Visual Arts

Painter Ian Cochrane Uses Bright Colors to Make His Pieces Pop

You can find art all over town — not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

Aside from an art class at Front Range Community College in 1998, painter Ian Cochrane is mostly self-taught — and that training began way, way back when he was three years old and smothered his toy motorcycle with bright-colored paint. “I don’t think I had the okay to do it,” says Cochrane. But he always loved painting, he recalls, and vivid colors “were a big draw into the art world.”  

Cochrane was raised in Fort Collins, but his family traveled, a lot — to Indonesia, Costa Rica. “I guess it was being in these bright tropical place," says Cochrane. "My eyes have always been drawn to color." And color gives Cochrane’s acrylic-on-canvas pieces their three-dimensional quality, although he discovered that by accident. About four years ago – around the time Cochrane sold his first piece at a gallery in Aspen – the artist’s son came home from a sleepover with a pair of 3D glasses. “He was bored and asked if I had ever seen a piece of my art through 3D glasses,” recalls Cochrane. The reluctant father agreed to try it, and was pleasantly surprised by how cool his work looked under the lenses. 

Cochrane can’t quite put his finger on what inspires his art. “I don’t really think much about it; I just let it flow,” he says, likening his painting to playing a musical instrument. “I used to play the mandola, and it’s almost like the instrument controls you,” he explains. “If you start thinking about things too much, it doesn’t turn out well.”

Over the past several years, Cochrane has shown his work in a slew of galleries and local establishments like Mid-Mod Mall, the trendy RiNo shop that’s half-furniture dealer, half-art gallery. On First Fridays, Mid-Mod throws down with good music, good food and live painting by Cochrane. “I never sketch anything out,” Cochrane explains. “I just start painting and see where it goes.”

In addition to art at Mid-Mod Mall, Cochrane currently has an exhibit at bhavana-collective, a reduced-cost yoga studio in the Cole neighborhood. “My work has a certain flow to it that, I think, tends to lend itself to that environment,” says Cochrane.  The Toad Tavern is carrying a few of Cochrane’s pieces, too, and the painter has shown at three Hapa Sushi restaurants. “It’s kind of cool that Denver has a bunch of establishments that like to show local art, and hopefully it starts to break down those misconceptions some people have about fine art only belonging in galleries,” Cochrane says.

Don't get him wrong; Cochrane still likes to show at galleries. But he notes: “The value can still be there, even if you aren’t in a formal gallery.”

In fact, Cochrane will have a solo show in June at the Station Hair Studio. For more information on the artist and his work, visit Cochrane's website

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Jamie Siebrase is a Denver-based freelance writer, and author of the forthcoming Falcon Guide Hiking Wth Kids, Colorado: 52 Great Hikes for Families.
Contact: Jamie Siebrase