Marc Cooper was well on the way to a successful career as a camp director when artistic inspiration struck.
It had been years since his fine arts education at York, but he took to his unfinished basement and decidedly set up a studio. The first series of canvases Cooper created would come to define his aesthetic, and launch him along a second career path.
“It was an exciting time,” recalls Cooper. “But my 9 to 5 was already full, helping to direct Camp Tamarack. And the remaining part of my day was devoted to my wives and son, Jack.”
So, Cooper used the late evening hours when the house was quiet to pursue his painting. Calling upon the blend of colours that inspired him throughout the day, Cooper worked prolifically. Commercial success came quickly, and although the work/life balance was fatiguing, Cooper was inspired to keep creating.
“I was showing in a number of galleries in the city,” Cooper recalls. “And when clients began calling for commissioned works on my Bar Code and Concrete series, I really felt like I had found my groove.”
Much of that groove came from a consistency of process and environment. But when the family decided that they needed to move homes, Cooper wondered if and how he could recreate that same productive space.
“We saw plenty of houses that had room for a big studio, but the living area wasn’t right,” says Cooper. “I began to contemplate finding art space outside of the house, but decided that there were too many advantages to working from home. So we waited, and ultimately found the perfect mix.”
Cooper’s studio is in a converted nanny’s suite in the basement. It is small, but strategically designed, with a closet torn out to make room for a sink, and a window big enough to flood the room with natural light.
For Cooper, the home studio affords him the opportunity not just to work evenings, but to work whenever the muse strikes.
“Creativity hits at the most ridiculous times,” explains Cooper. “Often I find myself getting up in the middle of the night to work. And early mornings, before the family wake up, are always productive. The pieces I work on really require a lot of timely care and upkeep.”
Cooper’s last series involved a staggered soaking of the canvas until he found the perfect depth of colour. And his acclaimed Bar Code series is a feat of artistic timing; a blowtorch captures vertical lines of paint falling off the canvas in mid-drip. If Cooper doesn’t respond in the moment, the resin hardens and the finished piece is compromised.
Though a customized home studio is convenient, Cooper acknowledges some of the drawbacks. With just nine-foot ceilings and eight feet of width, square footage is a problem when working on multiple projects at once. And while the solitude can be meditative, Cooper does consider that being around other artists might serve as inspiration. So he’s always kept the door to his studio open.
“As long I’m not in the middle of a project, where I have to lay something down on the floor, my son can join me in the studio anytime he wants. Sometimes he’ll come down just to hang, and sometimes I set him up with a canvas to work. He loves to paint, or bring his friends down to paint. It’s cool to have him see the process and how much hard work it takes. I love having him down there with me.”
Marc Cooper’s art has brought a lot of joy into his home. And with a full slate of commissioned work ahead, it will continue to bring joy to a lot of other homes as well.