Tuesday, December 09, 2008


By Amy Borkwood

Cody Cochrane is a Toronto-based illustrator and painter with a strong background in printmaking. Her work is rich in texture and story, and her colour choices are stunning. I noticed her at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in the summer, and caught up with her to find out more about her practice, her process, and her influences.

cody cochrane one

Can you tell me about the process of your work?

I'm a mildly OCD type of personality, I think, so I have to have a routine, and this is especially true with my work. I usually get up pretty early, around 7:30; jog, shower, breakfast, and then down to the business of painting. On a good productive day i like to get in 8-10 hours of work. If I'm working on a series, I have loose papers with tiny thumbnail ideas for paintings, and that's about all I do in terms of planning. Then it's all downhill from there! I just do a rough outline of the idea on the surface, usually wood, and I get down to it. Bigger pieces take me around 2 weeks to finish, and smaller pieces can take a day or a week, depending on how finicky the subject matter.

cody cochrane  three

I first noticed your work at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition - can you tell me a bit about that weekend? How was the show for you personally, what was the audience's reaction to your work?

That weekend was pretty funny, and strange, actually. I just moved back to Toronto after 2 and one half years of living and working in Glasgow, Scotland, so that was my first time showing my new stuff publicly, and I guess it was so strange because it's such a broad audience. I think that's also what made it so fun though! Some of the questions I got were hilarious, and the reactions from more conservative folks were that of... well, let's just say, they maybe didn't get the humor in some of my stuff! I have a pretty macabre sense of what's funny and ironic, and I think that can get mistaken or perhaps misunderstood. That's okay, though, I like people having a strong reaction to things. It's genuine.

cody cochrane  five

Your work is haunting: shadowy, with echoes of mythology and folklore, references to death and darkness. Have you always worked with these themes? Are you working with any specific folklore/mythologies that you can discuss?

As I said previously, I feel like I have a strange, maybe dark sense of humor. Rarely do I take myself too seriously, and I feel the same way about the art I like to make. It doesn't take itself too seriously either! I like being given the freedom to explore and laugh at dark subject matter. I think I've just always been attracted to juxtaposition, and the idea that things that are dark and morbid can be romantic, beautiful, and funny too. It's all in there, you just have to look for it.

I have always been attracted to mythology, especially religious imagery. I used to collect lots of catholic art, the really gaudy stuff. I've always been attracted to it, and my fascination just grew from there. There is no limit to where I get ideas, and usually it’s from unexpected places, like old Russian films, illuminated manuscripts, deep south lynchings, songs, hymns, really everywhere. My time in Scotland definitely informs my art a lot too. Just being in a place that’s so steeped in a history that's quite dark and somewhat barbaric, it feels very heavy and haunting. I’m definitely influenced by mythology, but it’s more on a subconscious level. There are no particular mythological stories or figures that I can recall right now, i think I just read something or see something, and it seems to work its way into my paintings.

cody cochrane  four

What artists are you inspired by? Are there any local artists whose work you admire?

When I was younger I think, like most young aspiring artists, I was totally fascinated by Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the whole New York art scene. As I've grown up though I think I've started to gravitate more towards artists who are really 'tight' in their painting style. I really love Claire Rojas and Richard Colman. And I love the way Maya Hayuk portrays her nude figures. That's something I often include in my own stuff, because it’s so fun drawing hairy legs!

As for local artists, there are so many talented people I can think of, specifically I would say that I truly admire artists like Jeff Garcia, Dan Rocca, Jesjit Gill, Winston Hacking, Michael Deforge, there’s just too many to mention. They're all insanely prolific, and dedicated to what they do, which is rad. I also love Luke Painter's over-sized ink drawings. The way he does trees is amazing.

cody cochrane  two

You mentioned that you just moved back to Toronto after 2 years in Scotland - what is the art community like in Glasgow? How did your work change while you were living there?

Interestingly, the art scene in Glasgow is really thriving, but I think it's just starting to open up to outsiders. It's sort of notoriously cliquey. When I was there I was doing primarily poster design, and was fortunate enough to print posters for some great bands like Mogwai and Arab Strap. It wasn't until I came back to Toronto about a year ago that I started to see the impression Scotland left. All of a sudden I wanted to draw churches, and castles, and things related to battles and the plague. There's a very long history of violence and strife there. But because I have such a massive amount of fondness for Scotland, I've found the humor and beauty of all those things, and I think that's why my paintings aren't quite so dark.


Amy Borkwood is a bookbinder and freelance arts-writer living in Toronto. Her bookworks can be found at her online shop, Nightjar Books.


Post a Comment

<< Home