Skip to main content

San Clemente Journal

Carolyn Pelkey, The Reality Artist

Jun 07, 2016 10:24AM ● By Bill Thomas

Carolyn Pelkey with a mixed medium work in her home studio.

by Bill Thomas 

That definition certainly fits this particular artist to a “T.” Imagination, skill, beauty and feelings are what her work is all about. The paintings: watercolors, oils, acrylics, and multi-media she has created are extremely detailed, almost as realistic as photographs, except they’re painted. Her colorful and varied works create feelings and represent meaningful topics. The content itself varies in all of her creative efforts. 
Carolyn’s work ranges widely in technique as well as subject. She has lovely and inspirational paintings, such as hot sauce bottles, flowers of all varieties, outrigger canoes, ancient houses in San Juan Capistrano, family members, sea horses, Casa Romantica, the San Juan Train Depot, water polo teams, sea horses, an old jeep, and many visual aspects of San Clemente’s annual Ocean Festivals. 
In fact, her whole family is ocean-oriented. Her three children and their seven grandchildren have competed in San Clemente High School swimming events and other ocean water sports for many years. Son Rob Pelkey is a longtime waterman lifeguard who has won numerous Ocean Festival competitions, including Dorey racing. Son Robb is a youth water polo coach and contractor. Daughter Shauna Murray is a paralegal and still involved in water sports. 
Carolyn’s studio reflects her many subject interests in a lovely little compartment located in her garage, inside her longtime home built by her husband, Dan, - a building contractor with a prominent construction background in Laguna Beach and many additions in Leisure World.  
Carolyn began her art studies at the University of Utah where she also met her future husband. She continued taking art classes at Saddleback College after moving to California, studying under art teacher Vito Scarola. Impressed with her work, he entered three watercolors she had created to the Starr Foundation in New York. Surprisingly her submissions won three prestigious awards, and with those early successes she continued painting in earnest, primarily developing experientially. 
Continuously adding to her watercolor skills, she included multidimensional art works in her repertoire, using extreme light and shadow, creating feelings in her paintings, capturing her subjects in meaningful ways, and layering textured items on masonite or canvas or tile. For example, she has several acrylic works with elephants as her subjects whose skin is painted on tissue paper and attached to canvas or its equivalent with Elmer’s glue. 
It’s obvious that her painting skills have blossomed with her various artistic approaches. Her unique and intimate styles demand considerable time for each new creation. She has an inventory of 30 to 40 watercolors and numerous prints located in her own small studio. Most of her works have been exhibited at the San Clemente Art Gallery and, currently, several may be viewed at the Cottage Gallery in San Juan Capistrano. She has also had her works shown in the Laguna Festival of the Arts and at the Mission Fine Art Gallery in San Juan Capistrano. The Art League of Casta Del Sol, Echoes and Visions Art Show, the 7th Annual Alice Baum Art Splash, and Paint San Clemente contests have also presented her with awards. Twenty-five award ribbons hang on her studio walls. Prices for her works range from $500 to $5,000 for original watercolors and $40 to $65 for prints, depending on size. 
Dennie Hahn, who owns Cottage Gallery, exhibiting over 40 artists, said that she invited Carolyn to show her works when she first opened. She felt them “uniquely beautiful” and “capturing unique situations and moments.” Her best Pelkey seller, she noted, was of the old San Juan mission because of its detailed structure of their ancient crafted adobe surfaces and brickwork. 
Sylvia Boisseranc loved Carolyn’s work. She has purchased several of her paintings and also commissioned her to paint the places where two of her sons were married – Casa Romantica and San Clemente’s Casino, both to preserve fond memories. “I adore her work. She’s very talented,” Sylvia said. 
Pam Hill of San Clemente’s Art Association also praised Carolyn’s art, calling her “a perfectionist,” “who uses lots of media,” “is very detailed,” “creative,” “always has new ideas,” and “she is a delightful lady.”
Lois Classen, who has eight Pelkey paintings in her collection, is also fond of her work. She appreciates the detailed rather than abstract painting, and Carolyn’s variety of diversified subjects and textured efforts rather than following only one area of subject interest or art technique.   
Carolyn wrote of her own works: “Creativity has been my life-long passion. Painting human subjects and depicting moods with light and shadow are compelling to me. I enjoy creating art in watercolor, multi-media, acrylic, pastels and oil. She is available for commission work in person or on photographs. She can be contacted by email or telephone at the following: or (949)842-3294. 
Her website is