Brian Calvin’s paintings recently appeared in our launch campaign for Sonos One. The artist lives with his family in a Spanish-style home in Ojai, California. In his warehouse studio a few blocks away, paint cans and brushes live amongst his Sonos speakers, each a part of his working process.

What do you find goes through your mind during long stretches painting in your studio?
I spend half of my waking hours painting or drawing, and now it’s been so long that I feel like I finally learned not to think while I’m doing it. It’s meditative, actually. At a point the part of me that knows how to paint takes over, and it’s not the part of me that’s thinking, “I hope this is a cool painting,” or, “I know how this should look.”

Do you listen to anything while you work?
Mostly music. A little public radio, like the news to start. If I’m working well, once the music ends I don’t even notice. Then it’s silence for a while and I start hearing the noise of the people who work next to me.

What kind of music?
It’s very helpful to put on the same record, and light the same incense, and try to fall into a familiar space in order to find something creatively different. There are a few things I find myself listening to repeatedly over the years- the same things I listen to a lot whether I’m working or not, like Dylan or Neil Young. I like to work to film scores too, like The Hired Hand by Bruce Langhorne, a 1971 Peter Fonda movie. I’ve listened to it thousands of times. And also Giusto Pio and Franco Battiato, who are Italian minimalist composers. They sound pretty good when you’re painting.

Has music informed your work in any way?
When you’re young you feel really passionate about music, and if you geek out on it enough you start to figure out some things about process. As in, “Oh, how is this song made?” or, “Oh, this song has strings.” You start to get into that notion of like, “What does production mean?” At least I did, and that’s something that certainly helped my artmaking. There’s a kind of analogous relationship I think with painting, drawing, and the feel that you want, whether it’s kind of rough and ready or refined.

You can trace the musician’s process in a way that maybe helps you find your own?
I don’t really have an agenda when I’m making a painting, but I know how something is finished by the possibility of a viewer looking at it and having some emotional response. That can change from piece to piece, much like a record. The scale I work at tends to be 10 to 12 larger paintings, which having grown up in the 1970s and ’80s, I tend to think of like an LP tracklist.

Maybe you’ll have a few hits, and then you’ll have a few deep tracks, and hopefully no filler. You seem like a maniac if you’re trying to get hit after hit after hit. Some people can do that, but there aren’t too many records that I want to hear that are doing it.

You have speakers in all the rooms in your house from the bathroom to the living room. Does everyone in the house listen to the same thing together?
The kids choose a lot and they’re into new pop music, which has been great. I have to say, that’s a funny shift. I was a late adopter to streaming because I spent years buying records and CDs. I was like, “How do you listen to music on your phone?” Now it’s great that I don’t have to go buy every CD.

But you’ve hooked your turntable up through the Connect and still listen to actual vinyl.
I still like that sense of playing five or six songs and needing to flip it. But of course, I’m using Spotify for all the things I haven’t purchased. Now, I’m like, “Well, I’ll listen to it for a while and if I really love it I’ll pick it up on vinyl.”

Walking into your house the first thing I noticed were your records and obviously your paintings. Other than that it’s quite uncluttered.
I lived and worked at home for several years when the kids were younger. I wanted to be with them. The whole house was overflowing because I was working on a show and then it would ship out and it would be all the way empty. It was good that we could do it, but by the end it was kind of oppressive. After years of accumulating things, a lot of it has now been kept at bay. In the studio I can make a big mess. It feels so great to have everything out at the studio but by the end when I’ve painted a show, I’m stoked to have it out in the world.