Studio Views: Steve Driscoll

Steve Driscoll (1980) is a Canadian landscape painter based in Toronto, ON, Canada. Steve’s large and bold paintings of the Canadian wilderness is an embodiment of the notion that our ocular vision – and the corresponding memory of things seen – is particularly well represented in art by images of open, natural space. Steve is interested in conjuring and manifesting a vision of nature, undulating with atmosphere and heightened colour effects, but watched over by the architectural proofs of human presence, with rural buildings that seem somehow to be guardians; they are strangely animated centers of our connection to the vast wilderness that surrounds us. We visited his studio just outside downtown Toronto.

How long have you been here?

Two years. But I l was literally on the other side of that wall for 3 more years. And then I was down the hall for another five years. So, it’s been ten years in this building. Before that I was in an old factory that got converted into condos and before that I was in a friend’s garage for ten years which was great. It did get stinky after a while though!

Why here?

My paintings started to get larger and the doorways started to feel smaller. I cut out a few doors and walls to get paintings out of my old unit. I remember having a commission for a big commercial tower which was 96 inches tall and my door was 80 inches tall so I cut a hole next to the door. While the shippers on route to install the piece, I was plastering the wall back up. It was then that I thought, I probably need larger space. This one came up and it was three separate units that we demolished and turned into this space. I think of the studio as a tool. Whatever type of work I want to create I build the studio to sort of fit these needs. So every time I find a new need in my practice I change studios. 

What made you decide to take this studio?

I really like the landlord, which is a rare scenario. I have been in 3 different spaces in the same building . One of the big plusses was the storage space and the sliding walls where I can put my paintings. They take so long to dry that I need a space big enough to have a sliding wall to hang them up to dry. The last space I had 8 foot by 8 foot sliding wall and here they are 10.5 by 12.5 foot. Size does matter!

What is it about the space that you like?

Like I said, it is more of a tool. One of the thing I have set up here is the painting room. Its size is 14 feet by 14 feet, which is quite small. The reason I do that is because the volume of the room is exhausted quicker. The paint I use is toxic so I want that exhaust to work really quickly. I set up the ventilation system so it could be diverted from one room to another. This makes it possible to paint in the bigger room for oversizes pieces. I’ve done up to 40 foot painting in this room. It gets all plasticked off and floors get put down so I can level the paintings. It is a very intuitive process, it has to start and finish in the same setting.

What is your favourite item in this studio?

My stereo system is great. The stereo goes in all the different rooms and the equalizer is amazing.

How much time do you spend here?

Probably around 60 hours a week. A lot.

What is your favourite memory so far of this studio?

The studio was flooded, on purpose, at one point and there was a boardwalk running through it. There was a 40 foot painting wrapped on the wall. I would crack open a beer and sit on the dock in my studio and turn all the lights off except for one. The light when it hit the water it would reflect of the surface and cast beautiful shadows on the walls. Imagine being in an aquarium at night. It’s a good memory.

If you could change anything, what would you change?

I would probably get a larger painting room. Which may happen in a year or so. I literally change studios whenever the practice changes. I’ll invest in changing the exhaust system as it affects everything I do drastically. More and more often I find myself doing 20 foot paintings. The last painting I did was 15 foot, a single panel. I had to cut the doors to get it out. Length is not an issue, it is the height that can be the problem.

If you could add anything, what would you add?

I would add more space! I can always do with more space, regardless. I think artists are like goldfish, our art is as big as our studio is. You are always caught in how big your wall is. You can’t exceed that without issues. And when a door gets too small, you just cut it!


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