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Local Artist Spotlight: Clinton Reno

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If you’ve lived in Columbus for more than a month, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve already seen some of Clinton Reno’s artwork around town. Clinton has been contracted to create posters, flyers, tshirts and other screenprinted work for high-profile venues including the Wexner Center and the North Market, as well as touring musicians performing in Columbus that range from Coldplay to Gnarles Barkley to Death Cab for Cutie.

We recently caught up with Clinton to chat about the screenprinting process, and find out what inspires him.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background as an artist and what got you interested in screenprinting?

A: I graduated from CCAD awhile back when grunge was cool and there was a Clinton in office. At that time I wasn’t sure what I would do but thought as soon as I hit the pavement there’d be illustration work ready and waiting for me. HA. I was naive (and my skill/talent wasn’t anything that would warrant people beating down my door as I’m sure may happen for some illustrators). So for a few years I did all sorts of things ranging from text books illustrations to mass production shirt design before landing at an ad agency – an environment where I was able to hone my design skills and still get to do an illustration now and again.

During that time I started doing caricatures for a buddy of mine who had a website featuring indie rock and roll bands/artists. One of these band caricatures ended up on mp3.com (I told you this was awhile back) and from there I started doing some flyers for this particular band. Along comes Robert Duffy and his site donewaiting.com. I started doing posters (at this point just 11×17 full color flyers printed at staples or kinko’s) for his shows and for shows of bands with whom he was close.

After about a year of doing that I went to a show at Stained Skin featuring the work of rock poster icon Mike Martin. He was familiar enough with the flyers of mine that he’d seen – he told me, in a way only Mike can, if I wanted to get any sort of respect or credibility that I needed to start screen printing my posters.

So I took what limited knowledge I had on it and with a ton of help from gigposters.com forums, Mike, and a few other printing veterans, I re-taught myself how to do it.

Q: Walk us through your process for creating a screenprinted piece. Many have described the process as quite involved and time consuming. Do you enjoy it?

A: I enjoy it to an extent – when things are going well I enjoy almost every aspect of it. Though there are parts of the process that I’m not super thrilled about having to do, ever. And it does take some time, just working through all the steps to make it happen. That can get a little old when all you want to do is get it done and go spend time with your wife and son. But it IS a labor of love and I guess I probably wouldn’t go through the trouble if I didn’t love it, which I do.

The process can be broken down into about a million steps but I’ll spare you that- I’ll hit the big points:

– creation of the artwork

from sketch, to ink, to computer to add color, texture, etc.

– then each color is output on film

– exposure of each color (normally 3, sometimes as many as 5, though that’s rare for me)

– printing of each color

– finish by signing and numbering each print – as few as 25 to as many as 300

Q: According to your website, it sounds like you retain a lot of inspiration from childhood cartoons. Do you still draw upon those resources from that specific era, or are there different things that inspire your work today?

A: I don’t ever specifically or intentionally draw on cartoons/comics for inspiration – though I’d imagine given the amount of GI Joe cartoons and comic books I watched and read it’s all just ingrained in my head. Obviously the thick dark line that surrounds everything in my work is very cartoon and comic book inspired. That and the big wash of flat colors, the dot patterns… all this points back to a comic book feel (at least the comics from the 80s).

These days I get a lot of inspiration from my peers, or other artists whose work I admire – seeing what they might be doing that excites me motivates me to keep working or motivates me to try new things or approach a poster differently than I normally would. But I think it’ll always have that comic book look to it.

Q: Having created a lot of poster artwork that promotes many national and international musicians, have you gotten any interesting feedback from the musicians themselves on your work?

A: From time to time I’ll hear from the promoter or from CD101 that a band or artist really liked the poster. Or I’ll be given one that’s been signed and there will be a personalized little note on there. It’s pretty crazy and I’m starting to get a good collection of those, some of which blow my mind (actually all of them do in some way or another). There have been a few instances though that have gone beyond that – Over the Rhine called me out on stage in the middle of their set. My Morning Jacket liked a poster I did for them and re-used the art (with my permission) for their new year’s eve commemorative t-shirt. In the case of Over the Rhine it’s lead to more work and to a friendship with the couple at the heart of the band, which is kind of surreal. All of it from a 3 color poster plastered up at Little Brother’s.

Q: As someone who is familiar with your work, I’ve found it fairly easy to spot something new and recognize it as a Reno poster before seeing your name on it. Do you find it rewarding to have an easily recognizable style, or have you felt at all confined to deliver a product that people have grown used to?

A: To be told that, actually, is one of the biggest compliments – and it’s certainly not confining at all. But at this point it’s more of something that just happens, not even something I consciously do. And that’s not said coming from an arrogant place – I’m not saying “I could do this in my sleep”. It’s more that I don’t know that I could NOT do it – and even if I were to be able to I don’t think it would feel genuine. I see a lot of amazing work from artists I admire and think for a split second I’d love to try that, or try this, but then I remember that they have a style and do it well because they’ve done it for so long or because that’s how they convey their message. If I tried it I feel like it wouldn’t feel right.

That’s not to say I’m not trying to improve or change things up as I continue making posters- I just think it will always end up being in my hand.

Q: Any upcoming shows or events where people can find your work?

A: Hoping I get into the North Market Artisan Sunday series again this year. It looks like I’d be there the third sunday of the month if it happens.

We’ll try to get in to a handful of the craft events throughout the season, both locally and nationally. Columbus has a number of course – Tiny Canary, Agora to name a couple.

And I’ll be in Brooklyn for The Renegade Craft fair in June.

But no gallery shows scheduled yet. I’d love to try to get something for the end of the year, have something a little different to work towards.

We’ll see. Stay tuned for sure.

More information about Clinton Reno can be found at www.ClintonReno.com.


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