This story was featured in the March 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
John D. Cogan was gifted a paint-by-numbers set at age 8, completed it, and quickly craved a greater challenge. It whetted his appetite for art, and by age 10 he was taking a workshop with a local artist in Midland, TX, painting still lifes with pastels and oils. At 13 Cogan’s inspiration became the landscape after a summer trip through the national parks of the U.S. and Canada.
But like many young artists, he was encouraged to pursue a practical trade, and with strong grades in math and science, he eventually earned his master’s degree and a doctorate in experimental physics from Rice University. Yet Cogan kept painting, and after a trip to the Grand Canyon with his wife in 1977, he could no longer deny the pull of fine art. By 1982 he had dedicated himself to his art and capturing the beauty of the land. “The majesty of the mountains and the depths and beauty of the canyons—it was those things that inspired me,” he says.
Based in New Mexico, Cogan tells stories through his art. His acrylic plein-air and studio paintings capture the West and Southwest in dramatic realism, emphasizing the color the region is known for. “I’m telling a story about my life when I paint something,” he says. “I create an image that reminds me of the feelings I had while I was there, and hopefully it also reminds people of those feelings they had there or somewhere else. It’s a form of communication.” —Joe Kovack
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