Barnstorming art This Washington barn is home to some strange beasts ,as the artist also know as Coro explains…
When we relocated from Seattle out to the rural Pacific north west, I immediately set my sights on the empty barn that was built on the property. It was a relatively new structure (built in 2009), and while it was unfurnished, the barn had water and sewage lines, an electricity supply and two floors to set up on.
The first year we got out here was mainly spent acclimatising to our new rural life. I did, however, begin the planning stages of what we wanted to do with the space that the barn offered. I put together a scale 3D model and did a virtual renovation on it. This was incredibly helpful because I was able to try out a bunch of stuff and really scrutinise the placement of structural elements. When it came time to do the actual construction we had fairly fleshed-out elevations and concept renderings to work from.
The wet roomstyle bathroom is ideal for washing kids and dogs
We started working on it last spring. Our next-door neighbour is a home builder, and agreed to take it on. It became a side project that we could work on between other jobs and whenever funds became available.
This was great – not only because he does great work, but also we didn’t have the money up-front to do everything we wanted, so it was nice to have some flexibility there. I did a lot of the grunt work while he handled all of the stuff that required skill. It’s taken us just over a year to get to where we are today. Minus a few final touches, it’s pretty much done.
The downstairs is the traditional painting area and the upstairs is the digital/office level. Downstairs made sense to set up for traditional because it has high ceilings and the big barn doors that make it easy to take stuff in and out. We took the centre wall back to open up the space more, added in a shop sink with foot-pedal controls and installed cork flooring. Two sets of track lights run the length of the painting bay, outfitted with 4K LED spotlights that are great for brightness and balanced colour.
There’s also a wet room-style bathroom downstairs that’s ideal for washing kids and large dogs. I like it, too! We installed RGB LED lights above the medicine cabinet, which combine to create something of a chromatic aberration-type effect with the shadows. It’s like pooping inside a piece of living concept art!
The upstairs is where I do my illustration work. On one side of the room I have an iMac and PC. My better half has a desk set up next to me, and I also hooked up an old laptop and Cintiq for the kids and guests to work on. At the other end of the room is a
lounge area, with a sink and mini-fridge as well as another TV.
In addition to installing another large 6x8-foot picture window, we fitted a couple of motorised solar skylights on the north side of the roof, and also retrofitted the cupola with solarpowered motors and a ceiling fan. At the touch of a button the whole place opens up and the fan draws the hot air out. This system works well during temperate weather. For hotter and colder days we installed a multi-split heat pump on both levels, which works as both a heater and air conditioner. Because it’s not a huge space, it’s easy to keep the studio at a comfortable temperature all year round.
I painted in our living room for the past 16 years, but with the addition of kids in our lives, it became increasingly difficult to get work done. I love having a space that’s completely separate from the house, but still close enough to where I can run inside at a moment’s notice if necessary. It’s a quiet, comfortable space that I find easy to concentrate and create work within. Justin’s the founder and owner of art studio Massive Black. His recent clients include DARPA, Riot, Amazon, TRI and Google. You can see his art at www.coro36ink.com.
There was already a decent water supply, so it was just a case of putting the brush storage and washing facility in the right spot. The traditional art setup is on the barn’s ground floor, partially because of the ease of accessibility.
Behind the barn’s unassuming exterior lies a hub of creativity. And a place for the dogs to sleep!
This is an M249 SAW airsoft gun we used for the cover of the game Army of Two. It was easier to just purchase a gun and photograph it… or that’s what we told ourselves so we could buy this thing. It doesn’t work anymore, but it looks cool. These skylights and the cupola windows are motorised. You need ventilation to counter the heat generated from the metal roof. Here’s a before and after shot of the staircase. Basically, the only thing that we didn’t change in the barn is the staircase. Kind of funny to think that there was a lawn mower parked where the bathroom is now. What art space would be complete without a couple of dogs? We have two English mastiff puppies that are often out here. They have a laid-back temperament that makes them great studio mates. This is where I sit most of the time if I’m working upstairs. I try to keep my work space fairly clean and uncluttered, though it can sure get messy during crunches. I sanded and finished the floors myself. I hadn’t ever done anything like that and it was very satisfying.
This is where I oil paint. Love this view! I grabbed this magazine holder off the street in San Francisco back in the late 90s. We needed furniture, and this caught my eye one day while walking the grocery store. I balanced it on top of a skateboard and walked it back to my apartment. It’s nice being able to open these big doors to bring big items in and out of the barn, or air the room when the air is thick with the smell of mastiffs! I attached a monitor and laptop to my paint cart. The top is covered by a custom-sized, half-inch thick piece of glass to mix paint on. I got it from a company that makes sneeze guards for salad bars and buffets at restaurants. Architectural plans and 3D models made it easy to check the placement of painting equipment and furnishings, before building work began. Here’s a fish-eye photograph that I took of the bathroom. There are lots of tile in here. We installed radiant heat in the floors so it’s pretty comfortable, even in winter.