This is James Cochran aka JimmyC

James Cochran is an Australian artist known for his drip painting style. In both canvas and concrete he paints portraits of characters from the urban environment. But what really got my attention was his aerosol pointillist style which shows his classical fine arts training and his graffiti roots. Having dabbled in street art myself, it is inspiring to meet someone who made a career doing what he likes, stuck with it, and made it big.

Ladies and gents, this is James Cochran.

Interview by Crist Espiritu.
Artworks by James Cochran.

When and where did you start doing art? How did your art career begin?

I always enjoyed drawing as a child and art was my favorite subject at school. I was involved with graffiti as a teenager, which continues to have a close link to what I do today. I later went to art school and I guess it was after that where I could say that my career began. But did my first solo exhibition mark the start of my career or did it begin when I was doing graffiti on the street? Having an art career is a way of life, and artists just do what they are inspired to do. Passion and commitment often go together, and from this a career eventually develops.

Who or what were your major influences in the early stages of your artistic development?

I remember being impressed by the paintings and the imagination of Dali, and when I was younger I painted some surrealist style paintings. A bit later on in art school, I was drawn to the 17th Century Baroque painters, Caravaggio and Velasquez. This was because I was interested in figurative realism and I liked their approach, but also in the work of Caravaggio, I appreciated his link to the street and his style of realism. With Velasquez it was more about the quality of paint and his ability to capture the spirit in his subjects.

Was your environment influential in your art?

My art has always reflected the urban environment and my experiences within it. A social element has also been part of my work, and so my early paintings often depicted the lifestyles of the friends around me. As a teenager doing graffiti, I was often alone in the night, and this seemed to become a recurrent theme in a lot of my paintings – the lone individual in the city streets.

I’ve read in some of your past interviews that you were heavily into graffiti when you were you were younger. Can you tell us a bit about that ( like why and how you started doing graffiti) ? Did you consider graffiti as art back then? Which one did you first got into, graffiti or painting?

As a teenager I was immediately drawn into the underground world of graffiti. I was intrigued by what I was seeing on the railway lines, and it was not long before I too was one of those shadows in the night painting the walls. I think seeking an identity was a big part of it, and why a lot of kids get into it, along with the challenge and satisfaction in developing ones style, and the risks that go with it to put the work up. Back then I did not really consider it as art, and it was just something that we were compelled to do. We were working with form and colour – all the elements that could be considered art, but the reality was that we were also causing a lot of damage. It was more about expression and a way of life.

Although I had done some painting at school before, being involved in graffiti was a lot more committed.

James Cochran - The Artists Tears

You do graffiti in the streets and exhibit paintings in galleries as well. How do you decide which concepts are to be executed in the streets and which are to be shown in galleries?

There has always been a strong relationship between my studio work and what I paint on the street, and in many ways they are the extension of each other. When I paint on canvas it is usually a subject inspired from the street, whether it is a street scene or a homeless person. I have done exhibitions that were more concept based, but in most cases the work I do on the street and in galleries could be interchangeable. Having said that, when you paint on the street, it is often a feeling thing for what wall to paint on and what sort of artwork might be relevant for it, and one point of difference would be the scale, and things for me tend to be much larger when painted on the street.

This may sound like a weird question but have you painted illegally in that aerosol pointillist style? I do graffiti/street art too and I just thought it would be crazy to do a piece hastily in that style.

That is quite a funny but relevant question, especially for those who understand what it is like to paint illegally. Well, I have done a couple of walls in London like this, but during the daytime. It would be stressful at night because of the amount of colours I use and the subtle difference between them. I have done hastened style pieces during the day in my pointillist style, and the logistical difficulty that comes with that is having to pack up all the paint in a hurry.

Tell me a little bit about your “urban realist narrative style”. How did you arrive at this style? What’s the inspiration behind it?

I was working in oil paint and that is where I developed this style of work, which was related to the marginalized human subject in the urban environment. I was working in a figurative realism, which still has some relevance to my work, and the narrative was often related to how the individual finds meaning in their life in a city context. This idea still interests me and links to the work that I am painting on the street.

What’s next for James Cochran?

I will continue to follow the inspiration wherever that may lead…

Do you have any advice for young upcoming artists?

My advice would be to believe in yourself and to work hard, to recognize that there is always more to learn and to remain humble. Patience is required, and also the ability to endure the highs and lows, the times when there is no inspiration, and to trust in the creative process that things will happen in their own time.

What are your thoughts about DOZE?

DOZE looks to me like a cool blog showcasing and sharing a range of creative talent out there. I like this focus on contemporary creative diversity, and although things online have no geographical boundary, it still makes me curious to come over and check out what is happening in Los Angeles.

Follow James Cochran on Instagram @scottlistfield
Follow Crist Espiritu on Twitter and Instagram @crist_espiritu