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Cathy Carey

  • Orchid Dance
  • Jurrasic Ginger
  • Ginger of the Islands
  • Red Island Orchid
  • SOLD

    The Golden Suns of Treasure Island
  • SOLD

    Wind and Sea
  • At the Heart of Life’s Journey
  • Watching and Wading
  • The Journey Home
  • Breakfast on the Balcony
  • Cooper’s Hawk- Broken Hill Trail
  • SOLD

    The Amigos
  • SOLD

    Fox Trot
  • SOLD

    Shelter in Place
  • Green Flash
  • Serene Scene Sailing
  • Canyon by the Sea
  • Beach House on the Bluff
  • Spring Equinox
  • Fox in the Twilight Garden

Cathy Carey’s paintings express an essential connection of all things through a joyous spirit. As an accomplished oil painter, Carey works in a unique version of a contemporary color expressionist style. She tells her stories of exhilarating joy using gestural brush strokes, vivid color and rhythmic compositions.

Originally from Virginia, Carey spent most of her childhood outdoors. From a young age Carey painted and drew images from her imagination and illustrated stories that she wrote. In pursuit of that training, Carey attended the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC and then received a BFA in Painting and Print Making from Virginia Commonwealth University. In that same freshman class, Carey did a Blind Contour of a model that made such an impression on her, that she continues using blind contour today as a basis for her paintings. After graduating from VCU, Carey realized she would need to do something to make a living, so she began a complementary artistic career in the design and printing industries. After working at a silk-screen factory, a printing company, a large advertising agency and Circuit City as a graphic designer and illustrator, she moved to California to work as an Art Director for a newspaper group. From working on fast-food banners at the silk-screen company, Cathy learned how to work on large-scale canvases. At the printing company she honed her skills with a large-format camera and became expert at unusual cropping and composition. While at the advertising agency and Circuit City she came up with ways to generate ideas quickly and developed a great skill at pen-and-ink illustrations. All her lessons and skills came to fruition at the newspaper where she learned to deliver a creative idea on a deadline and hold a fast-paced work ethic.

One of the things that sets Cathy apart from other artists is her intense drive for accomplishment, quick thinking and problem solving, and her limitless imagination. Carey was at the beginning of the desk-top publishing era, and started her own design studio, Elements Graphic Design, where those qualities served her well over the next twenty years. Also during this time she was painting, entering shows and teaching painting classes at night through Adult Education programs. While that sounds like a lot to keep anyone busy, it is particularly astonishing when some other parts of Cathy Carey’s background are factored in. When she was ten years old she was badly injured in a car accident and has total amnesia about the event. The right side of her face was crushed and had to be repaired through many years of reconstructive surgeries. To say this affected her childhood is obvious, but the direction in which it took her life is quite amazing. From that experience, Cathy learned many years later, she suffered recurring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the severe brain trauma. This contributed to an autoimmune condition that eventually kept Carey from working outside the home. This would stop a lot of people in their tracks, but Carey immediately went out and purchased a computer on her credit card and became self-employed, starting
Elements Graphic Design.

Always working in the art world, today Carey devotes all her time to being a professional fine artist. While busy, the life she has created is enviable. She and her husband travel to places she wants to paint, and she takes photos, does sketches and maintains journals of her experiences and impressions, which she turns into new series of paintings back home in her studio. One of her journeys was to Monet’s garden in Giverny. When Carey returned from Giverny, she decided to recreate an artists’ garden like Monet had done, a place where she could design gardens to paint and share the environment with other artists. She and her husband, Brian Sinofsky, bought a house in Escondido with room for a half-acre garden on top of one of the highest hills, with incredible views all around. Many of Carey’s paintings draw inspiration from her whimsical succulent garden, where a family of coyotes roams, and quail, owls and all sorts of fascinating creatures live.

Carey has a dedicated work ethic. An inquisitive inclination and creative drive has always been a part of Carey’s life. Carey’s paintings take place in an alternate reality. She heightens color, dramatizes, blows some things all out of proportion and minimizes other details in order to create a mood. She describes her paintings as images from a beautiful experience that is now gone, and all that remains is the memory. She rarely paints finished paintings on location, but acquires impressions and feelings at the place through sketches or plein-air pieces and allows the rest of the details to percolate into memory. One of Carey’s passions is helping animals of all kinds. Twice yearly she opens her studio and garden for tours that benefit the San Diego Humane Society and Project Wildlife. Carey has developed a unique style, using techniques she’s mastered over many years.

