Conveying awe and wonder
This story was featured in the April 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art April 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
For Oregon painter James McGrew, the unique beauty and magical feeling of Yosemite National Park has captured his imagination since he was a child. As a youngster McGrew often asked his parents to visit the park for birthday celebrations and on special occasions. “I always wanted to learn about its science and the natural and cultural history,” McGrew says. “I also began to seriously paint and draw the park.”
Today McGrew has not strayed far from his childhood passion. He spends several weeks every summer in the park, backpacking in the high country, and he also makes shorter trips throughout the year to experience autumn color, winter snowstorms, and spring waterfalls. While exploring, he creates small plein-air works as reference material for larger studio paintings. On these plein-air excursions, McGrew is carrying on the traditions of 19th-century landscape painters such as Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, and William Keith, who also had a strong desire to convey the colossal, monumental scale of Yosemite as well as its emotional impact.
Although McGrew has always painted and drawn, in college he majored in biology and minored in geology and chemistry at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, OR. His educational background in the sciences no doubt contributes to his ability to capture the vegetation, rock formations, and atmosphere found in the park.
In addition to Yosemite, McGrew also has a special place in his artistic soul for the Grand Canyon, another sublime landscape that he has recently begun to paint on a regular basis. But McGrew is quick to point out that he is not interested in copying a scene detail for detail; he prefers to express the emotional impact of standing in the midst of grandeur. “I want the viewer to feel a sense of awe and wonder that helps people love and respect nature, which ultimately leads to stewardship beyond the park,” he says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Knowlton Gallery, Lodi, CA; Howard/Mandville Gallery, Kirkland, WA; Holton Studio Gallery, Emeryville, CA; Mountainsong Galleries, Carmel, CA; Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, Jackson, WY, and Bozeman, MT.
Featured in the April 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art April 2014 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
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