by Mary Nearpass
Jay McClellan, a tall, bearded man with soft blue eyes, has created an impressive body of extraordinary art in his mere 38 years of life. He was born in Maumelle, Arkansas, a small town outside of Little Rock. After 10 years in the graphic design industry and his mother’s death due to pancreatic cancer, McClellan made the tough decision to go back to school. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Memphis College of Art and then a Master of Fine Arts from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
McClellan’s newest work “Henry Avenue,” a large painting made up of 20 separate panels, is currently on display at the Gravers Lane Gallery, 8405 Germantown Ave., along with many of his other works, through Labor Day. In this new work, McClellan attempted to capture the light he sees every afternoon while he walks his three dogs.
He enjoys creating these large scale paintings such as this one of a beautiful warm summer’s light on a Wissahickon Schist stone home on Henry Avenue. This painting clearly shows the native stone and naturalistic landscaping, like so many other 19th century houses in the Philadelphia area.
McClellan’s passions in life are plentiful, but he particularly loves to make paintings of his family life which consist of his wife Stephanie and their three dogs — Tip, Honey and Lucky. McClellan says that “thanks to modern and contemporary painters such as Alex Katz and Fairfield Porter, my large-scale paintings allow me to reveal the uniqueness of my family, which are primarily portraits of my dogs and my wife in our home.
“The calmness that it brings to me and the happiness that they bring to me, I want to paint. People can tell when I haven’t painted in several days … I start to get antsy and irritable … painting gets my motor running while serving as a form of relaxation.”
Jay has painted numerous commissions of dogs and other household pets for people over the years. “Every time I have a show,” he said, “the public loves my dog paintings from the patterns and bold color to the large scale to the personalities I bring out in each dog. The first question they ask is: ‘Can I paint their dog in the same style but smaller?’ The answer is always yes.” The emotions animals express are what inspire him to paint. Their distinct personalities influence everything from his composition to color.
Last August McClellan, who also paints lighthouses and local houses, joined Gravers Lane Gallery as part of a group exhibit entitled “Dog Days of Summer,” featuring a whimsical range of dog imagery in various media including illustrations, painting and sculpture. Gravers Lane Gallery is one division of The Goldenberg Group, which is comprised of three entities; Goldenberg Development, People Helping People Foundation and Goldenberg Enterprises (of which Gravers Lane Gallery is the first).
Bruce Hoffman, Director of Gravers Lane Gallery and Vice President of the Chestnut Hill Business Association, explained, “Ken Goldenberg has a clear vision of the importance of supporting the Chestnut Hill community by providing a vibrant artistic and cultural outlet in Gravers Lane Gallery.” The gallery also supports many charitable causes, including “The Stained Glass Project: Windows that Open Doors.” Hoffman is current working to bring and exhibition of artists and work from Botswana for Black History Month in February, 2015. McClellan is working towards a solo exhibition in the spring of 2015.
McClellan’s paintings have been exhibited nationally and are held in many private collections including that of Phillies second baseman, Chase Utley. Awards include Honorable Mention at the 45th Annual Delta Exhibition and the Mabel Wilson Woodrow Fellowship Award at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. McClellan currently paints full time in his East Falls Studio and is an instructor at Delaware County Community College.
This fall Jay will be giving a pet portrait workshop at Main Line Art Center. He lives with his wife, Stephanie Petro-McClellan, the Arts and Education Programming Supervisor at the Center for Creative Works, a creative art center with work opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities in Wynnewood.
For more information, contact Bruce at 215-247-1603 or through www.graverslanegallery.com.