A Visit To Gene Rantz’s Studio

There’s a quiet beauty in entering a creative person’s maker space. 

A rough pencil sketch on a scrap of manilla drawing paper. Jars with carefully cleaned brushes that still hold just a whisper of Viridian oil paint near the ferrule. A box of pastel chalks; the pinks unused, while colors for shading nature rest as nubs and bits and powder. Tupperware boxes filled with used oil tubes that give away the color source of farm fields and rolling clouds out over the bay.

You can see which were the most beloved colors in the way the tubes had been rolled to get every last bit of Ultramarine Blue, Indigo, Prussian and Horizon. Just a few in the arsenal of blues that let him give the world what I now identify as a “Gene Rantz Sky”. 

Last Saturday, Betsy Ernst and I went to Gene’s studio at the invitation of Bill Rantz, Gene’s son. He wanted us to pick some things for the Gene & Judy Rantz Youth Foundation Scholarship program at NAA. We gathered books, paper, brushes, paints and other things our young students can use. 

We took our time looking around the studio while we chatted with Bill & Colleen Rantz and Lisa, from the estate auction house. Among the things left there, waiting … ready to get back to the making, there were books on art and books on philosophical meanderings. A small bird’s nest catching light by a window. A can of soup no doubt to remind him to stop and eat something. There were vertical stacks of sketches he’d done for practice at the Monday Night Figure Drawing Classes that Chris Woomer teaches. 

There were easels and work tables; an enlarger for architectural sized copies and dozens of large and small tools for bringing to life whatever his imagination could conjure.

We saw watercolors, oils and pencil drawings in every stage of completion that sat looking back at us as if to say they were on the way, but not there yet. 

My favorite things were the paint palettes. Covered in whatever dabs and smears and mixes Gene needed while he worked. Wood and hardboard and even a piece of glass held the primordial soup from which each creation emerged unique and beautiful. 

And the glove. That one hit me in the heart. The cloth glove that Gene had used so many times to blend and smooth and wipe a wet canvas that the paint had stiffened it. I stood it up on the worktable so I could take a picture and that was the thing that had me step away and shed a few tears. So real and so tangible, this simple glove awaiting the hand that needed it.   

And there were new supplies at the studio as well. Stacks of brand new canvases, watercolor paper, oil paint sets and lots of picture frames! 

So many of us were friends of Gene and his luminescent wife, Judy, who moved in the world like a human bundle of wildflowers. Losing them both, one after the other, was a stunning reminder that life is short and we’d better get on to making our own contributions to the world sooner rather than later. 

Now, it’s your turn.  On May 15, 2022, Bill Rantz will be holding a sale and auction of Gene’s studio contents. For artists looking to add to their supplies, the items I’ve mentioned will be available for sale. And for those of us who want a memento of our friend there will be an auction. Artifacts of a life well-lived; small treasures and tools; sketches and art pieces, wooden art boxes and work lights amongst the offerings. 

Part of the proceeds from the sale will be donated by the very generous Rantz family to the Gene & Judy Rantz Youth Art Foundation Scholarship Program at NAA.  We are grateful and we want the Rantz family to know that we will continue to hold Gene in our collective hearts.

I’m pretty sure that if Gene were here he’d say, “Ok. people. That’s enough. Get back in your studios and make something.”


You can donate to the Gene & Judy Rantz Youth Art Scholarship Foundation and the Gene & Judy Rantz Memorial Bench Project here: https://www.northportartsassociation.org/gene-and-judy

And, please, take some time to visit Gene’s website and be with his art for a moment. https://generantz.com/

Are you a Plein Air Painter? Come on up to the top of the Leelanau Peninsula this July and join the Gene Rantz Plein Air Paint Out at the Northport Arts Association! https://www.northportartsassociation.org/call-for-artists

And, if you’re interested in the auction coming up this May 15, 2022, Check in at the NAA website for details. https://www.northportartsassociation.org/

Words & Photos by Mimi DiFrancesca Heberlein, V. P. NAA

Above Images from Gene’s studio by Mimi DiFrancesca

Gene & Judy Rantz
Christmas Cove Sunset by Gene Rantz Northport, Michigan

Poetry: Where The Stars Come From

Inspired by this photograph by Marc Nugent, Member/Photographer of the Northport Arts Association. We are studying the works in the Starry Night (Dark Sky) show currently hanging and writing poetry that emerged from our studies. Here is mine today. Fitting as we have just learned that fellow member/artist, Gene Rantz passed today, just a few weeks after his beloved wife Judy passed. They were a helluva love story….

Where The Stars Come From

I know where the stars come from

They’re the rising sparks 

That floated up 

From the bonfires of our love-

Each brush of fingers

Sparked and jumped

Every time we touched

I saved them all

And made a gift to the sky-

Selfish in the giving-

Sent to where I could still 

see them burning

You’re gone now-

Decades on

Still young and perfect

dancing with the embers

And I am still here

Looking up

Not so young or perfect

But, I have a million stars-

Evidence of us

It’s OK.

I’ve just loved you from over here

Poetry: From Nothing

from nothing                 by mimi difrancesca ©2021

the unseeable




dark matter-

that blackness 

beside the stars-

the infinitesimal space 

between the smallest of particles-

that is where I began

moving out from nothing

taking physical form for 

this brief dance

and then-

i will leave a shimmering trail

of light and spark

behind when i return 

to where i began-

i am something

from nothing

Poetry Day: Rogue Wave

Rogue Wave

out of nowhere

he knocked me off my feet 

and pulled me under

deep into his world

i never struggled-

happy to drown

in all that surrounded me 

i traded air for water

and separated from the world i knew

floating in filtered light

Rocking with the current 

until much later

When he was done 

and took me up again

To lay me on the sand

where I stared at the sun

and let it burn me 

until I hurt everywhere

inside and out

he was my rogue wave

there and gone

as if he’d never been at all

somewhere below

on the side of a shipwreck

i etched my name

in the soft wood

with a broken shell

proof that i was there too

NaPoWriMo2021 Poem #30

Well gentle readers, this is it. The last of the 30 Poems in 30 Days for National Poetry Writing Month in 2021. Some came easy. Others were extracted with forceps through an orifice that will not be named. Like getting the lactic acid moving in your stiff knees, if nothing else, rising to write for a month straight will get your creative wheels greased and moving again. It’s time for longer pieces now. Maybe some painting next. Whatever you do, follow the words of Joss Whedon- “Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.”

Poetry- A decade poem

every decade i write one piece to shatter through the detritus that gathers in life. beyond an aging body, deep in the archives of our hearts are things that transcend all we are because they were defining moments that turned our path towards a different future. ~birthday present~

I Remember

Oh, yes

I remember

the exact color of your eyes-

I saw it once

flying over the Atlantic 

at noon looking down

on the blue gray ocean

I remember –

hard angled jaw

magnet for lips

tracing across

towards your quirked mouth

long curious fingers-

emotional barometers

their constant motion

seeking new experience

your velvet steel

fusing to my spine

creating something else

from what I was

your voices –

the deadliest weapons 

in your arsenal –

your day voice-

contagious laughter

like iron bells

ringing on a summer afternoon  

rattling my heart cage

but that other voice –

spoken in dimmed light 

and darkness 





that voice

was felt

between the legs

causing a listening soul 

to crawl towards it


for its life giving water

Oh, yes

I remember