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James McGrew first backpacked in Yosemite at just four months old and subsequent family camping/backpacking trips inspired an early interest in art and nature as he was constantly drawing and painting.  He began using pastels at age 8 and his father’s oils at 10.  Today he is best known for his oil paintings interpreting western National Parks.  A strong background in natural sciences (degrees in biology, chemistry and geology and grad work for M.S. in Environmental Ed) help James understand his natural subjects as well as to carry on the tradition of 19th century artists whose images helped to establish the first national parks.   He also lends his art background to his work as a summer seasonal Yosemite ranger/naturalist as he has for the past 21 Summers. His primary objective in painting is to help inspire love and protection of our national parks and environment as a whole.

James prefers to paint direct from life and often works up to about 30×40 en plein air.  However, he creates his most refined and largest paintings in the studio from his plein air references. He hikes or backpacks several hundred miles a year, looking for unique perspectives and a deeper connection with nature.  He works to create paintings which not only visually portray a scene, but convey the emotions of the actual experience.  Although inspired by a combination of Romanticism and Impressionism, McGrew paints with a style that is largely self taught and uniquely his own.

McGrew’s paintings hang in collections around the world and have shown in numerous solo shows, national and international exhibitions and plein air invitationals, receiving many awards including best of show at Grand Canyon Celebration of Art, the Zion Foundation Award (top honor and commission for the painting used for all of the following year’s marketing of Zion Plein Air Invitational), and 5 consecutive People’s Choice Awards at Grand Canyon and 3 consecutive years at Zion.  He is an artist member of the California Art Club and a signature member of both the American Impressionist Society and the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association.   His work has been featured in articles of Fine Art Connoisseur, Plein Air Magazine, Southwest Art, and Western Art Collector.  He has presented as a keynote speaker at numerous art and science conferences and presented on stage and as a field painter at Plein Air Convention, 2016, Tucson.  When teaching workshops, James interweaves art and science in an entertaining manner easy to understand and he has volunteered countless hours teaching art history in elementary through high schools.  He loves backpacking, paining and fly fishing with his family.

Artist’s Statement

“I strive to interpret nature with my brush, not just representing a visual scene, but more importantly, conveying the emotions I felt as influenced by the experience including weather and light, movement and energy.  I want the viewer to feel those elements and emotions.  I hope my works inspire others to love and protect our natural world and cherish our valuable human interrelationships with each other and the environment.”

Recent Exhibitions and Honors:

11/2018 People’s Choice Award and Purchase award, Zion Plein Air Art Invitational

10/2018 Solo Show, The Ansel Adams Gallery

10/2018 Collector’s Choice Award and Judge’s Choice, Sedona Plein Air

9/2018 Inaugural Yellowstone Plein Air Invitational

9/2018  10th Annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art

6/2018 California Art Club Gold Medal Exhibition

1/2018 13th Annual ARC Salon finalist.

11/2017 Featured artist at Zion Plein Air Art Invitational

11/2017 People’s Choice Award at Zion Plein Air Art Invitational

11/2017 Group Exhibit, Beloved CA II, Holton Studio Gallery, Berkeley, CA.

10/2017 Solo Show, Ansel Adams Gallery, Yosemite, CA

10/2017 Seven Canyons Paint out Award at Sedona Plein Air.

10/2017 Laguna Plein Air Invitational

9/2017 People’s choice award and record auction price at 9th annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art

7/2017 Honorable Mention from Scott Jones and purchase award by Jackson Hole Airport; Plein Air for the Park/Grand Teton plein air.

2/2017 Honor Hawaii/Honor Maui award, Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational.

11-12/2016 Signature Impressions (LPAPA Signature Member exhibition), Huntington Beach, CA.

11-12/2016 “Beloved California” Group show at Holton Studio Gallery, Berkeley, CA.

11/2016 Zion Plein Air Invitational; Foundation Award (top honor) & People’s Choice Awd.

10/2016: Sedona Plein Air. Seven Canyons/Gamblin Award.

10/2016: Laguna Plein Air Painters Invitational

9/2016 Grand Canyon Celebration of Art; People’s Choice Award & highest record auction

8-10/2016 Hawaii National Parks Centennial Museum Exhibition, Maui, HI.

4/2016 Stage presenter and demo artist at 2016 Plein Air Convention, Tucson, AZ.

5-6/2016 Solo Show, Ansel Adams Gallery

6/2016 50×80 and 60×40 Commissions completed for the prestigeous Stoller Estate Winery

2/2016 Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational (Honor Hawaii/Honor Maui Award and Montage Kapalua Award).

2/2016 National Parks Centennial Exhibition, St. George Museum, UT.

2/2016 Yosemite Renaissance, Yosemite Museum, CA

10/2015 Laguna Beach Plein Air Invitational (Higbee Award)

11/2015 Zion Plein Air Invitational (People’s Choice and 5 purchase awards)

10/2015 Howard Mandville Gallery Small Works Invitational

5/2015 Solo Show, James J. Rieser Fine Art, Carmel, CA

5/2015 CA Impressionism; Plein Air painting Past and Present exhibit with Irvine Museum, De Ru’s, HBAC, and Laguna Plein Air Painters Assoc. Huntington Beach, CA

9/2015 Grand Canyon Celebration of Art/Plein air (People’s Choice and highest Sales at Auction) 11/2015 Yosemite Impressions Group Exhibition. Ansel Adams Gallery, Yosemite, CA

2015 Oil Painters of America National Exhibition, St. Augustine, FL

11/2014 Zion Plein Air Invitational. Two purchase Awards.

10/2014. Sedona Plein Air Invitational. Merit Award (judge Jim McVicker).

10/2014 Laguna Plein Air Invitational.

10/2014 American Impressionist Society National Exhibit

9/2014 6th annual Grand Canyon Celebration of art. People’s Choice Award.

5/2014 Carmel Art Festival. People’s Choice Award and Honorable Mention.

12/2013 Legacy Gallery Small works invitational (sold out).

10/2013 Howard/Mandville Gallery Small works Invitational

9/2013 5th annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art. Best of Show & People’s Choice awards. Sold out show with record highest sales for event to date.

Full list dating back to James’ first solo show in 1999 available upon request.


Select Magazine Article Publications:

Feature Article by Steve Doherty in Plein Air Magazine (April/May 2016 digital edition)

Western Art Collector, December 2015

Today’s Masters Paint the Parks; article in Fine Art Connoisseur, July/Aug 2014

Southwest Art.  by Bonnie Gangelhoff. April 2014