Laurel Irene McCauley Clayton

Date of Birth

February 27, 1950

Date of Death

November 16, 2009

City of Death

Santa Barbara

February 27th, 1950-November 16, 2009

Laurel spent the early part of her life in La Jolla, California where she was born on February 27th, 1950 to artist Patricia (nee Fawcett) and architect Charles McCauley. Together with her sister Kathleen, she grew up in a mid-century home designed and built by their father. After graduating from La Jolla High School in 1968, Laurel earned a B.A. in Art at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and M.A. in Art at San Diego State University where she also held a teaching assistant position. During this period Laurel was active in the arts, contributing acrylic-on-canvas paintings and vitreous enamel-on-copper pictures and jewelry to numerous personal collections.

Laurel had a long and successful career as a graphic artist and designer working firstly in La Jolla, including at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, before moving to San Francisco in 1981. Here she worked for widely recognized firms in the areas of urban, regional and environmental planning and landscape architecture. Through Bayleaf Graphics, her own business, she provided consulting services in graphic design from 1991 to 1999. Laurel was an active member of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Sierra Club, and San Francisco SPCA.

Upon marrying in 1999, Laurel took up residency in Santa Barbara with her husband Christopher Clayton. It was here that she embarked on her second career: landscape painting. Laurel’s plein-air paintings (oil and pastel) appeared in numerous juried exhibitions and appeared on a number of announcements promoting shows. Laurel, a member of SCAPE (Southern California Artists Painting for the Environment), exhibited at the Palm Loft Gallery, annual ARTwalk at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and Gallery 113 of the Santa Barbara Arts Association. Laurel’s artistic talents were not restricted to the canvas: her exquisite sense of design manifested itself in both her home, garden, and orchid collection as well as her uniquely elegant style of dress. All represented a singular artistic vision.

Laurel’s love of travel and bicycling began with a summer bicycle trip to Europe with friends in 1967. Laurel picked up her prized Rene Herse bicycle in Paris, along with its personalized name emblem, and set off on the first of what would become many travel adventures. Travel was one of Laurel’s enduring passions. Following her graduation from UCI she spent 5 months roving Europe, from Greece to Scotland and places in between: visiting art museums and places of beauty. She travelled in the Caribbean, Tahiti, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, and Morocco.

Born and brought up in La Jolla, it was difficult not to absorb and exude “California Girl” traits: a tall graceful presence crowned by a mane of wavy strawberry blonde hair; and love of the ocean and the treasures it contains. Laurel would swim and snorkel for hours on end, whether at the La Jolla Cove, Great Barrier Reef of Australia, Caribbean, Tahiti, or the islands of Hawaii. Her favorite place became, through repeated visits, the North Shore of Kauai with its Makua (Tunnels) and Ke’e beaches. Here Laurel swam with turtles and an assortment of colorful reef fish and painted the beauty she saw around her.

Laurel is survived by her husband, Christopher; her sister Kathleen Laurain, brother-in-law Robert and nieces Thia and Mian of Santa Barbara; her step-mother Alice McCauley of La Jolla; sister-in-law Madelene Clayton and niece Katherine Winterton of England; Aunt Beverly (nee Fawcett) and Uncle Jim Barnes of Arizona; and a group of loving cousins and circle of devoted friends. In lieu of flowers, Laurel would have appreciated donations to any of the following organizations that she supported: Environmental Defense Fund; Girls Inc.; Greenpeace; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; Planned Parenthood; and Sierra Club.

Laurel created beauty in whatever she did and, equally important, shared it generously with whomever she met. Laurel enriched the lives of many with her consideration, caring, and beauty. Her nobility of character, gentle humor, and devotion to family and friends will be greatly missed. This place is better for her having graced it with her presence. We love you.

There will be a celebration of Laurel’s life in the Spring of 2010. Should you like to express any thoughts and memories of Laurel and receive information concerning the celebration, please feel free to email


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