Reno Unger is one of the newest members of the Lakewood Arts Gallery Co-op. Here he answers some of my questions about how he got his start in art and where he plans to go from here. Stop in the gallery and see his beautiful photography!
How did you get started in creating art?
I have always enjoyed art. The first piece I remember was from kindergarten entitled “Two Peanuts in a Red Sack”. I went to a serious, science-oriented high school - the kind where art, music and phys. ed. were irrelevant. When I got to college I remember feeling somewhat illicit taking an art course as an elective. I took a number of other art electives and began to accumulate a notebook filled with watercolors that I was quite pleased with. A girlfriend at the time asked if she could take them home over spring break to show her mother and I never saw them again. Shortly after that, the draft called and I spent 5 years in the Navy, by which I had lost much of my ability in watercolor, but had found photography, woodcuts and pen and ink.
What is your favorite medium and why?
Even though it is not what I do most often, I love woodcuts. Perhaps the reason is that it is much more challenging. I often finish one, look at the result and split the block up for kindling. Now that I have more time, I hope to turn out significantly more work.
I spend far more time and energy on nature and scenic photography. I usually get to a photo workshop in a different part of the country about once a year and have been to Costa Rica, Tennessee, N. Carolina, the Chesapeake Bay, W. Virginia, Oregon, Wyoming and several other states.
I also enjoy furniture design and building. Most of that, however, ends up in my home or as Christmas presents for the children.
What are your favorite subjects?
I have always loved nature and use art and photography as an excuse to spend long hours outdoors. Most of my work revolves around scenics and animals as a result. Insects, especially butterflies are my very favorites. Knowing that such thinks just don’t appeal to most people, however, I rarely put them in a show. I also love glass slumping, but they are so expensive to produce that I could never sell them.
Do you have a vision for your work? For a body of work that you would like to create?
I am not sure that I have a goal for a “body of work”. The photography is definitely turning out that way as mentioned above, but in art I enjoy try ing new things and learning new techniques. That will probably end up my body of work - a wide variety of efforts in many different media.
How did you find out about the Lakewood Arts Council and Co-op? What do
you find most enjoyable or beneficial about being a member?
I stumbled across the gallery quite by accident. I went to a store nearby, saw the art in the window and went in to look around. During a conversation with the artist on duty, I found out that woodcuts and photography would be valued and applied to the jury. I was new in town, having just moved from Pennsylvania, and was looking for art oriented activities.
What's next on the horizon?
In the near future, I want to seek out a place for lessons in different media and will be producing more woodcuts, photography and pen and ink. I may even get started in watercolors again.
Has your work changed over the years? In what way?
I’m not sure my work has evolved much. With practice and additional training, hopefully I’ve gotten better. Other than that, nothing much has changed.
Which artists from the past or living do you admire most?
Winslow Homer has been a favorite ever since I saw three of his works at the Chicago Art Institute. If I ever get back into watercolor, he will greatly influence my style.