John Cogan a fixture at the annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art – Farmington Daily Times | WHs Answers

  • Cogan is one of 22 artists who will be attending this year’s event at the Grand Canyon in mid-September.
  • Visitors to the canyon are encouraged to watch and interact with the artists at work.
  • Pieces produced this week will be featured in a four-month exhibition and sale at Kolb Studio in Grand Canyon National Park.

FARMINGTON – Landscape artist John Cogan has made dozens of trips to the Grand Canyon over the years, and used most of these opportunities to create richly detailed, colorful acrylic paintings that have ended up in public and private collections around the world.

If you ask the Farmington resident if he has a favorite among his Grand Canyon works, he doesn’t hesitate to say so.

“The next one,” Cogan said firmly. “I always have ideas for things I want to paint.”

In fact, Cogan said he still has a few ideas for scenes he’d like to paint that he remembers from a 1999 raft trip he took down the Colorado River through the canyon. That was the only time Cogan said he’d seen the Canyon from the ground up, but the experience wasn’t entirely alien to him.

“It’s more like painting mountains, and that’s one of the things that inspired me to become an artist,” Cogan said, explaining that he grew up on a ranch in Colorado surrounded by majestic peaks. “So painting the inside of the Grand Canyon was no stranger to me.”

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Over the past 14 years, Cogan has gotten to know the canyon very well, having been selected to participate in the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art every year since that event began in 2009. He will be participating again this year and will be one of 22 artists from across the country who will spend a week at the South Rim in mid-September painting a variety of scenes.

Visitors to the Canyon are encouraged to watch and interact with the artists at work, and pieces produced this week will be featured in a four-month exhibition and sale at Kolb Studio in Grand Canyon National Park. A portion of the proceeds from the sale will benefit an arts center in the park.

"evening angel," a 2020 acrylic painting by John Cogan.

Cogan said he’s lost count of the number of times he’s visited the gorge over the years, but said he never fails to draw inspiration from it. He said the gorge offers an unlimited number of breathtaking views, each one looking dramatically different depending on the vantage point and time of day from which it is viewed.

Meteorological conditions also affect these views, he noted, explaining that the canyon is so large that it creates its own weather, complete with temperature and humidity reversals. Cogan recalled sometimes standing at the edge of the canyon and looking down at the clouds.

All of these variables can make the Grand Canyon a challenging subject, he said, and it’s taught him to work quickly and efficiently before that perfect view fades into darkness, haze, or cloud.

"morning locks on the colorado river," a 2022 acrylic painting by Farmington artist John Cogan.

“One of the things about painting outdoors the light changes really fast,” he said. “Two hours at most, or even just an hour and a half.”

Cogan typically completes 15 to 20 paintings each year during the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art, but he said he completed 22 of them in a nine-day period in one year. The experience of painting during the annual event is unusual for Cogan, as it’s one of the few times he paints as part of a group, he said, in addition to painting for an audience.

"Zoroastrian Gown," a 2020 acrylic painting by John Cogan.

He said that took some getting used to, as one of the things Cogan likes most about plein air painting is its solitary, deeply personal nature.

“I like… being able to do my own thing without having to talk to anyone,” he said.

But he’s adapted to the conditions at the Grand Canyon Celebration of Arts, and even increasingly enjoys his interactions with visitors, particularly those from outside the United States.

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