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Releasing the Artist Within

Published Jun 20, 2018 • Last Updated 12:36 pm, June 20, 2018

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"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working." – Pablo Picasso

Once upon a time (or maybe just yesterday) inspiration hit to pick up a camera, draw, or paint your heart out — but you didn't know where to start. There's good news, though: whether you're nine or 90, it's never too late to release your inner artist. Summer is the perfect time to take up a class, drop in on a session, or otherwise kickstart your creativity.

Branford Art Center

Fronted by an enchanting downtown gallery where the house jazz band helps celebrate openings by emerging and established artists, Branford Art Center's creative heart is in its studio space.

That's where BAC founder/executive director and artist Yvonne Gordon leads an array of classes, workshops, programs, and special events for all abilities and ages.

"We have had people that have maybe painted in their younger days and haven't done it in a long time, and others who've just started their journey with a figure drawing class or water color class in retirement," says Gordon.

Gordon encourages first time artists or artists who haven't settled on a style of art to pursue to join her in her creative outlet of choice: mixed media.

"I encourage anybody to just jump into mixed media, because it's very forgiving – even though I don't believe there are any mistakes in art!" Gordon says. "I always try to encourage people to look at art as an exploration; to take what they originally thought of as a mistake and create something else out of it. In Chinese pottery, when they put a piece into a kiln and it came out cracked, that was a spot where they could add in gold and make it beautiful."

BAC has an evolving selection of summer workshops with offerings including Intuitive Process Painting, Mixed Media Methods, Encaustic Wax Painting, Paper Making Arts, Fashion Design, Acrylic Painting, Stained Glass Design, and Hand Building with Clay.

"We try and do a bit of everything for people, and we try to keep our workshops affordable," says Gordon.

Branford Art Center is located at 1229 Main St. in Branford. For more information, visit find Branford Art Center on Facebook, call 203-208-4455 or email

Coastal Camera Club

Whether you love snagging pics on your smartphone or wish you could find your way around a single-lens reflex camera (SLR), the Coastal Camera Club (CCC), based in Madison, might be the starting place you're looking for.

"Beginners are welcome," says Allison Maltese, the club's exhibits co-coordinator. "We would really like to expand the club. It's very affordable to join, and you can also feel free to come to a meeting or two to see how you like it."

Founded in Madison in 1990, CCC still has many members from Madison or with strong ties to the town, but also includes members from West Haven to Lyme and as far north as Essex and Killingworth.

Meetings feature speakers and/or workshops to help members develop photographic skills and foster the science and art of photography. And while a camera club immediately brings to mind all that can be captured through the lens of an SLR camera, Maltese says there's a lot to learn about smartphone photography, too.

"I have good new Sony [SLR] camera and I also use my cellphone; because sometimes you can't take your gear somewhere," says Maltese. "I have a great app on my phone for depth of field. Everyone has different apps they like to use."

Members can also develop their skills through critique sessions, workshops, exhibits, shows, inter-club programs, competitions, conferences, workshops, and other services. The club also mounts two exhibitions at CT Hospice in Branford and Old Saybrook's Gladeview Health Care Center.

"We don't want beginners to feel pressured to do everything, so my advice would be start slow," says Maltese. "Maybe do a critique -- we really encourage that for people who are a little afraid to get their work out or haven't done it."

Just like everyone else at CCC, Maltese, a member since 2009, is still learning.

"We learn a lot from each other," she says. "We're all friends. From 2009 to today, we've all seen a lot of progression and how much we've all grown in those nine years."

To learn more or contact the CCC for membership information, visit

Guilford Art Center

Ever heard of finding your tribe? You might find it at Guilford Art Center (GAC).

"We have a lot of beginners here, and we try to tell everyone if you can make the decision to do it, it can be a very enriching, fulfilling, meaningful part of your life," say GAC Executive Director Maureen Belden. "It can become a very social experience, with a community of like-minded people."

From beading to blacksmithing, GAC provides classes in a variety of arts, and you'll get plenty of support from its community of artists, teachers, and students. Now at the half-century mark, GAC pulls from a deep bench of experts to introduce you to their specialized medium and guide you through the creative learning experience.

"We do hear from some people that they're intimidated to start," says Belden. "What you'll find is we have artists of all skill levels and ages working here, and one of the cool things is you learn a lot from your fellow students. The people here are artistically generous with their knowledge and understanding."

At GAC, busy adults and even over-scheduled kids can find wiggle-room to take that class they've been craving, thanks to GAC's varied hours and one-visit workshops.

"Time can definitely be a barrier for some people," says Belden. "Making time for a leisure activity, after everything else you have to do in your life, is really challenging. Which is why we offer classes at all different times, and we have some one-time classes, like our Friday night pottery workshop."

Twice a year, GAC also offers a free classroom observation program, "Picture Yourself at GAC."

"You can come and observe as many classes as you want. It's a great way to take a look at a class you're interested in to see what it's like," says Belden.

Guilford Art Center is located at 411 Church Street, Guilford (Exit 58 off I-95). For more information, visit  find Guilford Art Center on Facebook, call (203) 453-5947 or email

OceanArt Studio, LLC

Whether young or young at heart, OceanArt Studio LLC in Old Saybrook may be just the spot to drop in to paint a canvas or piece of pottery, make jewelry, or try that latest crafting trend.

As founder Debbie Rutan says, coming here to release your inner artist will also help you release your inner child and have you coming back for more.

"Our most common comment is, 'I'm not artistic;' and that's okay," says Rutan. "While we aim to provide an excellent product for the value, our main goals are about time well spent, the access to affordable art and the value of living well."

The very youngest creative minds are also taken into consideration, here, too.

"Sometimes, the younger they are, the quicker the process," says Rutan. "We have a craft option with all of the basics -- glue, stickers, pom-poms, sequins... so moms don't have to set it up; buy all of the supplies; and then it's over and you're left with the mess. We take care of it right here."

No matter your age or which artistic experience you choose, Debbie's advice is, "Let go." And then, look out -- because you'll be amazed at what you create.

"There is such a wonderful level of acceptance here --- from the other people you'll meet, from the teachers – that it's hard not to let go," says Rutan. "And when people just let it go; suddenly they see what they can do. It's an 'Oh, my gosh,' moment."

OceanArt Studio LLC is located at 188 Main St. in Old Saybrook. For hours, events, classes and more information, visit find OceanArt Studio LLC on Facebook, call 860-388-1881 or email

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