Under the roof at the McColl Center

Felicia van Bork rips apart original monoprints and transforms them into collages. Isaac Payne draws on layered paper strewn with paint and ink. Both are affiliate artists at the McColl Center for Visual Art, the big church building in uptown visible as you speed past on Brookshire Freeway.

The local, national and international resident artists who people the McColl Center's nine studios provide a revolving fount of creativity. Affiliate artists must be based within 50 miles of Charlotte. They get 24-hour access to their studio and the center. In return, they participate in community activities and are available for studio hours.

Van Bork, 49, who lives in Davidson, occupies studio 219 - a vast, light room, where pale yellow, rosy pink and brilliant blue paper prints dapple the floor. Her finished works are symmetrical and framed.

Payne, 32, lives in Charlotte. Jazz music floats through his third-floor studio. Unframed art in progress, primarily in grays, blacks and purples, adheres to brick walls.


Van Bork knew she was an artist, she says, "a few months before I learned to walk."

She had worked strictly as a painter for 20 years when she enrolled in a printmaking workshop. "No matter how much of a control freak you are, the press will always give you something unexpected," she says. Most printmaking leads to producing an edition; van Bork only creates monotypes, which she calls "a natural progression from painting."

Payne became an artist by "preconscious decision. I always made art, I always drew, and in high school I realized I would have to have a job, and what did I want to do?"

Payne worked as a draftsman for decorative artist Rick Muto, saw his first Picasso while in a client's house, and visited the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. It all fed his passion.


After a solo show at Cornelius Arts Center, van Bork had leftover monoprints. "So I started tearing them up."

She had ambiguous feelings about the first victim, but she did it "just to see what would happen. I knew I was going to try to make collages, but I didn't know if it would work."

The first two came slowly. "Then I randomly started tearing everything up, but they didn't have the colors I wanted, so I had to make new prints to expand the palette of colors."

Payne's draftsmanship has led to experimentation in painting. He is playing with color, some brushed on with broad strokes, some painted more uniformly.

"That was the bridge from my older paintings, where I first just started creating these fields of color that I would draw."

His earlier work was drawing on ink-stained paper. Now he's concentrating more on color composition, and patterns of light and dark.

The process of making art

Van Bork lays full-sized sheets of paper next to each other on a grid, where she studies their alignment. The theme of her most recent series, "How to Fix Absolutely Anything," came to her after she made several uniform collages out of prints, during an Open Studio Saturday at the McColl Center.

"On the evening of the event I thought I couldn't sell them untitled, so I began thinking really hard about how to title them, and it became a 'How to' title, and it wasn't until I named many of them that I realized that the idea was so central to me, this whole self-improvement thing."

Titles in the exhibit include "How to Hang Art," and "How to Make Tea During an Air Raid," and "How to Rest." "I now let the title occur to me during the art-making process, so it brings focus to the work," she says. "It lets me bring in my love of language, and humor, that I never have done before."

When Payne creates a piece he plays with surfaces and shapes in an abstract way until an idea solidifies. "One of the joys of this studio is having the use of three big walls," he says.

One of them is dominated by a 25-foot-long drawing/painting installation he is creating for a specific space. Payne describes the work as circumstantial, but with infinite possibilities for things to happen.

"I'm constantly turning papers around," he says. "I rearranged these papers for two weeks, and then, there was something about the color, and the patterns of dark and light, and something kind of clicked. There is texture...ink is like watercolor. You are working with the transparency of the paper, but you never lose the paper."


While van Bork's history is as a portrait artist, for now "I'm really in love with the landscape. Collage is so fundamentally flat by nature that it is really fun to make the illusion of three-dimension space with collage," she says. "There is a texture that comes from layering flat colors and flat shapes. I'm working with little pieces of gradients. My wall pieces were moving toward really happy colors, and I'm trying to keep it in that realm, just because it is new to me."

Payne delves into the relationship between people, architecture and landscape. He strives for a point at which realism and abstract connect. "The façade of a building is a flat surface, but it's in a landscape. I guess they are all landscapes really, but they are architectural facades also. I love that contradiction. "

Point of view and uniformity

Van Bork's point of view emphasizes a depth of space. "Very much of my work is from above eye level and has a sense of flying. I have a lot of reference to the horizon without showing the horizon."

Payne calls his point of view "a pedestrian perspective, because it is very commonly how we see the landscape around us."

Uniformity can be defined by setting limitations. Payne's limitations are that he draws on paper, and he is always expanding and contracting the size of the work. "There's probably not a 90-degree angle in any of my pieces," he says. "The paper is all torn edges. I love the idiosyncrasies, the subtle distortions."

Van Bork describes uniformity as "visually pleasing." When an artist uses different colors and shapes within a uniform structure "it will give you alignments that no one ever intended. Limitations are liberating because you are playing in a specific field," she says. "I hope there is logic within the piece. I am not looking to make dissonance. The reoccurring colors exist because I've cut up monotype prints. The accidents are the door open to the divine."