Artist Doug Unger spoke to students, visitors, and professors about his work, “Amish Landscapes, Charm, Ohio: Paintings by Doug Unger” on Sunday, Sept. 11. Featuring his landscape paintings of the Amish farms in Holmes County, Ohio, the exhibit displays Unger’s style and skill to capture the tranquility of the countryside.
Yet, Unger shared beyond his inspiration and transition from portrait to landscape paintings. Dressed in a simple plaid vest with blue jeans, Unger noted the importance of the elements of art (such as hue and value) and emphasized the painter’s perspective. For Unger, these mental tools are in constant use, particularly the practice of looking at art when creating art. Despite the fact that the audience was surrounded by a specific, Mid-Western art atmosphere, Unger’s works are a result of an array of experiences surrounding music and travel. His paintings, serene and placid, do not betray what an enigma he is. Not only is Unger a traditional folk artist, he is also a storyteller with tales ranging from personal experiences to motivational remarks for budding artists.
Emphasizing the importance of color, Unger encouraged the audience to see and modify color. “Painters see it in color, shapes and lines become edges,” Unger said, when responding to how pastel can also be used as paint. He also showed the audience one of the portraits he drew early in art school and how the transition of different shapes and the drawing’s smoothness depends on subtle shifts of color. As a colorist, he expressed the need for sensitivity of colors, or, to quote French artist Pierre Bonnard, “the harmony of colors.”
His passion for having multiple interests and inspirations is clearly evident in his love for music and travel. Not only does he play traditional folk music, but he also has a penchant for crafting instruments such as the banjos. Currently, he does not look at art but completely immerses himself in music. Unger said, “I go bouncing around like a sponge, picking up these things- you can’t say no to these urges. You have to go for it and try all of it.”
Then addressing the younger audience, Unger said, “Because you are young you are bullet proof… You have no excuse,” he said, jokingly, when urging the audience to learn from music and to travel.
His presentation ended with a simple, yet profound definition of art. “Visual thinking,” Unger stated, and continued with a second definition: “Nature seen through a temperament.” His oeuvre of Amish landscapes, is a testament to these statements.
“Amish Landscapes, Charm, Ohio: Paintings by Doug Unger” is on exhibit from September 11 through November 16 in the basement of the GC library.