Roommates breed creativity in close quarters

Two shadows stretched across a worktable cluttered with pencils, markers and box cutters. A plastic toy clock situated next to a palette of used paints blinked a bright green 1:19 a.m. In the early hours of the morning, San-Francisco-based artists Ace West and Michael Covington were the last of nine residents to fall asleep at the four bedroom, two bath house they call Lakeview Studios.

The basement where West and Covington hunch over their canvases doubles as a bedroom, which they share with one other person. According to SF State math major Pedro Preciado, who also lives in the home, the space is has been used as a gallery, sound booth and on occasion, a music venue.

Preciado said that once there were nearly 100 people packed into the house for local swamp funk band Hibbidy Dibbidy’s performance in their garage. He recalled that his roommates hung strings of multicolored Christmas lights and a tapestry to create an intimate alcove for the band’s stage.

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“It was kind of awesome to pull something like that off,” Preciado said. “There are certain experiences I’ve had (while living in the house) that I never would have thought possible if I were on my own.”

SF State music major Daniel de Lorimier was one of the attendees at the invite-only show.

“In the back of my mind, I was thinking ‘This is exactly the kind of environment I want to be a part of,’” de Lorimier said. “After meeting everyone, I really hoped that they were going to consider me to live with them. Then a few months later I moved in and all my dreams came true.”

The house is a magnet for a certain kind of people, according to de Lormier. All nine roommates contribute to their home’s creative vitality through art, he said. In the corner of the garage sits an idle keyboard, drum set, amp and two guitars. Every wall is bedecked with artwork tacked up or drawn directly on the surface itself.

For Preciado, living in a house full of artists nourishes his passion for music. While Preciado is mostly a self-taught guitarist, he said his roommates have helped him refine his technique with their knowledge of music theory.

“It’s nice to live with people that play music, especially because it’s something we’re all so passionate about,” Preciado said. “It’s like having eight band mates to talk to. Sometimes we don’t have to talk. Someone will pick up a guitar or the bongos and we’ll just jam out.”

There was a time when jam sessions and sketch parties transpired almost every night at Lakeview Studios, according to Preciado. He said he remembers when no one could eat on the dining room table because it was covered by art supplies.

“Sometimes people would come over and ask ‘Can I draw something?'” West said. “But it’s not a question if you can draw something, it’s a question of what you can draw with. It’s just a matter of picking up a pen or a newspaper or finding a space on the wall to draw on.”

Sketch nights have been temporarily put on hold as West and Covington prepare for their group show “Black Mail” Oct. 16 to Nov. 7 at The Luggage Store Gallery.

“Black Mail” will include the work of five black males that showcases where they’ve come from and how living in the “cultural oasis of San Francisco” has informed their artistic style. When Covington moved from Europe to the U.S., he said he began imagining a life for himself where he could continue to create and grow as an artist while managing to provide for himself. West said that devoting his life to creative pursuits has led him to a number of opportunities and a network of artists who have helped develop his style.

“I always want to surround myself with dope energy,” West said. “The artists I’m working with are really talented, and I want to see our careers grow together.”

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