John Cogan, in awe of the beauty of creation, strives to capture it’s beauty on canvas. He paints the landscapes and wildlife of the American West in a unique style that has become known throughout the United States and the world. He works primarily in acrylic, focusing on color and the effects of light.
Zion National Park is one of John’s favorite painting destinations. He has participated in Zion National Park’s Plein Air Invitational every year since 2010, winning multiple awards including the Superintendent’s Award in 2011 and the Foundation Award in 2015.
As Foundation Award winner, John has created the painting, Waters of Evening, for the 2016 poster and publicity image. As this year’s plein air event draws closer (November 7-13, 2016), we asked John to share some of his thoughts about this annual tradition in Zion.
~ What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to paint plein air in Zion Canyon for several days in early November?
It is an opportunity like no other. Zion is a canyon of magnificent beauty, of towering monoliths with ancient names, of glittering waters and whispering trees, of intimate hideaways and enigmatic wildlife. During the course of the week these wonders take on new identities with each passing hour and with changes in the predictably unpredictable weather. To the artist it is a sacred and challenging opportunity to capture the fleeting vision of Zion on canvas.
~ What is it about the red rock country of southern Utah that draws you as a painter?
Quite simply it is the juxtaposition of the colors; of earth, of rocks, of skies and trees. Putting these down on canvas draws the artist in almost as a participant in the landscape.
~You work in several media, including writing. What is your favorite way to express what Zion Canyon means to you?
I like writing about what I love and I enjoy painting in pencil, oil and watercolor. But I feel as if I do my most satisfying work in acrylic. The colors are unmatched and the rapid drying time allows me to work in layers, one of my favorite techniques.
~ What do you enjoy most about the Zion Plein Air Event, and why?
Spending a week meeting and working with others who share the same love for Zion as I have.
~ What are the challenges and rewards of painting plein air?
The biggest challenge is getting the painting done in its essentials before the light changes. This includes an accurate drawing, a concise composition and getting the colors right. Succeeding at these tasks rewards the artist with an intimate souvenir of a special time and a special place.
~ Other thoughts you’d like to share…
As I grow older I appreciate more and more what a short time each of us has to make an impact on the preservation of the beauty we have been given, especially at a place like Zion. I hope I will be able to say I have discharged my duty well.