John Cogan a staple of the Grand Canyon’s annual celebration of art

  • Cogan is one of 22 artists who will participate in this year’s event at the Grand Canyon in mid-September.
  • Visitors to the canyon are encouraged to watch and interact with the artists as they work.
  • Pieces produced during 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, taking advantage of most of these opportunities to create richly detailed, colorful acrylic paintings that have found their way into public collections and private around the world.

If you ask the Farmington resident if he has a favorite of his Grand Canyon works, he’s not shy about acknowledging it.

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

In fact, Cogan said, he still has some ideas of what scenes he’d like to paint, which he remembers from a raft trip he took down the Colorado River through the canyon in 1999. It was the only time Cogan said he had seen the canyon from the bottom up, but the experience was not entirely foreign to him.

“It’s more like painting mountains, and it’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 Grand Canyon from the inside was no stranger to me.”

After:A long-running multi-dimensional show debuts this weekend at the Civic Center

Over the past 14 years, Cogan has come to know the canyon well, as he has been selected to participate in the Grand Canyon Art Celebration every year since that event launched in 2009. He will participate again this year. , becoming one of 22 artists from across the country who will spend a week along the canyon’s South Rim in mid-September painting a variety of scenes.

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

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

Cogan said he’s lost count of how many times he’s visited the canyon over the years, but he said he never fails to draw inspiration from it. He said the canyon offers an unlimited number of stunning views, each of which looks drastically different depending on the angle and time of day from which it is viewed.

Weather conditions also impact these views, he noted, explaining that the canyon is so large that it creates its own weather, with temperature and humidity inversions. Cogan recalled how he sometimes stood at the edge of the canyon and watched the clouds.

All of these variables can make the Grand Canyon a difficult subject, he said, and it has taught him to work quickly and efficiently before that perfect view disappears into darkness, mist or clouds.

"Morning Castles on the Colorado River," a 2022 acrylic painting by Farmington artist John Cogan.

“One of the things about painting outside it’s that the light changes very quickly,” he said. “At most, you have two hours or even just an hour and a half.”

Cogan usually completes 15 to 20 paintings each year during the Grand Canyon Art Celebration, but he said one year he completed 22 in nine days. The experience of painting at the annual event is unusual for Cogan as it is one of the few times he paints as part of a band, he said, in addition to painting for a public.

"Zoroaster evening dress," a 2020 acrylic painting by John Cogan.

He said it took some getting used to because one of the things Cogan appreciates most about plein air painting is its solitary and deeply personal nature.

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

But he adapted to the conditions of the Grand Canyon Arts Celebration, even growing to enjoy his interactions with visitors, especially those from outside the United States.

Most of the time, he says, these exchanges end with a request for someone to take his picture. But he recounted with a laugh how he was approached by an Eastern European couple who, in halting English, managed to ask Cogan if they could take a picture. The artist consented, then found himself shocked when the husband took the brush from his hand, directed Cogan out of frame, and asked his wife to take his picture next to Cogan’s painting.

“You get all kinds,” he said.

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"coyote clouds," a 2013 acrylic painting by John Cogan.

Cogan said he learned not to let those interactions become a distraction. He said he was as accommodating as possible, but had learned to draw boundaries when it came to staying focused on his work.

“If people come up to you and talk to you, you have to learn to be able to talk and paint at the same time,” he said. “Sometimes when they take your picture, they say, ‘Look over here, look over here.’ Well, I don’t have time to pose.”

Cogan’s work is featured at the Mainview Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. To see samples of his work, visit his website at

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or [email protected] Support local journalism with a digital subscription:


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