To Top

Meet Cathy Carey of Cathy Carey art studio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cathy Carey.

Cathy, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have always been an artist. My earliest memories are of drawing with whatever materials were on hand. I had a fascination with all the colors in the 64 Crayola Crayon pack and would share what colors in the world matched them with anyone within earshot. I was raised in Alexandria, VA and attended the Corcoran School of Art, in Washington, D.C. I received a BFA in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University. I worked for Circuit City in their art department and was transferred to California.

Soon after I moved to Encinitas to be the Art Director for West Coast Community Newspapers. I ran my own graphic design business for the next 21years. I continued to show and sell my paintings, being fortunate to win many awards and honors along the way. I was recently chosen as the Taos Fall Arts Image Artist for 2018. My paintings are collected internationally and are in the private collections of J. Craig Venter and Google co-founder Larry Page.

In addition to be being a full time professional artist, I have been an Instructor and Workshop Leader for several artist material manufacturers. I taught Color Theory at the Art Institute of California in San Diego and wrote a workbook on color called “The Philosophy of Color”.

My work is represented by these galleries:
-La Playa Gallery – La Jolla
-Escondido Municipal Gallery – Escondido, CA
-InArt Gallery – Santa Fe, NM
-The Ranch at Taos Gallery – Taos NM
-Chasen Gallery – Richmond, VA
-Meyer Wilde Galleries – Scottsdale & Tucson AZ

Solo Exhibitions: (The paintings of Cathy Carey have been honored with exclusive shows at)
• The Ranch at Taos Gallery “Vivid Taos”
• La Playa Gallery, CA “Inspirations”
• The Poway Performing Arts Center, “Cathy Carey – Living Color”
• Arroyo Gallery, Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM “Vivid New Mexico”

I am best described as a Contemporary Expressive Colorist, whose favorite part about painting is using color to create emotional meaning and visual depth. I seek to express an essential connection of all things through a joyous spirit. My paintings are done in oils and I use gestural brush strokes, vivid color and rhythmic compositions to describe the pulse of music and sway of dancers. Working on traditional stretched linen canvas, I use a ground of gold gesso to create a warm shimmer of light that appears to emanate from within.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road. But every obstacle led to a new discovery and better way of doing things. One disaster I encountered was when I spent a year doing a body of work to show to galleries in Palm Springs. I researched images and colors and made some really cool large, beautifully framed watercolors that were well received by the gallery owners except for one thing.

Watercolors don’t sell well in the desert due to the issues with strong sunlight and fading. So it was back to the drawing board for me. One of the best problem-solving things I did was to take an online class from Jason Horejs called “The Art Business Academy” It was about a year-long and held the answers to many unknowns about working with galleries and led to relationships with three terrific new galleries.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Cathy Carey art studio – what should we know?
I am best described as a Contemporary Expressive Colorist, 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. Inspired by Matisse, my goal is to paint what it feels like, not what it looks like. I love to listen to all different kinds of music as I paint – it helps me to show how the movement and interaction of colors and shapes feels like the rhythm and pulse of music and dancers.

An interesting question I am often asked is, “where do your ideas come from?” To that, I respond to everything around me and the world I live in. I paint the things I see and feel everyday – even when it looks made up, it is based in reality. I try to find a story within a scene that is engaging. I look for wonderful possibilities of color and for ways to use exciting shapes and textures.

My special talent is that I am a problem solver, and I sure know how to create a lot of problems artistically! My creativity is sparked when I am uncomfortable with something and have to figure out how to fix it so that everything will be OK again. Consequently, I am very adventurous with color and composition, knowing that each new obstacle in front of me will have an amazing solution if I can only figure it out. My father was an electrical engineer, who worked for NASA, sending the first men into space and to the moon using a slide-rule. I must have gotten this creative problem solving an aspect of my nature from him!

The natural world of animals and landscapes are 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.

Emotionally, the focus of my current work is to capture a joyful sense of reality by representing the color and drama of a place through gesture and brush stroke, color and composition. I want all the elements to work together to become something that has more feeling and meaning than all the pieces separately. Intellectually, I am interested in the way we change our environment and the way our behavior affects each other through interaction and observation. I want to show how things are related to the space they occupy.

Learning and research are exciting to me. I like to discover and integrate new things into my life and my paintings. I often find new subjects through travel; visiting museums, galleries and reading art history books. I do a lot of drawing and painting in watercolor sketchbooks. One of my favorite places of inspiration continues to be the garden I created at my home in Escondido, CA. I was inspired by a visit to Monet’s garden in Giverny to create an outdoor area to paint. The garden is high on a hill overlooking a lake, surrounded by mountains and inland valleys, and has many wonderful animal visitors with an ever changing display of beautiful stories.

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. Using broken brush-strokes to build up my paint over many layers, allows the gold to shine through. The gold makes a wonderful warm glow surrounding the other colors, and also acts as a unique color.

My sense of composition came from observing Monet’s paintings, where I began using opposing diagonals to energize my compositions. In order to lead the viewer’s eye through my painting, I create these diagonal lines using a trail of a similar color, or using an actual line on an object or group of objects that move in a straight or perhaps curving diagonal, like an “S”. I also use brush-strokes in the shape of an “S” to activate the space.

Other artists and collectors ask me how I get such rich color. My secret is that I pair opposites to create a pulse within the space. I pair patterned and flat decorative space with atmospheric perspective to contrast the sense of space in the painting. By using opposites in temperature, value and saturation next to each other, I energize the colors to sing in their own spotlight. Inspired by Van Gogh, my brush-strokes are another way I energize an area. When I’m painting I imagine I’m writing in a language, and make strokes that resemble letters – sometimes I use actual words as hidden messages in a painting.

Art is a communication. I like to tell stories with my paintings to capture the imagination of the viewer. My ongoing 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.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Grit. I keep trying at things until I succeed. I heard an NPR program about Angela Duckworth on how people learn and succeed. The characteristic most needed for success is not talent but what they called grit. In a study, they noticed people with higher IQ’s would often stop trying after only a few failed attempts because they usually succeeded early on. So when they didn’t have an immediate success they moved on.

People with grit didn’t expect to succeed right away and were used to making many creative attempts at solving the puzzle. The most tenacious people stick with it until success is won. Creativity, of course, plays a part in this, I always have another idea to try.


  • 20″ x 24″ – $1300
  • 24″ x 30″ – $1980
  • 30″ x 40″ – $2600

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Stephen Simpson Photography

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in