Question: Does a space really impact how an artist is inspired to create?
Answer: Short answer, yes... but why?
I am inspired by the space that I am working in, what is the exact formula? I am not sure how to describe it; but I know right away if a space is going to work for me to be productive in or not.
As a child, I grew up in a post war bungalow with unfinished basement in Penticton BC. I loved to draw, paint, cut things up, make new worlds. My mom bought full rolls of paper from the local newspaper and taped up large sheets of paper on the walls for me to draw on. When I was 7, I didn't want to share the upstairs bedroom with my sister, so I had my room moved down into the dark unfinished basement for more space. It was creepy, dark, perhaps haunted, but I made all sorts of magical kids stuff. I spent days building cardboard forts and decorating it. My favourite birthday or Christmas gifts were new markers (especially the fake fruit smelling ones), new box of crayons, or paint.
In each house that we lived in I found a special space to create in. I took art classes growing up at the community centre. I spent all sorts of time in the school art rooms- if my friends were looking for me, chances were good I was in there.
When I was in 3rd year at Emily Carr Institute of Art and design, we were assigned a small studio space. I didn't like it. I didn't find it inspiring, to me it was like working in a fish bowl and they were particular about what paint we could and could not use. It wasn't working for me. I decided that I was going to find an independent studio space to rent and work in.
I found a rental advertised at Dynamo Art Studios on East Hastings street, this was the early 2000's and across the street from the closed down Woodward's building. It was one of the roughest blocks in Vancouver; homeless people, junkies, drug dealers, thugs, frequented the area- but it was cheap and kinda grungy. Perfect. Each studio was approx 150 sqft, it had a small kitchen area, washrooms, and a creepy stair case to the roof of the building.
The mix of artist that were working at Dynamo spanned the gamete of everything; from an older gentleman that liked to paint in his beige slacks and matching jacket cloud formations, to a gal around my age that painted space, a realest painter that would appear out of nowhere and produce hyper-realistic florals, to a gay couple that I can't tell you what they actually did... but they had a Vancouver famous painter friend. That painter friend, as legend has it, was in New York living his best artist life when he found himself broke and out of work to sell. He came back to Vancouver and would sneak into the studio in the middle of the night with his friends. Apparently using large pieces of canvas and roofing tar, he would make 'tree' paintings to send back to a gallery in New York and they were selling for $50,000 each. A few weeks of the studio smelling like it was being re-roofed, and finding remnant brown tar bloobs on the warehouse floor, the artist phantom slipped back on an airplane.
I had an accident a few years before and had multiple surgeries on my right wrist, it was healing and I was pretty much limited to splatter paintings. I raided the recycling depots for old paint, and was Jackson Pollocking on canvas on the ground. I had tarps down on the floor of the old clothing manufacturing wood floor, and was dripping and splattering paint around. One night I was at the studio really late, I forgot to close our gate of the stoop, and coming out at 1am to find a night crawler huddled up in the door way indulging in his crack pipe... my heart sank that I needed to shoo him away to dart back to my car and drive back to my bed calling me in the suburbs of Vancouver. My 23 year old self mustered up the courage to bang on the glass doors and wake him up- I yelled at him to keep moving and he shuffled on down the street... waiting for the coast to clear, I ran out and locked the gates and sprinted to my car.
My art school friends and I would on occasion have a get together at the studio at night. We also enjoyed bringing lawn chairs and a few beverages up the old, narrow, staircase up to the roof and watched the goings on of the east side of the city. I loved that old building and my time at Dynamo.