Ask The Artist - 10 questions with Ian Cockburn
In this series we have a chat with artists and illustrators from Leeds and West Yorkshire, in the hope to spread the word about the good stuff going on in this place.

This time artist Ian Cockburn answers the 10 questions. Ian's a painter and is also known for his ink drawings as well as being the lead singer and songwriter for indie band The Seven Inches. I've known Ian since I arrived in Leeds in 1997 to study, and he's always been a friend and a very interesting and creative person.

Helen: What are the current themes in the artwork you make?  
Ian: I don’t tend to think in terms of themes as such, not consciously, except when commissioned to do so. I’m alternating between landscapes and portraits and trying to refine my style as I paint them, imposing on them my quirks and way of seeing the world. I’ve been exploring colour harmonies and simplification of forms especially. I’m always trying to justify the existence of a painting as a painting, in doing what only a painting can do, while trying to imitate what I find most beautiful in what I’m looking at.  

What processes and materials do you normally choose?  
Oil paints and watercolours, or pen and ink. I’ve been thinking of incorporating more collage too- I’ve made a few tentative experiments in that direction. 

Where might people see your work?  

Do you have any favourite artists or illustrators that have influenced your style or outlook?  
The first fine artist to make a big impression on me was Bruegel. Later Goya, Schiele, El Greco, Chagall, Holbein, Hokusai, van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci also became big favourites. I also like Rembrandt and Klee. In another life I did comics and cartoons in pen and ink, and I was very influenced by Gillray, Searle, and Beano artists like Leo Baxendale. I still think that sensibility has left its mark. Since I’ve become a painter and have given more attention to colour, I’ve been surprised as to how much influence has come through from Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, and really that whole late C.19th- early C.20th period up to WW2. It’s that stylization and colour harmonies I was talking about earlier. I knew I loved that period, but I didn’t realise how much.  

I haven’t mentioned any current artists, but everything I see that I love makes an impression and gets silently stirred into the pot.  

As well as visual art, you are a singer/songwriter with your band The Seven Inches.  Do you find any overlap between your two creative lives?  There are similarities and analogues in the creative process, but at the same time they’re very different and if you’ve been concentrating on one of the two disciplines for a while it’s disorienting to switch back to the other. Here’s an example of a lesson that you can learn that applies to both: something that you’ve knocked off very quickly and easily can be better than something you’ve laboured over for ages (and often is). I’ve drawn our record sleeves and sometimes concert posters, so perhaps that leads to our fans associating my visual style with our music. 

When making art do you like solitude, or do you like to feed off people around you?  I generally like being alone unless it’s supposed to be a collaborative project, in which case, I’m happy to feed off people! 

Are you a quick worker, or do you like to take your time over a piece of art?  It depends. Things take as long as they take. The ideal is to work quickly, but sometimes that’s not possible. I like an artwork to look like it was done with ease, fluency and spontaneity, even if in reality it wasn’t. Sometimes I’ll work for a long time at a painting until it’s really overworked, then start again and paint it again quickly, learning from what I got wrong before.   

Have there ever been barriers that prevented you from making art, or hindered your progress in some way?  I think most of us in all fields in this world encounter little but barriers and hindrances. Compared to others I’ve been very fortunate in terms of where and when I’ve been born. Though I do get the feeling – it may be wrong – that in the not-so-distant past government and British society in general valued the arts higher than they do currently.  

What's happening with you right now?  I have a half price sale on at my etsy page  ending on November 17th 2017. You can also subscribe to my blog at  for updates, or keep an eye on my social media posts.    

If your art was to be discovered by archaeologists or historians in 500 years time, what do you think they would make of our society, based on looking at your art?  Probably something really technical to do with materials, or something completely unfathomable to our current mindset. Or they’ll be too busy fighting over uncontaminated water to think about it.