Carey has been inspired by several major artists, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse and Gustov Klimt. From studying Monet’s work, she learned about color theory and composition, and how to use broken brush strokes to create a lacy structure for under-layers to show through. Van Gogh’s influence taught her how to use gestural brush strokes to energize and activate her paintings to feel like the movement of life. Looking at Matisse and researching him, she learned how to manipulate the idea of space on the illusion of a flat surface, and alternate between decorative surface color and atmospheric perspective to create depth. Varying between these two types of surface treatments creates a “push-pull” of space, which she also learned from her teachers at VCU, who were Abstract Expressionists. The exciting use of gold employed by Klimt inspired her to use gold as an under-painted first layer in all her paintings. There is a rhythmic movement in Carey’s paintings that she attributes to one of her favorite pastimes, swing dancing. For Cathy Carey, art is a communication.

“My parents lived in Alexandria, VA, a few miles down the Potomac River from Mount Vernon. I spent my childhood roaming the shores of the Potomac, finding treasures along the banks and building forts in the woods of the area that was George Washington’s hunting grounds. My fondest memories are of playing with the neighbors’ dog, Sandy. The two of us would lie in the cool dirt under bushes in the summertime, and patrol the neighborhood visiting favorite fields and creeks, playing fetch and chase. She was my best friend and would walk me to the school bus stop every day and be waiting for me when I returned. The feeling of connection I felt with Sandy is part of every important relationship I have had ever since. When I was 6 years old in second grade, we were doing an art project where I was making a clown face with pastels. It was really colorful and I was working on it on the floor, at 22” x 30” as it was too big for a desk. When it came time to stop and have a spelling test, the teacher let me continue painting instead. I knew at that moment, painting is what I had to do. I remember when I was about 13 my Mom let me hang my paintings in The Rainbow Tree – a head shop out on Route One. The guy that ran the store really liked my paintings and told my Mom I had a great imagination and the best thing I could do would be to get formal training so nothing could hold back my ideas. The first day of Art Foundation at VCU, the teacher came around and had us show a piece from our portfolios. As he went around the class, he told each kid they had to loosen up. When he got to me, he paused and said, ‘Carey, you need to tighten up.’
Being an Art Director for a newspaper group was the best job I ever had. It was instant gratification! I would do a painting in the afternoon and see it in the paper the next day! It was also a good fit for my work habits. I like having lots of projects and pieces I’m working on, and they all feed off each other. Designing a logo was like figuring out a puzzle, and those years were a great boon to my skills and painting style.
At 10 years old I was badly injured in a car accident. It was during that experience that my artistic brain took over and I began to reinvent my world to be of my own imagining. In every way I could, I determined to choose my own thoughts in spite of the external influences. I felt that negative experience was like rocket fuel to my spirit, and I was able to lift off into the realm of infinite possibilities. I thought that if something that awful and unexpected could happen out of the blue, then an opposite and wonderful experience was just as possible. I began to dream the impossible dream of being able to share with the world my artistic vision.
Because of the PTSD I had from that accident it caused an autoimmune condition that kept me from working outside the home. I then I started my own company, Elements Graphic Design. Back in 1990 not many people were self-employed or had a computer, it was both very exciting and terrifying to launch myself onto the waters of financial insecurity. Luckily, I am a hard worker and I did well. It also still allowed me to paint, show my work and teach art classes, because my hours were my own. I could work on computer stuff in the middle of the night if I needed.
My husband and I travel to places I want to paint, and one of my journeys took me to Monet’s garden in Giverny. I took a great workshop where the students were able to go into the gardens with the gardeners before and after the tourists. I was able to paint alone in the garden. Once, at the foot of the famous Wisteria Bridge, I smelled cigarette smoke and while concentrating on my painting thought how horrible it was that one of the gardeners was ruining the ambiance by smoking. Later at the workshop communal dinner, I was telling my story and our host, who had been friends with the Monet family, said, ‘That was Monet. You were painting in his favorite spot and he was a chain smoker.’
My goal is to complete five large paintings a month as well as other smaller paintings and projects. I dedicate time to work in sketch books as well as making notes and writing my ideas down in journals. All this helps feed the creative furnace that is always burning bright inside me. I find that there is always another idea in my mind. Sometimes the problem is trying to figure out which way to go or what to do first. I love the feel of paint on canvas and paper, the feeling of mixing wet paint, watching the colors emerge as if by magic.
When I was just learning to walk, my Mom said that when she would be out of the room for a moment I would climb the cabinets in the kitchen and get out anything I could grab, liquids, coffee, flour, etc. and pour them all on the floor and mix it all together with my hands. This tactile feeling of creation has stayed with me. I also feel I have stories to tell, that something in my spirit wants to gather everyone around, and tell a tale. That way I find I have to make up parts, I’m not just copying something I saw, but rather reliving something I felt. I paint landscapes because I love the feeling I get when I’m surrounded by nature and I’m fascinated by organic shapes. I’m inspired by the feel of the wind and how the movement it makes causes the light to dance in patterns of warm and cool. I am drawn to the night sky and the idea that looking at the light of stars is looking back in time.
I love animals. Through knowing my dogs I came to realize and believe that all animals have the same feelings and moods as we do. They are soul spirits in different bodies. I noticed I was able to capture the ‘person-ality’ of animals by doing blind contour drawings. I would find a technique that resonated, I packed it into my style suitcase and kept doing it. I use a lot of blind contour drawings, meaning I don’t look at the paper while I’m drawing, so I’m often surprised by what I capture on the paper. I feel it is a more intuitive approach; I strip away my thoughts and swim deep into my feelings. Another part of my technique is to paint my canvas metallic gold before I begin. I layer colors, and allow them to show through by using broken brush strokes. I make sweeping gestural strokes, while listening to wonderful music to show the energy and emotion of life. I really see the rhythm of music as if it is a tangible thing, and I seek to capture that vision in my work. I listen to music of all kinds, compose the shapes, and dance my brush strokes to the tempo of music. I feel it is my mission in life to bring happiness and joy through my art to as many people as I can. I add something of my soul to every painting, so that when someone looks at my artwork long after I’m dead, some enmeshed part of my spirit is gazing back, saying, ‘be of good cheer.’ I am communicating through my work that we are all connected through beauty and love.”

