Jeff Cochran grew up in a small town in Indiana and won an art scholarship to attend college. He began is art career as an illustrator for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, and by the age of 20 he sold his first painting.
Cochran has a house and studio in Taos, New Mexico, along with 5 acres of organic gardens. In winter, he spends his time in “a funky little tin-roof cabin in Costa Rica that is fairly close to the ocean.”
Much of Cochran’s early success and renown came from his large paintings of Chimpanzees. “I started painting them in college and right away I could see that people liked them and connected with them – they’re almost self-portraits of some sort. It’s a fun mental game too, because it’s like the chimps are human without being human, and I think that makes it easier for viewers to put themselves in the painting when it is a chimp than if it were a portrait of just some non-descript human.” Cochran’s dinner with Jane Goodall came about when he found out that the Jane Goodall Institute’s annual fund raiser. Uninvited, he sent them a four-foot chimp painting. Goodall loved the painting so much that she didn’t want to auction it off but wanted to hang it in her office. So Cochran sent a second painting to donate to the auction, and later attended Goodall’s 70th birthday party.
In addition to painting, Cochran is an organic farmer, selling vegetables at farmer’s markets, as well as opening his farm to young people interested in gardening and farming. Cochran thinks of his farming as art, and that what he is really doing is creating a giant land sculpture. “The different colors of plants and soil and mulch contrasting with furrows and beds are like a three dimensional painting.”