Firstlight Art AcademyBecome The Artist You Dream About
How We Teach Art
“We Teach For Joy”
“… because if an artist experiences joy, they will continue to create. That’s why we want to remove any kind of frustration an artist might encounter.”
Dennas Davis, founder
Fun And Encouraging
"How-To" lessons are easy to understand
Variety of lessons holds your interest
Artists' Choice gives freedom for self-expression
Knowing what to do leads to confidence
Essential techniques are always demonstrated
Lessons are designed for every age group
We've tested and refined the curriculum for over 13 years
Insights take the mystery out of creating art
A Training Approach
We take the long-term path, to really learn art
Small classes with 10-12 students
One-on-one mentoring during class
36 weeks per school-year, meeting once a week
Designed For You
Join a class at any time on our cycle
30 classes to choose from
Free Open Studio every Saturday
Supplies are available any time, and always at 15% off the MSRP
Brush & Pen Ink
Watercolor / Paper
We have many sources of reference materials, including a small library, an image bank, and a still life object library. Subject matter may be carefully chosen to facilitate a specific project or up to the student to choose.
Students are encouraged to bring other media and try new techniques, especially after they’ve moved up to Creations and beyond, including Oil Paints, Digital Media, and Colored Pencils.
In one word, our program is all about
Original Lessons Created by Our Founder
Like a three-legged stool, our art curriculum has been built as a complete foundation for students, using three deeply connected principles.
For the Heart
Everyone wants joy. If a student doesn’t enjoy creating art, then art will eventually be abandoned. Since we’re artists, we asked ouselves,
“What gives us joy?”
For the Hand
Being proficient is a constant desire for our students.
“My work doesn’t look right!” is heard in the classroom often, but we tell them, that realization is itself a vital skill.
For the Head
Understanding how to do things faster and easier is pretty awesome, but even more important, is to retain that information.
Timing is very important for making ideas really stick.
The other day, a whole group of some of our most rambunctious 3rd and 4th grade students said, “We’re having fun painting these gift boxes!” And amazingly, they were all diligently working on the project. What they didn’t realize, is that they were learning how to draw a cube in 3-point perspective, and the color mixing “game” lead them to use complimentary color mixing to soften and dull their shadow colors. Yay!
The number one complaint we hear from kids is, “at my other school art class they never let us do what we want to do.”
Artists have a deep desire to choose their subject, and invent new things – because that is the essence of creativity! All too often, traditional classes forget to add choices along the way. We have coined a term, “Artists’ Choice”, that we use so they acknowledge that they’re getting choices. Sometimes the whole lesson is a full-on Artists’ Choice day, and everyone always cheers!
Being encouraged is helpful, but only if you trust your encourager to tell you the truth, and in a kindly way. Being critiqued, however, is only encouraging if you want help and have specifically asked for it.
Our teachers are trained to ask for permission and to gently offer suggestions. We don’t use the terms “right” or “wrong”, but refer to art as “accurate” or “inaccurate”. We also do not use the word, “mistake” since that implies that you shouldn’t have tried. We call art we don’t like, a “LEARNER” and art that we do like, a “KEEPER”.
Playing music while learning and practicing creates stronger pathways in the brain – and it’s fun! We have lots of playlists we’ve created that are kid friendly.
All of our studios are small, and our classes never go over 10 students for KidsART (with two instructors), 12 students for Foundations (10 for adults), and 16 students for Cartooning. We can provide a lot of individual attention this way.
Handling graphite, paints, brushes, specific papers, canvas, ink, pastels and more, is a lot more fun if you know what they do and can control them. Ink, for instance, is difficult to control and can be very messy. We tell our students that ink is like electricity; if you have safeguards in place and can make it do what you want, it’s fantastic. That’s why we stick the bottles down on a plate so they don’t turn over, and why we give everyone a ziplock bag to place the bottles in. No more spills.
Most technique is about movement and holding tools in a certain way. We start early with “color dancing” for the youngest students, and we encourage the use of music throughout the full range of ages.
One of our most revolutionary methods, is in our watercolor lessons. We have developed a simple phrase that changes everything for the student, eliminating the need for lengthy explanations about the nature of the paints and paradigm shifts for how you manage it. Everyone enjoys watercolor because they understand how it works right away.
Practice is almost a bad word to some artists. They believe they were born with their talent and only had to walk up to the canvas and begin. Of course, they won’t show you their work from a few years back!
We ask our students, “where are the DaVinci and Rembrandt paintings from when they were your age?” It’s obvious that they threw away all of their training work from before they were masters (we call practice work, Learners). Likewise, artists must understand the importance of doing some things over and over, just like musicians do. Our lessons bring repetition of certain techniques and methods but in a creative way, so that students don’t feel like they’re just reviewing something they’ve already done.
It’s pretty well known that discovery teaching helps students retain their lessons. Often we’ll have them start a task they’re not ready for. This creates an urgent need, which we can then fill right away. This is how we create the perfect timing for teaching specific methods and techniques.
Working out simple ways to convey a complex subject is near and dear to our hearts. You can imagine us in a laboratory, working day and night to improve communication and understanding with simple analogies and schemas. After decades of this, we’re getting pretty good at it.
One of our best examples of this is the “Three Steps to Accuracy”. We also have, 7 steps to painting; color journals, graphic posters, and more.
Don’t get us started on all the abstract terminology that the adult art world uses that kids can’t easily understand. “Negative Space”, for instance, is awful. We changed that to, “Air Shapes”.
Often a subject in a photo seems like it should work, but is too hard for a student to do. This damages their confidence. Our reference photos are chosen with the specific project in mind, and are known to lead to more success stories, based on our own experimentation with these lessons.
Printouts are provided for almost every lesson. Students sometimes share a reference or guide with others, and often get a special handout they can keep. We have worksheets, learning games, and Color Journals which are very popular! All have been designed by our founder, Dennas.
Sometimes we have game sheets, and sometimes we have demonstrations. Every now and then students get to write a few things down. The key is to approach insights in different ways.
2 Core Beliefs:
An artist can never waste time creating. Even the worst outcome means you’ve had a learning experience.
Artists may have varying gifts in different areas, but talent comes from joy. If you love art, you make art – If you practice making art, you get better at it.
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