Creative and forward-thinking, Jessica McClendon is a candid New Southern ambassador and Dallas-based oil painter who expresses herself by putting boundless love onto the canvas. With an interest in making space for clarity while creating healing environments — her message is all about self-love, loving others and being seen. By making use of the internal stillness within her, she has established an art career that is deeply rooted in inclusivity and gratitude. Bringing vitality and a fresh energy to the Southern art scene, she is a force and an artist to follow.
Playing with layers, light and shadow, Jessica paints people of all shapes, sizes and colors. Her latest solo exhibition, titled “Self Timer”, features over 25 oil paintings that were inspired by the modern-day selfie and created from an open-call Instagram series. Each piece is a unique portrayal of how her social media followers and loved ones chose to show themselves...rarely revealing faces, thoughtfully saturated with color and thick brushstrokes, highlighting imperfections and honestly intimate. In her creation of these beautiful pieces she is sharing a lesson on what it is to be our own works of art.
Jessica is a part of the New Southern “renaissance”, as she calls it — and she is so very confident in living her own story. Scroll on to find out the advice that got her to this place, what The New Southern means to her and her feelings on finished work...It’s a conversation as grounding as it is inspiring and it’s definitely worth a read! Xx
Alyssa Rosenheck: Tell us about your yourself.
Jessica McClendon: I’m confused about whether to be a millennial or not. But, since Google also seems confused — I call myself a Gen Y-er. I’m multiracial and a big sister from a family of 12. A wild and eternal child that loves home, cooking, candles, and Chopin. I’m a certified Doula, a former chicken farmer and country girl. West coast, East coast, the South and Mexico have all been home. I’m a masters graduate and part time educator for Dallas community colleges and I live with my soulmate above my studio. I’m also a full time painter...which is my greatest love and calling in life.
AR: What does The New Southern mean to you?
JM: Renaissance and second chances. The creation of forward movement in an area that has often been viewed as static in its traditions and ideals.
AR: What innovative trends are you seeing with The NEW Southern Movement across the country?
JM: Striving toward clarity in design while creating healing environments that continue to stay true to the down-home nature of the South.
AR: What is your most important tool as an artist and is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
JM: Internal stillness. I know it sounds deep and abstract, but it's true! I can’t create with a noisy mind.
AR: What are some lessons or pivots you have learned from and what advice do you have for others getting started in the creative field?
JM: Envy and comparison are your enemy. Anyone who has achieved great things will have a high capacity for suffering. Nothing comes without struggle or price. So, live your own story and when you see someone else succeed, rejoice — because it means they’ve overcome some amazing obstacles. Let them be an inspiration.
AR: What is your morning routine? And what life hacks make you more productive?
JM: My morning routine is usually to say...”oh my....already?” I’m more of a night routine gal. My nights are finely curated events that include a hot shower, lavender oil, mediation, yoga, soft music and lowlights. My nights reset me and keep me grounded. Nights are when I steal the “me” time that is so important.
AR: How are you living your best life right now?
JM: I’m on the other side of achieving some of my greatest goals and I work for myself doing what I love the most! I also now have the clarity and maturity to realize that life isn’t just a series of destinations, but that everyday is a gift. So my best life is being able to be grateful for breath, for a hug, for the warm food on the dinner table and the peace that comes with surrender and clarity.
AR: How do you know when a work is finished?
JM: A work is finished when it goes quiet. It's hard to explain how that feels, but imagine that each painting or creative project has a voice. It wants to be brought into the world, so it kind of just bosses you around until you get it right, and when you do, it shuts up. If a painting could smile contentedly, it does.
AR: The place you go to get inspired?
JM: Internally. I think there is a place in each of us that is eternal, I like to call it the “forever place”. It’s the place that doesn’t change, that doesn’t age. You know how art and music can still resonate in our souls long after the creator has gone and make us choke with emotion? It’s our forever place connecting with theirs. I go there, in mediation and stillness. I access the part of me that is the best me and I find inspiration there every time.
AR: Life advice you’ve gotten that made all the difference both personally and professionally?
JM: I had a therapist when I was 21. I was dealing with extreme depression and anxiety, focusing on all of the things that were going wrong in my life. She told me to “live AS IF”. As if I had everything I wanted. As if my dreams had already come true. Its a tattoo on my arm now, to remind myself that things are forever changing, that a bad day ends when night falls, and that our perspective often becomes our reality. I don’t have to live “as if” anymore, but it was that advice that changed my life.