Farmington painter headed back to Grand Canyon in September for annual fundraiser

Landscape artist John Cogan has taken part in event for 14 years

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Cogan is one of 22 artists who will take part in this year's event at the Grand Canyon in the middle of September.
  • Visitors to the canyon are encouraged to watch and interact with the artists as they work.
  • The pieces produced over the course of that week will be featured in a four-month exhibition and sale at the Kolb Studio at 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 those opportunities to create richly detailed acrylic paintings bursting with color that have wound up in public and private collections all over the world.

If you ask the Farmington resident if he has a favorite among his Grand Canyon works, he doesn't hesitate to acknowledge that he does.

"The next one," Cogan said emphatically. "I've always got ideas for things I want to paint."

In fact, Cogan said, he still has a few ideas about scenes he'd like to paint that he recalls from a raft trip he took down the Colorado River through the canyon in 1999. That was the only time Cogan said he has seen the canyon from the bottom up, but the experience wasn't entirely foreign to him.

"It's more like painting mountains, and that's one of the things that inspired me to be an artist," Cogan said, explaining that he grew up on a Colorado ranch surrounded by majestic peaks. "So painting the Grand Canyon from the inside was not unfamiliar to me."

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Farmington landscape painter John Cogan will take part in the annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art in September for the 14th year in a row.

Over the last 14 years, Cogan has gotten to know the canyon very well, as he has been selected to take part in the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art every year since that event was initiated in 2009. He'll participate again this year, becoming one of 22 artists from around the country who will spend a week along the South Rim of the canyon in the middle of 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 over the course of that week will be featured in a four-month exhibition and sale at the Kolb Studio at Grand Canyon National Park. Some of the proceeds raised from the sale will benefit an art venue at the park.

"Evening Angel," a 2020 acrylic painting by John Cogan.

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

Meteorological conditions also impact those views, he noted, explaining that the canyon is so big it creates its own weather, complete with temperature and humidity inversions. Cogan recalled how he sometimes has stood on the rim of the canyon and looked down at clouds.

All those variables can make the Grand Canyon a challenging subject, he said, and that has taught him to work quickly and efficiently before that perfect view disappears into darkness, haze or clouds.

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

"One of the things about painting en plein air is the light changes really fast," he said. "At most, you have two hours or even just an hour and a half."

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

"Zoroaster Evening Dress," a 2020 acrylic painting by John Cogan.

He said that took some getting used to, since one of the things Cogan enjoys 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 anybody," he said.

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

Most of the time, he said, those exchanges conclude with someone asking to take his picture. But he laughingly told the story of how he once 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 paintbrush from his hand, directed Cogan out of the frame and had his wife shoot his photo 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 has learned not to let those interactions become a distraction. He said he is as accommodating as he can be, but he has learned to draw the line when it comes 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're taking your picture, they'll 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 view samples of his work, visit his website at

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