Bruce Gómez has been painting for decades, but he only started painting outdoors about three years ago … and immediately started winning awards.

The Denver artist recently posted on Facebook about his People’s Choice award at the Plein Air Artist Invitational at Zion National Park in Utah, and he seemed rather excited. Excited enough to wonder if the award came with a title along the lines of “Leader for Life.”

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This piece won First Place in the 2012 Windows to the Divine Paint Out in Denver.

It doesn’t, but evidently it feels like it. And well it should, for Gómez, who has racked up an impressive list of awards since 2010, including a merit award at the Golden Triangle Plein Air Festival, the Collector’s Choice award in both 2011 and 2012 at the Sedona Plein Air Festival, plus the People’s Choice award in Sedona in 2011.

His winning painting at Zion was done in two hours. “It just all came together,” says Gómez. “I didn’t know that I won — I had no idea what was going on. Someone said, ‘You gotta get out there — they want you!’ I thought my easel was blowing away.”

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This pastel won the Collector’s Choice award at the Sedona Plein Air Festival last year.

Gómez says the piece was sold before he even finished it, making the day even sweeter. Someone drove by him as he worked and stopped to offer to buy it. His success seems to be taking him by surprise. “I’ve done well in Sedona in the last few years and I was asked to join the Zion event. I was really honored,” he says. “I guess I’m a plein air painter now.”

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