Photography: Kirsten Shultz and Lee Grogan
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Robert Grogan looks like the guy next door, a cross between your favorite schoolteacher and a scientist. A quiet, unassuming man, of 62, he’s not someone you might expect to have wrangled environmental policies for most of his professional life. Nor might you expect him to be an artist—he’s just not eccentric enough. But plein air painter Bob Grogan is all of this, a delightful mix of generous creativity, keen intellect, and an insatiable passion for life.
Accompanied by Lee Grogan, his college sweetheart-turned wife of 38 years, Bob has hiked, backpacked, photographed, and painted in Alaska, Hawaii, Africa, Mexico, the U.S. Southwest, and the Rockies. His love of the outdoors and his deep appreciation for nature leads him to spend hours with pochade box, brushes and panels, battling bugs, inclement weather, and constantly shifting light in pursuit of the grace and beauty of a particular moment. This is Bob’s favorite way to paint—on location outdoors—en plein air.
“I was on someone’s payroll continuously from 1957 to 1992. Since I rarely take a day off from my painting, I think of myself as being in my second career now. I don’t have a problem with the concept of retirement—it just doesn’t work for me,” he chuckles softly. Lee adds, “Bob sets a beautiful example that it’s never too late. Painting is a total departure from his past.”
But his first career definitely overlaps his second in its clear devotion to nature. From his studio off East Fork Road, he offers details of his life—25 years in Alaska as the director of the Alaska Coastal Management Program and a budget analyst for the Alaska legislature, obtaining a pilot’s license, a guide license, and operating a fly-fishing business. It was all a way to be outdoors and to contribute to the protection of nature—a way to blend passion with profession.