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Vivid Life: The Art of Coni Grant

By Marcia Darnell

Coni Grant is living proof that you CAN have it all. ?An accomplished artist, mother, wife, and professional designer, she moves through the stages in her life in vivid color, with intensity and love of life.

Her workplace, Pleinview Studio in East Alamosa, is a hallmark of that vivacity, with its stark white walls outlining paintings that shout with color and life. ?Grant herself is vivid, with red hair, a bright wardrobe, and a manner that is relaxed and warm, yet exudes happiness.

“I am content and thrilled and grateful to be able to do this,” she says of her artistic career.

Grant is a painter specializing in plein-air painting, which, like French Impressionism, tries to capture the outdoor light.

 ‘Autumn Way’, 12”x16”, oil by Coni Grant
‘Autumn Way’, 12”x16”, oil by Coni Grant

“I’ve always been an artist,” she says, laughing. ?“I don’t have any other skills, really.”

She started as a professional designer at 16, working her way through college and supporting her household through the early years of her marriage. ?She built up to owning her own studio as well as working for other agencies.

“I had several mentors,” she recalls, “They helped me get out there and become a professional before I even graduated from high school.”

Design naturally meshed with her artistic abilities.

“Whether you design your work to be a painting, a dress, whatever, design is everything.”

In her art studies, she’s also worked with leaded glass, sculpture, quilting and more.

“But nothing ever held my attention as well as painting,” she says.

Grant spent 20 years as a graphic designer in the Bay Area after growing up in Monrovia, California.

“I’ve lived everywhere,” she says, “Kansas, Canada, everywhere.”

Grant and her family eventually landed in Alamosa, where she earned an MFA at Adams State College.

Coni Grant shown at the Rio Grande Community  Museum and Cultural Center.    Photo by Dr. A.J. Taylor
Coni Grant shown at the Rio Grande Community Museum and Cultural Center. Photo by Dr. A.J. Taylor

She opened her studio in 2006, and also teaches at the Alamosa Family Recreation Center, mostly to adults.

“I enjoy teaching,” Grant says, “and I’ve learned at least as much from my students as I’ve taught them.”

Now in her early 50s, she and her family have been in the Valley for seven years. ?“We’ve been very happy here,” she says with a smile. Grant’s husband is a psychologist with the San Luis Valley Mental Health Center. They have two kids in junior high.

Living in the San Luis Valley has had a large impact on her work.

“You betcha,” she says. ?“I can’t say enough about it. ?The light here is so clear and crispy. ?What’s far away looks close.

“I totally changed the way I see and paint.”

A dedicated plein-air artist, Grant often goes to the same locations to paint, and tries to create something new each time.

“Some of my favorite places are Rock Creek, the Sand Dunes, and Ghost Ranch in New Mexico,” she says. ?“You go back to places because you haven’t ‘got it’ yet.”

Like a lot of artists, she frequently paints from photographs. ?She also travels to Wyoming and other locations in Colorado and New Mexico for inspiration.

In addition to nature scenes, Grant likewise enjoys painting what she calls “urban junk.” She enjoys going back to those places, too, and recording their changes over time.

Grant usually does a black-and-white sketch before painting. She enjoys spending time painting in New Mexico, mostly at the Ghost Ranch and in Santa Fe. ?She got her start on the West Coast.

“It’s impossible to talk about how huge California plein-air art is.”

Of second careers, Grant says, “If it’s not fun, you’re not doing the right thing.” And of her life, she says, “Family is where the real action is.”

She often works with Joshua Been at Virtuosity Studio in Salida. Sometimes they get together with other artists in a specific location and do mass plain-air art.

“I’m so blessed to be a Colorado artist,” she says. ?“I’m always really glad when I come over the pass and I’m back in the Valley.

“I’m not going to stop doing what I’m doing,” she declares,?“I can’t.”

Grant’s work can be seen at Pleinview Studio, Earthwood Gallery in Boulder, Earthwood Collections in Estes Park, Link Gallery in Cheyenne, SPACe Gallery in La Veta, and on her website,

San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center owns several of her pieces, and the Rio Grande Museum and Cultural Center in Del Norte is showing her work through March. ?Grant also keeps a blog,

And she’ll keep painting in Colorado, raising her children, and living life all-out:

“A part of being fulfilled is knowing there’s more ahead.”

Marcia Darnell lives, writes, and appreciates art in Alamosa.