The easel was my favorite learning tool.

It had a drawing guide on the top. I chose the goat for my first experiment with chalk.

GOAT. chalk on blackboard. 6 x 5 inches.

At Spackenkill Elementary School I painted the Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas mascots on the glass windows  I can still smell that egg tempera paint.  Our principal, Mrs. Lawrence would visit each class room to give art lessons. Here’s the result of her step by step instructions.

BUNNYSCAPE. Crayon on paper. 18 x 14 inches. 1952.

Family camping trips to the St. Lawrence River  gave me the opportunity to become an observer of nature. My job was official fish cleaner. That’s my sister’s dress on the clothesline, not mine!  I was a total tom boy.

My father and I would get up before the sun. We would get in his outboard boat and head for Eel Bay in the St. Lawrence River. We cast until noon. No talking, just fishing. The water was crystal clear. This was before the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway which altered the clarity forever. My art reflected what I imagined what was under our boat.

My mother framed and photographed this result of many fishing trips which was created at the IBM Country Club Art School.

FISHSCAPE. pastel on paper. 9 x 12 inches.

The IBM Country club was instrumental in my development as an artist. In the1950’s they exhibited a Leonardo Da Vinci show in their lobby. It was my first introduction to museum quality art.

My mother and father were thrilled with my ability. I was enrolled in the DRAW ME Correspondence Art School and in an oil painting class in a local artist’s basement. My sister, Allyn, found this among her childhood treasures and recently gave it to me.

ROSES. oil on canvas board. 10 x 8 inches.

My paternal grandfather, Peter Tennis, was proprietor of the Warnock Inn, Red Oaks Mills. His office was full of National Geographic Magazines. I loved to read them and look at the pictures. He must have noticed because he gave me a book that changed my life. It was BIRDS OF AMERICA, by John James Audubon.

I immediately became a birdwatcher and a student of drawing from nature.

This is my favorite illustration. SWALLOW – TAIL KITE. Studying the drawings helped me create natural art throughout my life. 

EAGLE SIGN. Installed on west side of Boca Raton Elementary School. One shot sign painters paint on sculpted plywood. 24 x 8 ft.


My high school had a wonderful art program.


I was a junior and was appointed Art Club President. A proposal was made by Mr. Joe Catanzaro, my art teacher, to create a mosaic mural on one of the large high school walls. It was my personal project in my senior year. Professor Larry Argiro from New Paltz State University acted as consultant.The mural, STUDENT LIFE in progress. I’m on the ladder. Ceramic mosaic tile on plywood. 11 x 19  feet. 1964.

STUDENT LIFE in progress. I’m on the ladder. Ceramic mosaic tile on plywood. 11 x 19  feet. 1964.


I immortalized my future husband, Jim Pelish in the mural. He’s the football player, #29. Gail Krackower is the student at the desk and Peter Francese is the boy putting his books in the locker. I used pictures from the previous year’s PHOIS, the highschool year book. It is still part of the Poughkeepsie High School architecture. in 2010 I was denied entry to photograph the 56 year old mural on my last trip to Poughkeepsie.


I fell in love with the high school’s potter’s wheel. 


I graduated in 1964 as a The National Honor Society member, and a New York Regents Scholar.

In 1962 Jim took me to his senior prom in his family’s 1960 silver Cadillac sedan. 

All the prom goers were racing their cars but Jim drove nice and slow.

In my senior year I became fascinated by Greenwich village, and the beatniks. I wanted to be a cool intellectual. I chose to read Dostoevsky’s THE IDIOT because I liked the cover, and EXODUS by Leon Uris. There was too much horror. I wish I hadn’t.

This 1961 painting is a product of a very cool beatnik. 

COOL COUPLE. oil on canvas. 40 x 26 inches. Framed with a grape vine. Signed Caulkins ’61. Jim hung one of my COOL paintings in a downtown Poughkeepsie bar, Sonny’s Spotlight.


It was my 1st choice and I was accepted.  All colleges nationwide were full of young men taking advantage of the student deferment from the Viet Nam War. Competition was tough but I was accepted and my high school art teacher Joe Catanzaro was instrumental in getting me a scholarship from the American Association of University Women. My mother handled all the paperwork, and I paid thetuition from money I earned from a variety of jobs. At 5 I was selling Christmas cards door to door. Moved up the ladder by becoming a snow shoveler. Began baby sitting when I was too young. Lost a few kids, ignored a few more. Car hopping was a summer of learning,and so was waitressing at the B&D Diner. I learned that I hated taking orders from 5 AM to 3PM every weekend and listening to the many customer complaints caused by my inexperience and bad attitude. My next part time employment was operator at the NY Telephone Co. I had the most errors on my BlueBird team. Making tiny pencil dots on IBM cards indoors all weekend for 8 hours was torture. BUT I needed money for college. My father encouraged me to get a summer job at IBM. I would have spent my summer putting little pieces of stuff in larger pieces of stuff. Now you know why I filled my application out in crayon.  I gave all my paychecks to my mother. She banked it and bought IBM stock with it. Tuition was no problem. 

At Pratt I learned more from the students than from the professors. My roommates, Barbara Bosley and Diane Cole, were the dedicated, highly skilled artists that commanded my respect every day.

BARBARA BOSLEY AT HER DESK IN THE DORM. pencil on paper. 9 x 12 inches. She gladly showed me the basics of hand lettering which came in handy quite often. The NYTs hired her as their fashion editor. As a Pratt student in the freshman year we were required to carry a sketchbook and draw all the time.

  BARBARA BOSLEY, STYLING. pen and ink on paper. 12 x 18. inches.

My roommate, Diane Cole was able to create ethereal portraits of children. She became an illustrator and author of many award winning children’s books under the name Diane Mannion.

DIANE COLE, pen on paper. 12 x 18 inches.

I had other roommates.


PEGGY CONTE., pen on paper. 12 x 18 inches.

MERRILL PEREZ.  pen on paper. 12 x 18 inches.

WINNIE TICHNER’S FEET.  pen on paper. 12 x 18 inches.

One of the first classes in freshman year was life drawing.

PRATT MODEL. pen and ink on paper. 12 x 14 inches.


PRATT MODEL. pen and ink on paper. 12 x 14 inches.

PRATT MODEL. pen and ink on paper. 12 x 14 inches.

I also learned about Manhattan’s world of fine art due to Pratt’s location. It was a short subway ride to world class museums and galleries. The most influential show that I was lucky enough to see was The MOMA Picasso Retrospective in 1964. His cardboard sculptures legitimized the use of common materials to create art. Picasso’s GUERNICA, 1937, was so horrifying. I was made aware of the social power of art. The Bonnard paintings at MOMA 1964 awoke me to the beauty of color. Gustav Klimt’s huge gilded surfaces and patterns still show up in my work. Egon Schiele’s works showed me that It’s ok to make awkward art.

Jim and I visited the garden at MOMA. It was a good place to sketch.

MONUMENT TO BALZAC by Rodin. pen on paper.9 x 12 inches

MONUMENT TO BALZAC by Rodin. Detail. pen on paper.9 x 12 inches

MOTHER AND CHILD II. Jacques Lipchitz pen on paper.9 x 12 inches.


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