Q&A with Carl Bork & Karen Watkins
Husband and wife duo, Carl Bork (CB) and Karen Watkins (KW), opened their art gallery and studio in Salida, Colorado in 2010. Although he prefers to create impressionist art and she is a pop surrealist, their very different styles complement each other on many levels.
Q: How and when did each of you know that you wanted to create art in your respective styles?
CB: Before moving to Colorado from the Midwest, I thought that I was going to be more of a realist artist. When I moved here, I was so inspired by all the color and the quality of light in the Colorado landscape — I knew that I needed to change my style to impressionism in order to express my feelings toward painting outdoors or in the studio.
KW: I enjoy symbolism, narrative, and creativity in surrealism work and I wanted to express that in my art. Pop surrealism also stems from the influence of Disney, Jim Henson, Don Bluth, and Tim Burton movies in my childhood.
Q: Carl — we’ve read on your website (carlbork.com) that the appreciation for the medium and the mood in a painting is important to you. Can you elaborate on that?
CB: I want people to sense what I am expressing in my paintings. Oil paints are the vehicle for expression. For example, if I paint really thick with a palette knife, I want viewers to appreciate the expressions of my feelings present when I am creating that piece of art.
Q: Karen — your website (kmwatkins.com) states that you also make handmade dry felted soft sculptures. How did you first start making these cute creatures?
KW: I always liked sewing and I also wanted to get into sculpting. I found that needle felting combined both.
Q: What do you consider to be one of your greatest professional accomplishments as artists?
CB and KW: Taking more independent professional artist career paths has allowed us more freedom with our art. If we have an idea for a painting, a project, or a show, we just do it — we don’t have to worry if a gallery rep will show it or not. To us, achieving freedom with our art is our greatest accomplishment.
Q: Why did you choose Salida as the location of your studio and gallery?
CB and KW: Affordability and location are the major reasons. In 2010, the rent for a space in town was really low, so cost of entry was very accessible. The location in the mountains is also great! We’ve got the Arkansas River, 14ers, and mild weather throughout the year. We have endless outdoor locations just beyond our backyard from which we can draw inspiration.
Q. You’ve both recently published books of your paintings, entitled “Colorado Impressionism” and “Fatally Cute.” What prompted you to put them together?
CB: After painting professionally for more than 15 years, we decided it was time to start documenting our work. My book, “Colorado Impressionism,” focuses on my work from 2015 to present day. It was around 2015 when I started to paint primarily with a palette knife; this marked a big change in my painting style. Colorado is the state that I love — it was an easy choice to make the region the focus of my work.
KW: Many of my paintings depict simple subjects such as cute animals or trees, in a whimsical and colorful style. A book allowed me to compile my work and to showcase pop surrealism as my main work.
Q. Will you offer any workshops in 2019?
CB: Every year, I offer a three-day intensive workshop in September. The first day is spent indoors, focusing on fundamentals, while the last two days are spent outdoors at my favorite “secret spots,” observing what we learned. Sign up for my newsletter at carlbork.com to stay updated on future workshops.
Q. Will your art be featured in any upcoming shows and events?
CB: In May 2019, my work will be on exhibit at the Colorado Governor’s Art Show in Loveland for the second consecutive year. I will also have a solo exhibit at Greeley’s Tointon Gallery in January 2020.
KW: I will be a guest artist at the Valkarie Gallery in Lakewood in September 2019.
Q. Is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourself or your art?
CB and KW: We love meeting new people at and sharing our creations with others. We hope to see readers at our gallery soon.
Shop for art by Carl and Karen at the Bork & Watkins Studio – Gallery at 149 W. 1st St., Salida, CO and on the web (borkandwatkinsgallery.com; etsy.com/shop/kmwatkins). Follow them on Instagram (@carlborkart; @karen.watkins.art) and on Facebook (@borkandwatkinsgallery).
Photos courtesy of: Bork & Watkins Studio-Gallery and Catherine Eichel Photography