Finishing paintings within two hours is one of Salida artist Carl Borks’ talents. Capturing light moving through autumn aspens is another.
Bork typically finishes a painting within two hours, and he paints 300 works per year. However, he is calling 2017 the Year of Beast Mode, and he plans to blow that figure out of the water.
By the end of February Bork had already lost track of how many paintings he’d finished. In one day alone, he’d cut and joined 13 frames. Currently, Bork is averaging one painting per day.
“I paint everyday. A small one – an 8-by-8-inch or 12-by-12-inch, I’ll paint in an hour. The larger ones, like the 4-by-4-foot, took a couple days. I paint ‘alla prima,’ meaning ‘all at once.’ I work all in one sitting for most of it,” Bork explained.
Bork said when he looks at his subject he wants his eyes to “burn with color,” and orange and blue are his favorites.
An avid plein air artist, Bork said when he’s painting outside he paints faster because of the changing light. “It’s easier to paint from life than photographs. I kinda fill in the blanks with photographs. When painting from life, all the colors are right there.”
Bork discovered he was more of a “fine art type person” while majoring in illustration at Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio. He didn’t change his major, but took more fine art painting classes than he had planned.
During Borks’ senior year, one of his professors, Michael McEwen, a landscape and plein air painter, took Borks’ class to his gallery opening. “Everything was sold that night,” said Bork, who credits McEwen for showing him the ropes and proving that one could make a good living as an artist.
Aside from a brief stint working for an independent arts and entertainment magazine, Bork has been making his living as an artist since graduating from college in 2003.
His first professional gig came immediately after graduation, when he was commissioned by the Great Southern Hotel in downtown Columbus. Bork recreated scenes from historic photos of the hotel and area buildings in their former glory. He made 18 paintings for rooms and the hotel lobby. According to Bork they “should be” still on display.
After the hotel, he started working with the Muse Gallery in Columbus. Bork was one of two emerging artists they took on. “Generally they only take on established artists. I learned a lot from them,” Bork said.
He and his wife, Karen Watkins, moved to Salida and opened their gallery, Carl Bork and Karen Watkins Studio Gallery, on First Street in Salida in 2010. The couple met in college.
In 2012, Southwest Art Magazine included Bork in their article, “21 under 31 emerging artists to collect now.”
If you know Borks’ work at all, you won’t be surprised to learn aspens are his favorite subject. “Every grove is kinda different. There are different shapes and knots on (the trees.) They are fun,” he said. One of his favorite aspen groves is near the base of Mount Shavano.
While Bork always has painting supplies on hand, his plein air painting sessions are rarely unintentional. “Usually when I go out, it’s with the intention of painting,” he said.
While he has dabbled with watercolors, collage, acrylic, tempera and pencil, Bork paints 99 percent of his current work with oil. “I like how when you put it down on the canvas, it doesn’t stick; so you can move it around – it’s pretty versatile,” Bork said.
Paint brushes aren’t a necessary tool for him. His go-to tool is the palette knife. He is also fond of painting with spatulas, cardboard, credit cards and squeegees.
He said using palette knives gives his work a more mosaic look. “I barely use paintbrushes. If I do, it’s for details, finishes or to draw,” Bork said.
Commissioned work forces Bork to paint things he wouldn’t otherwise, which he enjoys. Last year he painted a scene for a couple that shows the stop sign by the train tracks on CR 175. “I wouldn’t have painted that if they hadn’t commissioned me.” Bork titled it, “Stop Means Go.”
Bork said he doesn’t have a favorite painting. “I paint them and they are gone, gone from my memory. My style keeps changing. Exploring new ideas, that’s what I find exciting. That’s what keeps it fun for me,” he explained. Bork said the focus of his work has primarily been about color, the effects of light and how colors react to each other.
“In my work, that’s the overall pursuit. How do I express myself in color? Especially when I go outside to paint. I get so excited,” Bork said. His favorite time to paint is early morning and late in the day when there are dark shadows and strong contrasts of warm and cool colors.
Besides his Salida gallery at 149 W. First St., Bork’s work is featured at 45 Degree Gallery in Colorado Springs and at Silver Street Fine Art in Lake City. To learn more, visit his gallery or his website, www.carlbork.com.