “I’d be in a zone and tune everything out,” he says. “I’m the same way in my studio at home.”

Artist Influences

Rusty was influenced a lot by the old illustrators: Al Parker, N.C. Wyeth, Dean Cornwell and Haddon Sundblum, who did the Coca Cola ads with Santa Claus in juicy red colors. Sporting art magazine illustrators like Frances Golden, who painted in watercolors, and John Scott who did the illustrations for Outdoor Life and Sports Afield. Ogden Pleissner was another watercolorist who did a lot of sporting illustrations and paintings. Another favorite is Donald Teague. “Boy he was just fantastic.” Of course, you can’t leave out John Singer Sargent. Rusty followed in their tracks, doing illustrations of fishing and hunting, and painting landscapes he loves. 

He’s only taken two workshops in his whole life. These were part of his continuing education with Seattle Central Community College to get a pay raise. One was with Ron Lucas, who is a fantastic painter and studied under Sergey Bongart. He spent a week at an outdoor painting class with Ron Lucas at a cabin in Teanaway, and another week there with Spokane artist Del Gish.  

Lessons for Artists 

The most important thing in painting is drawing. Rusty takes his sketchbook with him everywhere he goes; and he expected his students to do the same. He takes it to church. He has his prayer book and his sketch book with him there. You have to learn how to draw if you’re going to paint. You need to be able to transfer that image from the outdoors or a photograph to a drawing and then to your paper. Eye and hand coordination doesn’t happen instantaneously. You have to work at it. 

That leads to the second lesson: the necessity of practice. The more you practice, the more you grow and the better you get. Everyone wants to do the instantaneous masterpiece. “If there was a pill I could give you that would make you paint a masterpiece, make you paint that picture just right, I’d be a millionaire.” he says. But the fact is that it takes practice, practice, practice. The more you practice, the better you get. “By the time you think you’re doing really, really good, you die.” 

If Rusty stops drawing or painting for a few weeks, he says, “It’s kind of like I lose my artistic muscles.” He has to learn the fundamentals all over again. “I need to learn to hit the ball all over again so I could hit a home run. My sketchbook is my batting cage.” He says that if you have a sketchbook and you’re drawing it’s not for anyone else. It’s for you. Everyone thinks that they have to draw a perfect picture. It doesn’t work that way. You need to start by learning to draw a subject before you complete a finished painting. He encourages young artists to develop patience. 

A third lesson is to use quality paint and paper. Rusty uses Arches 300lb cold press or hot press. Arches is a French made paper. He uses Windsor and Newton paint. His students always wanted to go out and buy the cheapest paper and pigment. But it’s hard to get a decent color from watered down paints. There’s a fun story with this. Jerry Still, Bill Ryan, Frank Bickford and Rusty noticed that Dan Smith had a print shop down on Nickerson Avenue. He made printers ink. And he sold paper down there as well. One day Bill Ryan asked Dan if he could order him some watercolor paper. When Dan learned what price he could sell paper, he said for sure. The artists came together and put in a big order. Rusty bought for four quires of 300lb and 140lb Arches Cold Press and Hot Press. Others ordered paper as well. “I think we put him in business selling art supplies,” Rusty says.  Until they closed the doors of the downtown store in 2021, Daniel Smith was one of the premier stores for artists in the Puget Sound region.    

A fourth lesson is to paint outdoors. As a student, painting three paintings a day taught him to work quick. To do thumbnail sketches to determine where the light is because the light changes fast. You also learn that as an artist you can move mountains and trees and even put water in where there wasn’t water. Water seems to run through Rusty’s paintings. Maybe that’s because he’s hunted and fished so much. 

Struggles and Joys of Watercolor

The Art Center School prepared Rusty well as an artist, “for just about everything,” as he puts it. He learned lessons there that he still follows today. Like that a painting needs a focal point. When his students would start into a painting, he would stop them and ask, “Why are you painting this? What in this scene caught your attention? When he’s driving around looking for a place to paint, he has what he calls the “fifty mile an hour mirage.” You glance out the window and you think “that would make a great painting.” But when you back up and look, you realize that it doesn’t have a strong focal point, or reason to paint it. 

The joy of painting for Rusty is not so much for the money. He just has to paint. He just has to draw. It’s in him and it needs to come out. 

Watercolor is that way.  Watercolor is a rare medium. Watercolor is a spontaneous medium. Once that pigment touches water and that paper something happens. Lot of its controllable but lots of it is not. Hopefully you have what I call “happy accidents.” He’d illustrate this in his class at Edmonds senior center by “accidently” spilling some of his coffee on the watercolor paper. The students would gasp and think he had ruined the paper. Then he’d take that paper with a watercolor stain and make a watercolor out of it. People have to learn that you’ll end up with more mistakes than winners. That’s how you learn. You also need to know when to quit painting when it’s done. Rusty’s wife will come into the studio and say it’s time to quit, it’s done, and he would plead, “Just give me five more minutes!”


When he was in high school Rusty saw a picture in a Holiday magazine of an artist in Switzerland painting on an outdoor easel. Rusty said, “that’s what I want to do someday.” That dream has come true. He’s painted outdoors his whole life, blending his love for creation and outdoor recreation with his profession as an artist. He paints in both oil and watercolor outside. 

Rusty found a way to merge his vocation with his avocation. His love of the outdoors nurtured on the river and woods in Michigan found a fit when he saw that picture of an artist working plein air in Switzerland. As a boy scout he spent more nights under the stars then in his own house. Later with the army he spent whole days and nights outdoors. He’s always been outdoors. He’s been through all the winter survival classes up at Mount Rainier. He’s spent many a winter night in an igloo at Snoqualmie Pass. He’s done two fifty-mile backpack trips in the Pasayten Wilderness. He’s done a float trip with a scout troop from Hells Canyon Dam down to Lewiston, Idaho. “That was beautiful.” He collected great painting resources on that trip and got some nice fish too. Rusty and his wife Phyllis have visited 34 National Parks not counting the Provincial Parks in Canada. All of these outdoor adventures weave seamlessly into his vocation as an artist. He records them in his sketchbooks and treasures them in his heart. They come out later in his paintings of the places that he’s been doing the things he has loved. 

Vintage Watercolorists of Washington Show

  • Opens Saturday, March 12, 10am-5pm
  • Meet the Artists Reception: Saturday, March 12, 3pm
  • Continues Saturday, March 19 and 26, 10am-5pm
  • At Sunnyshore Studio: 2803 S.E. Camano Island, WA 98052
  • Sponsored by Northwest Watercolor Society (NWWS)

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