Frank Gustafson was born in rural Kansas City. His first introduction to art was finger painting in kindergarten where he received his first award for getting the most paint on himself and his clothes.
He attended Kindergarten through 12th grade in Kansas City. One time in grade school some cows wandered onto the playground. “I remember it being the biggest thrill chasing those cows oﬀ the playground.”
When he was eight to ten years old he went to art shows on The Plaza in KC. He would look at the paintings and study them. “When I'm painting out in public I notice that kids react diﬀerently to what I'm painting than the adults.”
Gus is self-taught and attended workshops, read books and watched videos. He did take an art class his senior year in college but was discouraged with art “because the teacher was having us do a lot of silly things.” Oils have been his medium of choice until recently when he began to work with acrylics.
Quite the adventurist, his graduation gift from high school was a trip to Europe. He and a buddy were on a train going from Switzerland to Paris and decided to hop oﬀ in Switzerland and climb the Matterhorn. They convinced the guide they were expert mountain climbers. Normally a one-day training session is required.
As an aside, Gus attended high school at Penday Private School (on an athletic scholarship) in Kansas City and a class mate was Larry Pakula. They were also college roommates and fraternity brothers. Larry is the head of Pediatrics at John Hopkins Hospital.
He went to Boyd College in Wisconsin. After graduation he was accepted into three medical colleges. He knew that “real” doctors were called upon at all hours and didn't have much family time so he chose to go to dental school and become a practicing dentist.
He graduated from dental school in 1957 and joined the Air Force as a dentist with a Captain's rating. He married an English woman while stationed in France and they had four children. He spent two years in the service and returned to Lebanon, Missouri. He divorced and got full custody of his four children.
He spent five years in Lebanon with his children and moved to Kansas City for better schools. In 1973 he moved to Montana. He set up his own dental practice and also worked two days a week for an older dentist who was retiring.
After thirty years as a Dentist, three doctors told Gus to get his things in order because he wouldn't be around much longer. He sold his practice, purchased a motor home and drove all over the US participating in art shows. He is now 86 years old and credits his longevity to eating some-thing “live” from his garden every day.
During his “country tour” he spent a week in Missouri attending a Bob Ross Seminar and became a certified Bob Ross instructor. In fact, back in Montana he was the #1 Bob Ross instructor . . . he was the only one in the state.
He was accepted into a high-quality fine art show and a banquet was held the night before. Gus chose to have his painting critiqued by the judge at the event. At that time Gus was known as “Value Gus” because he felt the first thing you should think about for a piece is value. “The judge studied my painting and said, 'You know what values are, right? You've got to learn to use them' and walked oﬀ.” He shares “I now have an entirely diﬀerent viewpoint on values than I did then.”
Gus also attended a workshop by Everett Tinsler (who paints large pictures of presidents). “He looked at my painting and said 'You'll never be a painter but you'll be a good teacher.'” Gus has given several workshops at Manley and has taught many classes both in Montana and in Brookings.
Gus won a quick draw contest in Virginia and sold the painting for $325.00. A little boy came up to him and said he liked a particular part of the painting and Gus gave him a brush and he painted on the canvas . The little boy's mother was the purchaser of the piece.
Gus moved to Brookings in 1999 and joined PBAA shortly after. Charlotte Palmer was instrumental in getting him to join. Since he has been here he has participated in the Azalea Festival Art Show, hung work in Manley Art Center, Signatures Gallery and Wright's Framing and Gallery and participated in outdoor art shows.
Gus says, “Values, chroma, temperature and design are most important when doing a painting. “Still life, outdoor life and seascapes are my favorite things to paint. I'm now changing to acrylics and plan to have a palette of only red, yellow, blue and white. I think it will make me be more con-scious of color.”
From adventurer to dentistry to artist to gardener, he has certainly led an interesting life.