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The artist who turned Usain Bolt from track legend to street hero

By Irene Chapple, CNN
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Fri August 3, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • James Cochran, known as "Jimmy C," painted an outdoor portrait of athlete Usain Bolt
  • Cochran has a background in graffiti art and academic arts training
  • He is based in east London's Shoreditch, which is a hub for the city's street artists
  • Cochran painted the mural in the hope it would last beyond the Olympic Games

London (CNN) -- More than three meters above east London's Sclater Street is a mural of sprinter Usain Bolt, captured in explosive color by artist James Cochran.

The street artwork, more than four meters high and six meters wide, is a dramatic sight, designed by Cochran to celebrate London's Olympic Games.

Cochran, known as "Jimmy C," has a style which combines his background in graffiti art and academic training in figurative realism.

The UK-born artist is based in London's Shoreditch, having spent much of his life in Australia. After his mother died in a car crash when Cochran was 12, his family life deteriorated.

East London is one of the best places to see street art in the world, and If there's one artist who sums up East London street art right now, it is Stik, according to Richard Howard-Griffin. East London is one of the best places to see street art in the world, and If there's one artist who sums up East London street art right now, it is Stik, according to Richard Howard-Griffin.
East London's street art
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Gallery: East London\'s street art Gallery: East London's street art

At 16, he spent three months on the streets where he began painting with aerosol cans. Cochran later completed a visual arts degree at the University of South Australia, before going on to complete a masters degree.

The Olympics miss: Why street art should be embraced not snubbed

His art often depicts the homeless, as he seeks to capture "a more raw essence of the human subject."

Cochran's style has evolved from what he calls "aerosol pointillism," with its impressionist overtones, to "atomic pointillism, in which the subject appears to atomize.

Why gritty East End is London's gold standard

Cochran also explores the relationship between individuals and the urban landscape, which has led to paintings of buildings sprouting from heads -- one of which can be seen in this Sam Taylor-Wood directed REM video.

Cochran's canvases sell for thousands of pounds. But he continues to paint on the streets, and his work can be found in cities including Paris, Berlin and New York. "When you paint on the street there is a lot more rawness to it," Cochran says. "Anything can happen."

East London, where the city's Olympic Games are based, is a hub for street art. "That's the great thing about Shoreditch and Hackney," says Cochran. "[The art] is part of the look of the street."

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