Contact Medley at bluewoodstudio[at] (replace the [at] with @) or 707.591.4949


Bio written by Bonnie Allen
Over and over, Medley McClary touches the souls of the people she draws. And she does it with an ordinary pencil.

The Petaluma, California, artist’s portraits are family treasures, “the one thing we would take with us in a fire,” as one recipient put it. How can a pencil capture so much? Perhaps it is McClary’s conviction that “every person has his or her own unique beauty and grace.” Although many portraitists work only from a photograph, McClary spends time with her subjects, gets to know the way they move and the fleeting expressions that cross their faces when they are at their most genuine. She uses her live experience with her subject to choose the image that best opens a window into the person’s soul.


Her watchwords are those of Marc Chagall: “Art must be an expression of love, or it is nothing.” McClary has always been an artist in one form or another, returning to school in her late twenties and subsequently becoming a professional portrait artist. “I ran into a girl from high school art class, and decided I wanted to study art formally.” She went back to college, where she not only realized her dream, but met her future husband. Always busy, she has designed and created leather clothing and still creates—and wears—exquisite jewelry.


At one point, McClary threw herself into figurative sculpture. But sculpture requires a sculpture studio, and with the birth of her daughter, Tessa, traveling to the sculpture studio was inconvenient. One day she made a drawing of her daughter’s playmate. Her future direction began to become clear. McClary has been doing pencil portraits for 21 years, and has shown her portraits at Petaluma’s Gallery One, Apple Box, Copperfield’s and other locations. They elicited such comments as, “What love comes through!” “You have a great eye for capturing the inner beauty of people,” and “The artist has an excellent grasp of capturing emotions, expression, and returning it to the viewer of the portrait.”


Is there a genetic side to artistic ability? McClary’s great great grandfather—who lived in Petaluma—made jewelry during the gold rush. She is also descended from Moses Ezekiel, a sculptor who was knighted in Italy for his work and has several works on display in Baltimore. Both sides of her family are musically gifted, including her great grandmother Lucy Medley, who owned a hotel in Santa Rosa and played chamber music for guests.


Although she is a fourth-generation Californian, McClary, daughter of a diplomat, grew up all over the world, especially in Asia, giving her an opportunity to see human creativity in its many forms. As a child, she loved book illustrations, especially pen-and-ink drawings, and was drawn to the paintings of Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent—paintings, she says, “where you can see the underpainting.”


What makes her portraits so vivid and alive? McClary says, “When I draw a portrait, I search for that particular look or gesture that will give me a glimpse into the subject’s personality and which expresses their unique beauty and grace.”