Materials/Substrates for James McGrew

Birch Ply:

Premium grade birch ply is actually expensive and is known amongst experienced collectors who are aware that a solid piece of wood can warp, crack and cause a painting to peel.  However, birch ply has multiple layers glued in different directions, then the art panels are coated with polyurethane so it is much more dimensionally stable than straight wood or cardboard.  The only material that might be stronger is Dibond which is two layers of aluminum sandwiched on poly core. However, it is more easily bent and dented than birch ply and its impractically heavy compared to birch ply.  Dibond is less likely to warp than birch so it’s the preferred choice of conservators in museums, but it’s just not practical for traveling and plein air work due to the high weight.

Oil on Board:

When I list oil on board, this applies only to 6×8 paintings. The board is actually an epoxy impregnated panel called Multimedia Board which I coat with a special combination of shellac and primer.  It is ultralight, ultra thin, waterproof, and permanent. The complete, correct listing would be Oil on specially modified Multimedia Board.

Oil and Linen on Board:

Oil on linen on board, is actually linen mounted to Gatorboard which is an extremely lightweight yet tough and durable foam core.  

With the exception of the Multimedia board, all my linen on board panels are made by New Traditions Art Panels in Utah or Trekkel Art Supplies in California.  They use oil primed Belgian and U.S. linen mounted using BEVA Film which is a heat reversible, archival adhesive. The BEVA Film was designed for the world’s greatest masterworks, mounted to panels and was originally designed to adhere flaking paint back to the substrate.  It is removed by heating to 150 degrees fahrenheit.

James McGrew’s oil paints are made in Oregon using California Walnut oil as a binder. The oil is more fluid than other binding oils and therefore less oil is needed to wet the pigment.  This results in the most densely pigmented paint in the world and therefore the most permanent/lightfast. They dry more slowly and remain more fluid at lower temperatures so when plein air painting in the cold, he can paint with minimal solvent use compared to any other brand of paint.

Frames:  all of James McGrew’s frames are handmade in the United States by individuals or small companies and gilding is typically genuine 12kt (more silvery) or 22kt (more yellow) gold, usually water gilded by applying a clay based sizing and then laying the gold leaf into the clay.  As it dries, it binds the gold which is then burnished with agate, varnished and finished. A few of the frames are sold oak, handmade by Holton Studio Framemakers in Berkeley, California.  They use 23kt oil gilding, which uses oil varnish instead of water based sizing to adhere the gold.

Brushes: All of MeGrew’s brushes come from the following locations: United States (Trekkel Art Materials), Germany (Utrecht), and England (Rosemary and Co).