April 30, 2017

About Face

Getting to know portrait artist Jessica McClendon

Most mornings, you’ll find Jessica McClendon pouring frothy lattes in Copper Bar at Forty Five Ten. In the afternoons, she’s finishing her MFA and shaping young minds as a teaching assistant at Texas Women’s University. Off hours are spent painting in her Oak Cliff studio. Her three-dimensional portraits created using layers of Plexiglas have earned big fans—as well as commissions from private collectors. With her MFA exhibit around the corner, McClendon’s schedule is busier than ever, but she carved out a few minutes to chat about her work and share her get-creative playlist.

How would you describe your style?
I’m a classically trained portrait artist, so I carry that into my current style, which I’d describe as somewhat graphic with a touch of realism.

Where do you go to get inspired?
Most of the subjects I paint are close friends, but I enjoy people watching immensely. I am a portrait artist, after all. So, I like anywhere there are lots of people interacting.

Favorite museum?
The Kimbell Art Museum and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

How has working downtown influenced your work?
I’ve met the most wonderful people I know through Weekend Coffee at The Joule. It’s an amazing gathering place for innovators, creatives, entrepreneurs, and all-around interesting people. I feel so lucky to have worked in the heart of downtown for the past three years.

What time of the day do you like to work?
I feel most creative late at night, but due to my rigorous schedule, I usually work during the day whenever I have a few hours of open time.

What do you like to listen to in the studio?
I prefer soft, melodic music. Among my favorite songs are “Au Coin Du Monde” by Stacey Kent, Chopin’s “Nocturnes,” and “Chances Are” by Johnny Mathis. Oh, and anything Amy Winehouse. (Scroll down for a link to McClendon’s Spotify playlist she created for us.) 

Favorite medium to work in?
Plexiglas with latex, paper, resin, spray paint, markers, and found objects.

How long have you been painting?
Twenty-four years.

A tiny town called Tom Bean, Texas.

Current passion?
My current MFA show, I am. They are. We are, is something I’m really excited about because I’m showing a series of portraits of people who’ve had significant impact on my life.

The Details: Jessica’s group MFA exhibition with fellow artists Kimberly J. Schaefer and Carrie Adamson-Riefler opens May 6 at the Butler Brothers Building, 500 S. Ervay Street. Opening reception 6–11 p.m. See more of her work (and shop for prints) at jessicamcclendon.com.

1530 Main Exclusive: What does a night at Jessica’s studio sound like? Here’s a playlist of her favorite songs to paint to.