When local artist Frank Anschutz was a child his parents separated, and he spent the days at his grandmother’s house in St. Louis.
This was the beginning of his artistic life.
His grandmother would not let him go outside during the day because she did not want him disturbing the neighbor who worked nights at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.
So Anschutz, who was only about 5 years old, would listen to radio programs and draw.
“I’d sit there until afternoon,” he said. “I had to have something to keep my mind occupied.”
His grandmother did not have a TV, and the art practice paid off. He entered a drawing to the Art Instruction Schools of Minneapolis, Minn. He thinks he may have submitted a turtle head drawing.
The school officials liked his drawing and wanted him to join their program, so he took a correspondence course when he was about 18.
“They said I had potential,” Anschutz, 66, said.
But eventually he gave up the study of art to work for the Chrysler car and truck plant in 1965.
He noted that the school had asked him to draw the inside of a building, and he did not like drawing chairs, couches and walls. He gave up the program at about 21.
“I just let it go,” he said, adding that he wonders what would have become of his life had he stayed with it.
A New Beginning
While he gave up art school, he did not give up on art.
“I could always draw,” said Anschutz, who grew up in Pacific and graduated from high school there.
He said all people have something they are good at, and drawing and painting just come naturally to him.
This is evidenced by the many paintings that grace his country home in Robertsville, where he lives with his wife, Sharon.
About 35 years ago, he started painting again when he saw famous artist Bob Ross on TV.
“That got me interested again,” he said, adding that he had been away from the canvas for about 15 years at that point.
Anschutz has a keen eye for nature with his images of tilled earth, bright yellow sunsets, shimmering lakes and purple hillsides.
Rusted barn roofs and a farmer running a horse-drawn plow show how man fits in his oil paintings as well.
Tents and boats by a riverside and horses playing in fields are also among the many images that he has on display at his house.
“People seem to like something they can identify with,” Anschutz said.
Many of the images he paints come from calendars, and he is a diverse artist who can paint everything from old cars to stagecoaches. One common theme among his paintings may be an appreciation for the old times.
As he looked at a painting he did of an old filling station, he said, “I think older folks could relate to that.”
He noted that he worked at a Mobil station many years ago.
“Maybe I live in the past too much,” he said as he stood in his basement that has a jukebox and old Coke bottles on display.
But he likes to think that his work helps preserve history, adding, “It really takes you back.”
He does not like to paint portraits because it requires perfection and does not give the artist much flexibility.
For instance, he has loved Mickey Mantle since he was a child and has made a clock portraying the baseball player, but he stays away from portraits.
“I don’t want Mickey Mantle looking like Mickey Mouse,” he said.
When it comes to the prices he asks for his work, Anschutz said he has heard that he’s too cheap. But he likes for his art to be affordable.
He has even donated paintings to church auctions to benefit charity.
“I’m not making a living off this,” he said.
But that is not what matters to him, noting that painting is a relaxing pastime.
He donated one of his paintings to Franklin County, and it hangs along the stairwell of the government building in Union. It is an image of the Statue of Liberty and an eagle with the word “Freedom” emblazoned across the canvas.
He cleaned the old courthouse in Union for 15 years before retiring as a Franklin County employee last year.
Another way he preserves old times is through his saw paintings. He seeks out old saws and makes a canvas out of them with the blade serving as a rustic, attractive border.
One large saw painting includes the St. Louis Arch and the Budweiser Clydesdales. The old saws are becoming hard to find, so Anschutz looks for them at garage sales.
Devoted to his craft, he also makes his own picture frames and spends about five hours each day painting.
The Golden Gate Bridge is something he has always wanted to paint.
“I just think it’s neat,” he said.
But abstract art is a form that he does not embrace, saying, “I don’t know what it means. I guess someone could tell you what it means. I like realism.”
He has two daughters — Sherri Fischer of Wildwood, who works for Washington University as grant writer; and Dana Anschutz of Waterloo, Ill, who works as an office manager at a car dealership.