Capturing Colne and Beyond
by Josh Swarbrick
Colne Life chats with local artist John Corcoran about the people and places that inspire his work
From Colne to Cornwall to California, John Corcoran’s gorgeous landscapes have made the rounds – and for good reason! The Nelson-born artist is something of a local legend, with his truly stunning landscapes of the Lancashire countryside perfectly capturing the picturesque beauty of rural village life up north. Nowadays, John can be found most weekdays in a small corner of Colne Market, hard at work on smaller paintings and always eager to share a story of the many adventures his art has taken him on over the years.
John first gained major local attention in the late 70s, holding exhibitions in places like Burnley, Skipton, and Lancaster. At the time, John was working various odd jobs in local pubs, mines, and mills, but his first sale, ‘Carriers’ in 1977, marked the start of something new and exciting – art swiftly became his full-time commitment. Sales of his works to small northern pubs, major department stores like Harrods, and national press coverage of his Skipton exhibitions, propelled John into the public eye – and he’s not looked back since.
In 1984, John held his first international exhibit in San Jose, California – a slight change of pace from the quaint countryside towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, but California was just the beginning of John’s international successes. From exhibitions down under to being featured on the front cover of the 1980 Fine Art Trade Guild magazine, John’s fame certainly extends far beyond England’s north.
…a slight change of pace from the towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire – California was just the beginning of John’s international successes…
Most of John’s most popular works are inspired by areas local to Colne – from the looming slopes of Pendle Hill down to the little hamlet of Wycoller. “Wycoller is a particularly beautiful place to paint. I really enjoy painting it in different seasons too – the winter ones are especially popular with the public!”
John’s passion for art starts with his father, a professional signwriter and portrait painter. Aged 14, John enrolled in Manchester Secondary Technical School of Art, though he is keen to emphasize that his learning as an artist didn’t start until much later. “I’m forever grateful for my time there,” John recalls, “but they didn’t teach me how to paint. It wasn’t until I went to Cornwall in the early 60s that I got taught all I needed to know. I met an artist, Ray Richardson, on a Cornish quay one day and painted alongside him – he taught me far more than school ever did.” The experience in Cornwall allowed John to refine his skills and develop his own artistic style, which eventually led to his breathtaking landscapes capturing the hearts of art enthusiasts around the world.
Most of John’s most popular works are inspired by areas local to Colne – from the looming slopes of Pendle Hill down to the little hamlet of Wycoller
Whilst John’s art has allowed him to travel a lot over the years, he is keen to emphasize that Colne, as reflected in his paintings, holds a special place in his heart. “I met my wife through Colne Art Group,” he recalls, “they wanted a demonstration for how I made my art, how I get going with my paintings, and even how I set up my easel! I vividly remember demonstrating preliminary sketches on canvas to about a dozen people when the door opened and a young lady came in. I didn’t know her well then, but I instantly knew she was the one – lo and behold, we were married within a month! I’ll always have Colne to thank for that – without this town, I would have never met my Yvonne.”
John was born in Nelson in 1940 and still lives there today, where his house also functions as a home studio for him to paint his larger pieces. On Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, John sets up shop in Colne Market, where he sells his paintings and produces smaller landscapes. “A huge asset of the market is the people you meet,” John explains, “as when I’m in my studio at home, I’m often on my own all day. But here I get to meet people and have a nice chat – it’s lovely. In fact, much of my time in the market is taken up by conversation!
“But to me that’s why the Colne community is so important. Not only do they make nice comments and often buy my works, but they keep me company whilst I paint. I’m really here in the market to sell my work, but it’s nice for them to get the chance to see an artist at work, I suppose!”
But to me that’s why the Colne community is so important. Not only do they make nice comments and often buy my works, but they keep me company whilst I paint.
The market is undoubtedly important for John, though he expresses concern about their future. “I have to say that there’s a sadness to being here at the moment. Many traders have already left. Many are planning to leave.” But, despite this, John stays resilient – “I have no plans to go anywhere yet – it’s important for me to stay here as long as possible. It really is a special place.”
Decades of experience and a lifetime of passion have combined to enable John to perfectly capture the northern countryside’s indescribable beauty and rustic charm. His paintings are truly stunning – it’s no surprise his landscapes have captured the imagination and interest of people all across the globe.
You can see more of John’s work on his website – corcorangallery.co.uk or visit John and his work in person at Colne Market.
ColneLife Autumn 23