La Playa Gallery: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us your name, where you live and a little bit about your past?
Cathy Carey: Cathy Carey, I have lived in Escondido, CA for the last 19 years and in Southern California for 34 years. I moved to California from Virginia.

La Playa Gallery: Can you give us a brief overview of the work you create?
Cathy Carey: I am best described as a Contemporary Expressive Colorist, whose favorite part about painting is using color to create emotional meaning and visual depth. In choosing what to paint or how to paint it, I want my pictures to be more than the reality of description, and I strive to fill viewers with a sense of joy.

La Playa Gallery: I think you do a very good job of portraying a sense of joy. How and when did you get started?
Cathy Carey: I went to the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC when I was 15. I got a BFA in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University at 19 and continued in the field as both a fine artist and graphic artist. I had a graphic design studio for 20 years in addition to painting and selling my work in galleries.

La Playa Gallery: What motivates you to create new work?
Cathy Carey: The natural world of animals and landscapes is my favorite subject matter. I think about my environment and the animals that share my world, and I want to show them in a joyful integrated space. I love the feeling I get when I’m surrounded by nature. I’m fascinated by organic shapes, inspired by the feel of the wind and intrigued by how movement makes light dance in patterns of warm and cool. The night sky draws me in, and the idea that looking at the light of stars is looking back in time thrills me. In order to express these emotions and ideas, I use brush- stroke marks to show the lines of energy I feel coming off living shapes, spreading and combining throughout all aspects of nature.

La Playa Gallery: I can see the freedom of your brush strokes, and it definitely adds a lot to your work. Is there a specific series you are currently creating and what is the inspiration behind it?
Cathy Carey: I spent a month in France last October and was greatly inspired by the landscape and the museums I visited. My current paintings are based on those ideas and images. I like to tell stories with my paintings to capture the imagination of the viewer. My continuing goal is to continue to dig deeper into my psyche and soul to uncover universal truths about what it means to be human and alive at this time of world history. The underlying story I want to tell is that all matter vibrates with the energy of consciousness, and we are all connected through beauty and love. I feel it is my mission in life to bring joy to as many people as I can, through my art.

La Playa Gallery: What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
Cathy Carey: My sketchbooks!

