West Coulter artist paints fine art commissions of the furriest members of your family. Jay McClellan’s playful, colorful canvases are featured all over Philadelphia (including all White Dog Cafe locations), but he’s happiest creating heartfelt portraits of well-loved dogs. Maybe yours?
So what can we tell you about Jay McClellan that hasn’t been written by the journalists that have covered his popular shows from Arkansas (where he’s from) to Stone Harbor, or his work with Chase Utley and the SPCA, or the galleries in Mt. Airy & Chestnut Hill where he’s a perennial favorite?
How’s this: he was a starving artist with some paintings in a random gallery, when the owner called with a starving college student on the line. She had no money but wanted to buy a painting for her dad, a dog lover. They worked out a deal, and turns out the girl’s dog-loving daddy owned the White Dog Cafe, and from here Jay was happily pulled into a career of painting dog commissions. His pieces are now prominently featured in all three locations (plus many homes, shops, offices, etc. since business took off).
Before finding his passion, Jay was in advertising for a long time, and then his mother’s death was like a wake-up call for him. He sold two cars, bought a van, enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Somewhere along the way, he adopted Tip & Honey who eventually inspired a whole style of painting for him, a way he could share the comfort & joy he found in dogs:
In painting I examine the visual concept of “flat space” by moving objects back and forth on the canvas’s two-dimensional plane. Juxtaposing bold colors with graphic pattern and unique designs, my visual combinations excite my audience’s attention to the calm and earnest dogs that surround me in my everyday life. Indebted 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 those ideas. – JAY MCCLELLAN
Funny, hearing Jay talk about his art in person — he’s very deferential, almost apologetic about his subject matter, “It’s sentimental, my teachers at PAFA hated my dog paintings. The first show I did, I had these big bright canvases of Tip & Honey out on cans of dog food — the audience loved it, but my teachers were kinda like, Really?? Dogs are not considered very academic material.”
His color choice, too, is a kinda pop-y but it’s the real deal. Jay’s perfected a complicated method to produce backgrounds of brilliant colors & patterns, from where each dog’s natural tones stand out. He also experiments with curved canvases in organic shapes.
His big splashy paintings definitely reflect his stated artistic influences, as well as a love for the tones of Southwestern art, and some of the geometry.
If you like Jay’s paintings — or know a dog lover who would — the good news is Jay loves to take local commissions, and plus he’s quite affordable!
To commission your own original Jay McClellan, contact him by email, find him on Facebook, or find him this November 14 & 15 at the National Dog Show at the Philadelphia Expo Center near Valley Forge. Although prices range from $900 to $8000, most commissions cost about $1800 for a 30″ x 40″ painting.
While he’ll work over email with anyone anywhere, he really prefers to meet his subject (or subjects) personally. He literally gets right down on their level, looks in their face, and tries to connect with their personality.
His sleepy dogs are peaceful, yet as vibrant as his livelier compositions. While dogs are his primary subject matter, Jay incorporates all species into his artwork, but he prefers realistic themes (he politely turned down a commission requesting their dog driving a car, ha).
If one thing is clear from meeting Jay: the man loves dogs, and painting them for loving guardians is his bliss. When he talks of commissions he’s painted, he sounds profoundly happy to be doing what he loves. George Carlin once said “Life is a series of dogs,” and for Jay, his job is to capture this fleeting love, and celebrate it.
Oh and by the way — Jay paints other stuff, too, not just dogs. He’s fascinated by the stone houses in this area, and also the scenery of Maine (where he visits friends regularly) and a recent trip to Italy have inspired many paintings.
“I’d rather see the portrait of a dog that I know, than all the allegorical paintings they can show me in the world.” — Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) English writer & moralist