by Bob Bahr
You hear it so often at SKB events that it is on the verge of becoming a cliché: SKB is one big family. There are plenty of other workshops out there, and beautiful places to paint, and opportunities to get away and further develop your artistic skills. The SKB workshop sells out in just a handful of days each year because an ever-growing group of people want to get together and share a common devotion to art and to an utter lack of pretension. It is loose, supportive, and it in its own way, rigorous.
Within the SKB family, there are actual biological families—wives and husbands, fathers and daughters…and brothers and sisters. Like Rusty Frentner and Chris Schindler.
Many SKBers know Frentner. He’s a regular at SKB events from Texas to Wyoming, and we wrote about him here. The Michigan plein air group that centers around Heiner Hertling is where Frentner learned about SKB. His sister, Chris, learned about SKB through Rusty, and now the two are often seen together in Dubois in September.
They both have day jobs, although Frentner seems on the brink of being a full-time artist. His work is improving rapidly, and has been for some time. Schindler demonstrates the dedication and stamina of a plein air painter. Then again, this may just be a function of her overall character. She has a full-time job, a part-time job, and she’s a caregiver for someone—and she still finds time to paint. “She does not sit still long,” says Frentner. But watch her tackle a subject in brisk weather and wind, and you’ll know she sticks with it.
The two are very supportive of each other, and painting with them places you in a gentle bubble of positivity, pragmatism, and calmness. Work gets done. “We share ideas,” says Schindler. “We critique each other and bounce ideas off each other, and we share reference photos. Rusty gives me tips—he’s a good teacher.”
The siblings paint together at least once a week. They live “a little over a mile away from each other as the crow flies.” Their artwork isn’t utterly dissimilar, although Schindler has a looser hand. “He can sit there for hours on a little square, and I can’t do that,” says Schindler. “I don’t have the time to dedicate to that.”
“I can get into really crazy detail,” Frentner concedes. “My sister is really good with color and can emphasize that.”
Their father was a painter—among other things. “He had a lot of other interests,” Frentner says. “He liked the painterly effect and he wasn’t too crazy with too much details. We lived out in the country, and he got us painting and other art supplies for us kids for Christmas. Our father passed a year ago in July. He could be pretty critical of our work. He was a genius level in electronics–designed medical equipment for surgeons. Our older brother has some of that–he can fix anything. It’s not broken until he can’t fix it.”
Schindler mostly paints in watercolor and oils, while Frentner hasn’t met many media he didn’t enjoy. His colored pencil work is extremely impressive. Frentner paints in oils often, and he has a good business painting pet portraits. Schindler got serious about painting again about 2 ½ years ago. She has no plans to be a full-time artist, but fate has a way of deciding such things. “I want to help him succeed,” she says about Frentner. They both smiled. Such is life inside this kind, sibling bubble. Ω