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Never too old to paint




With his paintbrush in constant motion 92 years-old John Donald Cochrane (he likes to be called Donald) describes his need to keep producing works as a disease. “I just want to paint,” he says with utter conviction. At his age, convention would have him taking life a bit easier. But Donald will have none of that. “I might slow down and take a rest in 10 years, or, he adds with a smile, “maybe I won’t.” His advice to anyone approaching later years is this: “Find your talent and make something of it. Keep your brain active and never be afraid to try something new. “


Donald’s paintings were first brought to light by a series of coincidental meetings. A neighbour introduced him to Lynzi Leroy, founder of the Scottish Design Exchange - a new chapter was then born. With his paintings still in makeshift frames, there was still work to be done. Enter Kirsten Boston, East Lothian artist and framer, who also displays at the Scottish Design Exchange, to provide the finishing touch and strike up a friendship with Donald that has endured ever since. Now Donald’s paintings attract a great deal of attention. A combination of Scottish landscapes and abstract works make up most of his output but, dig deeper and you find he also has produced a series of illustrations of Edinburgh.


This is only the latest chapter in Donald’s remarkable life. A Mechanical Engineering Graduate from Heriot Watt University he went on to Edinburgh College of Art where he specialised in engineering design. Four years later he joined Pyrex as head designer where he establishing a new design culture at the company. The Council for Industrial Design in London then came calling. “This was an exciting time – it was really the start of the modern design era and we were designing everything from new style manufacturing outlets to electricity substations in Hong Kong.


After a string of successes, Donald was headhunted again. This time by the Design Research Unit in London where he joined other revolutionary designers whose aim was to bring "art and industry" together and produce design that was for everyone. This group of creatives has since been credited with branding the new optimistic post war Britain. Now, Donald was very much in demand and an invitation to join the United Nations (UN) as project leader in their Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO proved irresistible.


From setting up a glassmaking industry in Malawi to helping people in the Seychelles to replace imported with locally produced China, Donald’s purpose and passion was in making himself dispensable and leaving a stronger and more self-sufficient economy in his wake.


Now alone in his small sheltered home, it is with a paintbrush in hand that Donald gives expression to his ideas. He is a truly inspirational man and each painting or print bought brings him a smile.

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