La Playa Gallery: Sketchbooks are helpful for sure! Do you have a routine you follow for creating or only work when inspiration hits?
Cathy Carey: I work every day, completing 4-5 oils a month. When I am inspired by a place, I take photos, paint on location, and keep journals. I do lots of drawings in a technique called blind contour, which leads to wonderful distortions but also to surprisingly coherent images. I am increasingly intrigued by how my blind contour drawings capture a scene and have come to rely on them when building a composition. I collect everything I have into the studio, and study it to see what stories will emerge. Due to my many years as a graphic designer, I have expert skills using the computer to scan in my drawings and create my compositions. This enables me to change sizes and proportions effortlessly and layer different drawings together. Once I have the exact image I want, I use a projector to get the drawings proportionally scaled up to the size of my canvas, without losing any of the natural feel of the original blind contour drawings. I paint my drawings onto museum quality linen canvases that are coated first in gold gesso.

La Playa Gallery: Do you collect anything and does it influence your work?
Cathy Carey: I collect art supplies. I have used every medium and brand to find my favorites. I work in oils on museum-quality linen canvas using professional-grade paints. Favorite brands are: Maimeri, Sennelier, Gamblin and Daler-Rowney.

La Playa Gallery: What artist or artists have influenced you the most?
Cathy Carey: Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse

La Playa Gallery: It’s hard to not be influenced by the greats. Support for each other is so important. Locally, what artist excites you the most?
Cathy Carey: Helen Shafer Garcia – I love her work, her use of color and composition, and the feeling I get when I look at her work.

La Playa Gallery: Well, thank you for letting us into your creative world. It’s been a pleasure and we are really looking forward to featuring your work at La Playa Gallery!
Cathy Carey: I’m looking forward to the opportunity to show my work in your lovely gallery!


Cathy’s paintings can be acquired through fine galleries in:

La Playa Gallery in La Jolla, CA
Escondido Municipal Gallery in Escondido, CA
Inart Gallery in Santa Fe, NM
The Ranch at Taos Gallery in Taos, NM
The Wilde Meyer Gallery in Scottsdale & Tucson, AZ
Chasen Gallery in Richmond, VA


The paintings of Cathy Carey have been honored with exclusive shows at:

The Ranch at Taos Gallery, NM
La Playa Gallery, CA
The Poway Performing Arts Center, CA
Arroyo Gallery, Canyon Road, CA


San Diego County Fair 2019 Honorable Mention for Morning Walk

Special Award from Creative Catalyst for Yogi’s World, and Escondido Center for Performing Arts for Swami’s, People’s Choice Award for Spring Stride

Taos NM Fall Fine Arts Festival 2018 – Selected as Image Artist for Miles of Clouds Escondido Municipal Gallery “Contemporary Realism” June 2019 Honorable Mention for Night Moves

“Art Riot” November 2018 Honorable Mention for Under a Summer Moon

“Art Riot” November 2017 Honorable Mention for Mayan Jungle

San Diego County Fair 2015/16
Escondido Municipal Gallery “Local Color” July 2016 First Place for Somebody New to Love

“Local Color” July 2015 First Place for Avian Observatory, Honorable Mention for Ocean Air
“Food for Thought” February 2015 People’s Choice for The Vegan Owl

“Local Color Year of the Horse” July 2014 First Place for High Country The Protector

Arroyo Gallery, 200 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM, January 2013, “Vivid New Mexico”

Fairmount El Corazon, Santa Fe, NM, January – July 2013, “Vivid New Mexico”

UBS Corporate Offices Rancho Bernardo, CA, 2011, 2012 Current Work

Escondido Municipal Gallery, Escondido, CA, June 2011 “Travels in Spain”
“Art of Making Money” May 2010 First Place for Making Bread

Elfin Forest Interpretive Center, Escondido, CA, Sept-Nov 2010 “Expressions of the Elfin Forest”
“In Dreams/Local Color” August 2009 People’s Choice Award for Promenade

Cathy Carey Gallery, Encinitas, CA, Solo gallery of 1,000 sq ft of display area 2006 – 2008

Shiva Artistic Collections, Escondido, CA

Featured shows: Maui Meditations – 2006, Tuscany – 2007

Rock Island Gallery, Coronado, CA
Featured shows: Maui Flowers 2007

Giverny, 2006, “California Dream” 2005

East West Gallery, La Costa, CA, Featured show, Venice & Italy 2005

Escondido Artists Gallery, Escondido, CA, Solo show September 2003

Poway Library, Poway, CA, 2003 Solo show “Pastels”

Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, CA, 2002 Solo show “Impressions of Mission Trails”

Art Studio Tour 2002, present April and December


2006 – 2013
Arroyo Gallery, 200 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM “Tapas” 4 person show

Spanish Market 2012

San Diego Botanical Garden, August 2010, 2012, “Garden Expressions”

Escondido Municipal Gallery (EAP) – ongoing 2004 – present – Awards from EAP “Ity Bity, Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny Weeney show” March 2011 Second Place for Cat Walk

“Art of Making Money” May 2010 , First Place for Making Bread

“Members Show” February 2009, Third Place for Mysteries of the Night

“In Dreams/Local Color” August 2009, People’s Choice Award for Promenade

Art Institute of CA in San Diego – “Asia” group show, Spring 2009

262 Gallery Escondido, CA Fall/Winter 2008/09

Art Expo, New York 2007

San Diego Pastel Society Show Balboa Park 2007, Second Place

Miramonte winery, 2007 – 2008

Rancho Santa Fe Art Guild Gallery, 2006/07

Imperial Beach Art Walk, Fall 2005

Museum of the Living Artists – Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

Art Walk Little Italy, 2004 – 2005

Arts Festival San Diego, 2004 – 2005

La Jolla Art Association, Pastel Show, 2002 – 2003

San Diego Pastel Society Show Balboa Park – 2003

North County Society of Fine Arts, Fall Show, Poway Center for Arts

2000 – 2001
Scripps Ranch Art Club, People’s Choice Award Winner

La Jolla Art Association, 3 person show

Escondido Art Gallery, Spring Show, 2001 Honorable Mention

Scripps Ranch Art Club, Fall 2001

Scripps Ranch Art Club, Summer 2000

San Diego Watercolor Society, 2000 and 1998 – 1999

Rancho Santa Fe Art Guild Gallery, 1999

Golden Pacific Arts Gallery, San Diego, CA 1999

San Dieguito Art Guild, Fall Show, First Place


Marine Life Gallery, Del Mar, CA

San Dieguito Art Guild, Leucadia, CA

Off-track Gallery, Leucadia, CA

Bradford Gallery, Leucadia, CA

Pannikin Gallery, Leucadia, CA

Omar’s Art Gallery, Newport Beach, CA

Fullerton Art Gallery, Fullerton, CA

Virginia Beach Boardwalk Art Show, Virginia Beach, VA

Neptune Art Festival, Virginia Beach, VA

Royal Art Gallery, Alexandria, VA

Fredricksburg Juried Art Show

Eric Schindler Gallery, Richmond, VA


Art Calendar Magazine, “Working with a Web Designer” July 2009

Art Calendar Magazine, “Artist Sponsorships” April 2008

Downtown Escondido Magazine, “Communicating an Intense Connection to Life” May 2008

San Diego Home and Garden Magazine, Outdoor Living, Cover, page 20, Dramatic gardens 2008

Del Mar Times, Rancho Santa Fe Review, “Artist’s vibrant colors add a touch of magic” November 2008

Art Business News, “Meet the Art Expo Solo Artists” January 2007

San Diego Home and Garden Magazine, Feature “Vibrant Palette” October 2007

San Diego Union Tribune, “Artist finds perfect spot to create” November 2007

Your Local News, “Every view is a painting” November 2007

North County Times, “Awash with Color” April 2007

North County Times, “Just for Mom” May 2006

The Artist’s Magazine, “On and below the surface” January 2005

San Diego Union Tribune, “Expressive Art” December 2001


The Philosophy of Color, Trafford Publishing 2004

Artists Magazine, In the thick of it, June 2006

Best of America: Pastels, Kennedy Publishing 2007

Rancho Santa Fe Times, articles: April 2004, April 2005, Dec 2004, Dec 2006, Jan, April, May, June, July 2007, March, April, May, September, November 2008

Kennedy Best of Artists website, articles 2008-09


Elfin Forest, San Diego, CA

Monthly plein air painting classes

Travel Workshops, Santa Fe, NM

Take Your Painting to the Next Level

Daler Rowney workshops at Arts and Materials Show in Pasadena Learning Expo in Burbank, 1999 – present

Sennelier Art Manufacturers

2001 – 2003

The Golden Door Spa, Escondido, CA, 1999 – present

Artisan Art Expo – Santa Fe, NM