We visited Austin-based artist Codie O’Connor in her live-work studio space — a warm, cozy space, with decor that reflects the art she creates.
The abstract painter draws inspiration from everyday life, and her home offers plenty of it. A space dedicated to creatives, the home reflects the artistry and visions of previous creatives who lived there. We spoke with Codie about her home and what she draws for inspiration in both her artwork and in home decor.
Give us an intro!
My name is Codie, and I am a painter with a studio based out of Austin, Texas!
Your artwork is very calming. What is the biggest inspiration behind your art? Is there a reason you choose to work with specific colors or patterns?
Thank you! That makes me happy. I don't have one main inspiration for my work; all of my work is a direct reflection of my day-to-day life and serves as a sort of accidental mirror into how I'm feeling. The paintings I make are an attempt to access the part of my brain that doesn't have rules or limitations or judgment and just lets me experience color and shape in whatever form it comes out as.
The color palette I work with is based on what I'm drawn to at the time and is often repeated until my brain has fully wrapped itself around the depths of the color combination.
When it comes to patterns, linework is certainly a recurring one in my work — I've been doing that since I was a kid doodling on napkins and homework. I'm not totally sure what it means other than it just feels good to my eye and hand.
I think music is incredibly influential in my work as I am often surrounded by it. My partner is a musician, as well as many of my friends. I've been drawn to music from the 60s to early 70s since I was a little kid listening to Neil Young in the car with my parents. I have no doubt that the imagery this music drums up makes its way onto a canvas.
What made you choose this home? Were there elements that you were drawn to? Does your home help you channel creativity?
My partner and I rent this house. It's affordable, allows for both of us to have studios, and it has 1917 charm. Also, it didn't hurt that, for whatever reason, peacocks happen to roam this particular South Austin neighborhood.
Our landlord has kept his rent at a reasonable rate in hopes of fostering a little oasis for creatives. He wants tenants involved in the creative industry who love and want to take care of this house, and in some way, make it their own. A concept that has probably all but died since the 1970s.
This house is outfitted with beautiful carpentry by a former tenant who was a carpenter, a somewhat self-sustaining A-frame in the backyard built by a hippie couple that eventually moved to Mexico, and little wabi-sabi touches all over. These features give you glimpses into lives lived out in this little artists' haven.
The wood floors, the exposed brick in the kitchen where a fireplace used to be, the clawfoot tub, and all the special little quirks that surely would have been erased if a new property owner were to take over. In this way, this house does help channel creativity. It's a safe space for me and also serves as a revolving door for all of our friends who regularly bring their instruments, their cameras, or their fresh batch of tepache that they've brewed. I certainly feel like this home has felt like a second home for many of our friends to create in as well.
Home design, to me, is just an extension of how I express myself. What I do in my studio and the headspace that I go into doesn't just stop when I leave the four walls of my studio; it naturally seeps into the things around me.
Maybe our home's most intentional design aspect is using our collection of records and stereo system as the focal point of the living room area. Music is a large part of my day-to-day life as both an influence and daily necessity.
Do you create art for your own home? When decorating your space, what type of art catches your eye?
I do have one of my own paintings hanging in my house. I don't decorate my home around hanging my own art normally, but this particular painting has a deeper story involved. It's a giant canvas stretched over homemade (far too heavy for its own good) stretcher bars.
One day, back in college, I was biking to work and saw this couple throwing this giant canvas out. The couple was getting rid of all of their belongings — including this giant canvas — to travel the country by motorcycle. I was a broke college student who regularly painted on cardboard because it was free. I promptly threw my bike down on the ground and lugged this canvas back to my house, figuring that work could wait.
It lived on my porch that year (because it was too big to fit in my tiny room) and has been in every house I've lived in since. It has layers and layers of different paintings dating back to when I was 21. It's a painting that slowly evolves over time and grows with me.
Ironically, I don't own many paintings by other artists, but I'd like to! I've noticed that I am really drawn to photography when it comes to hanging art in my house. But I also don't have any rules when it comes to art — if it catches my eye, even if it's different than the rest of the pieces I have in my house, that's really all that matters to me.
Do you find the decor of your home reflects the art you create?
I think the decor of my house likely reflects the art I create. Both my house and what I make are extensions of how I express myself, so I feel like it'd be inevitable!
Tell us about a couple of your favorite pieces.
One of my favorite pieces in my house is a ceramic bust on a wood slate (artist unknown) from my childhood home, and it's one of the earliest pieces that I have a memory of. Another is a rare Milton Glasser Bob Dylan print that is hard to find in good condition and is typically fairly pricey. My partner and I had been looking for one for years, and one day, we hit the jackpot and found it in a vintage store for $14!
I also love my Kelly Lu drawing titled "Cultural Appropriation." I was 22 and used the little money I had to buy it. It was the first piece of art that I ever purchased and is somewhat sentimental and nostalgic because of that.
You were able to create a studio space in your home. How have you designed the space to work for you? Can you tell us more about what makes for a great studio space and how you draw inspiration from your studio?
Because I'm just a renter, I worked around the existing space. Luckily I had pretty good bones to work with — large windows, good light, and a sun seat facing a giant pomegranate tree that grows just outside the window.
To make the space function a little better as a studio, I took down the blinds, kept bulky furniture out, and painted the floors white to let light bounce around more easily. I personally think that an open floor plan, giant windows that open up to let the breeze in, and some storage space for a plethora of art supplies would make for a great studio space.
Having a studio to work from is a luxury, and I fully support just working with what you've got, even if it's working from the kitchen table in your house. I've been there!
Being a full-time artist wasn't always the plan. What made you choose to focus solely on your art?
Being a full-time artist certainly wasn't always my plan, but when I look back, I can sort of connect the dots and see how I got here. In college, I studied arts management, which I often describe as a major that utilizes both sides of the brain. I had so many friends in college who were doing incredible work, and I was so inspired by them that I'd constantly brag about them.
I wanted to work in a space that essentially boosted up my friends' artwork; I wanted to go to work and be surrounded by art that I was excited about. When I graduated, I worked at a contemporary art gallery and got to do what I went to college to do, which was amazing. But eventually, I left and traveled for a while, and when I came back to the U.S. and was waiting to hear back from jobs, I painted — A LOT. Eventually, a small business asked me to create a series of paintings for their shop, which sort of snowballed into making commissions and eventually murals.
I couldn't have planned for it, but now I feel so spoiled and can't imagine doing anything other than what I am doing right now.
Has your style evolved over time? Does this reflect in your art and home?
I hope so! I think no matter how much your work has changed, anything you do will inherently look like "you." Think about your parents' handwriting or the way your friends dress; it can change and get slightly nuanced with time but will inevitably keep little pockets of "them."
Over quarantine, I've definitely taken a departure from my previous style and dived a bit deeper into abstract work. I think anyone who has followed my work for a while would be able to see how my older work translates into the work I'm making today. I'm really inspired by the deconstruction of a painting right now.
My goal is to continue to evolve and grow with time; I think that's pretty crucial! When it comes to the evolution of style in my house, I think I am just slowly chipping away at what I like. This will probably be a lifelong practice, just continually refining who I am and, in turn, building a home around that!
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