Technique Talk: Multi-media artist Craig Bortmas

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Technique Talk is a weekly online Alive feature that spotlights the process of a Columbus artist. Know someone we should talk to? Send tips to

Craig Bortmas self-portrait.

Although he is most recognized for his impressive cannon of portraiture of Columbus creatives, Craig Bortmas has plenty of artistic vision himself. When digital image making became boring, Bortmas began transferring his images to found objects, giving the art a unique - and for the artist, necessary - physicality. Following, Bortmas talked about his approach to photography and why capturing, in a frame, the spirit of another artist is so intriguing to him. Takes one to know one.

What kind of art do you make and why?

I have my hands in a few things: Woodwork, sculpture, painting; however, I'm mostly known for my photography.

My camera replaced my television in 2005. Picture for picture, I felt it was a good trade off. Plus, it was much faster than drawing and cleaner than ink work.

I've been documenting performance art since 2007, and have grown close to the dance community as a result. I love the challenge of capturing movement artists within a still frame. Working with other creatives has really pushed my work forward; they are a rich well to pull from.

My passion for photography really developed in the dark room (no pun intended). I tried hard to shun the science and chemistry involved; it felt so like magic. Eventually, the acrobatics of making an image turned into click, drag, print. Uniqueness disappeared. With digital, in almost all instances, a physical representation of my work is missing. I realized this last year and started making image transfers onto found objects: Styrofoam, wood, plexi, pretty much anything that would stick.

I'm tactile, so surface and texture are important to me.

When do you make art?

The act of photographing is an act of collecting, and I do that whenever I can. Making art happens when I see how all those pieces that I've collected fall into one concept. There may be an art to the edit; however, I no longer consider digital presentation to be 'making art.'

I've been prepping a variety of surfaces all winter. I like to work on my image transfers outside, so I'm looking forward to some sunny days for this season's print work.

How often do you make art?

Because of the way I work, I tend to produce in sets. All the time in between is creative brooding.

Where do you make art?

Outside. I want to be out moving around. I dislike sitting at a desk. I love my garage for power tools and paint, but it sucks for photography. I prefer on location shooting for the variety of environments, but I've really been enjoying big light portraits recently and am considering a dedicated indoor space for that work.

You can find more of my back yard art on my blog.

What has been inspiring your work lately?

Waste. Pattern. Consolidation. Reuse / re-purpose. Fragments. History.

What advice that you've found invaluable would you give a new artist?

While you're in the now, don't forget to think with foresight. Not all works should be finished in six hours or six days. Lay the groundwork, and allow some things to grow with you.

Consider everything you do as a step forward, even if it's not your best work.

Time is the only thing you have to beat to become great.

What do you do while you work?

I focus. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I don't rock out to anything while I'm editing photos. The truth is, I don't mind the silence. The World is noisy enough.

If I'm in the garage sometimes I listen to NPR... in between sanding and sawing.

Do you ever experience artists' block?

I usually experience block right before I jump into every project. It may be a brief period, just long enough to complete a checklist, or it may stop a project dead in its tracks. Browsing images online can always be inspiring in regards to capture and lighting, but you really just have to push through issues of motivation. I have other creative outlets so I don't get bored or frustrated that something's not done. The right element will eventually fall into place, and I can move on.

Three artists, living or dead, that you would invite to a dinner party:

Coreroc, Walter Herrmann and Teen Fiction. They're all local, so I have high hopes that they'd show.