By December 15, 2023 Read More →

KidsView: Happy Artists Create Art Studio

Happy Artists Create
By Brandilyn Mitchell

“Every child is an artist until he’s told he’s not an artist.” – John Lennon

It’s been pummeled into our brains that ages 0-5 are the most important for life-long development. Every parenting class hammers that into you. But there are so many nuances to that statement. It’s a heavy reality and puts a lot of pressure on us as parents, but it doesn’t have to! Art is one of the simple things we can do with such a daunting task as getting our kids prepared for life. What does art have to do with life-long development? EVERYTHING! Art strengthens neural pathways in the brain by using our senses-we feel the paintbrush glide across the paper, we feel the clay and dough in our hands. We smell the paint and glue. We see bright colors. Our synapses fire and when they experience sensory, and art is full of sensory! Art develops motor skills, both fine and gross. From holding the paintbrush to cutting with scissors, every aspect improves coordination and dexterity. It even preserves divergent thinking and creativity! Art allows you to draw a unicorn-hippo or create something new from the “mistake” you drew. Your circle is more like an oval? One eye is bigger than the other? Kids just create something different and learn to go with the flow-when they are allowed to! So often we squash creativity by encouraging a more perfect circle, “Oh no, that’s an oval! Let’s try again!” Nah, flip their creativity on instead: “What a great circle you made! What are you making?” Who cares if their circle wasn’t perfect! There are no limits to art. If you can think of it, you can draw it, paint it, sculpt it, or write it! Messes can be cleaned, memories last a lifetime.

Art can be simple at-home fun times-crayons and scrap mail envelopes you were going to toss out anyways are all you need, honestly. Of course you can scale up and I think as your kid grows up, you should expand their access to all things art. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Dollar Tree stuff is fine! If your kid truly loves art and you are able to take a class with them, I encourage it because creativity should be nurtured and supported. But YouTube tutorials work too! Parenting has enough pressure! What is important is making memories with them and loving them exactly as they are.

My Little and I recently took a month-long art class for 3-5 year olds (called “Art Play”) at Happy Artists Create in Escalon. I wrote about them in “Free and Cheap Things to do with Littles” last year. We had such a fun month! Each class begins with a short story time, followed by relevant to the story, engaging art play that focus on experiences, sensory, and fun projects. Your littles will explore a variety of mediums as they learn about line, color and shape while you help them. Activities changed each week, inspired by literature, the season and famous artists. It was a GREAT introduction to art as a whole, since at home we pretty much just painted or glued things on paper.

Our class was led by Miss Kasin. In our first class we were read a Halloween book, painted a bat, made a Frankenstein face, and created bubbling potions in a cauldron. The rest of the three classes were specifically fall-themed, we read books like “Fletcher and the Falling Leaves” and made crafts based around leaves, hibernating animals, autumn foods, and used a lot of earth tones (and other colors, too!)  I wanted to know more about the studio so YOU could know more!
Happy Artists Create is owned by Alicia Johnson. Alicia has been an educator for twenty-five years, both as an elementary classroom teacher and educational specialist. She graduated from California State University, Stanislaus with a degree in Liberal Studies and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Inspiring creativity in children is her passion. It is her mission to ignite a passion for making things, and give each little artist the courage to use their creative gifts. Alicia lives in Escalon with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, designing and eating her favorite food: chocolate chip cookies! Her motto is “YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH HAPPY!” Yes, with caps-she is a very joyful person! As you will determine yourself from our interview:

MV: What is your inspiration for the studio/where does your love of art stem from?
AJ: Happy Artists is built on a foundation of love for children and art. I wanted to create a bright, happy space for kids to paint, design, imagine and explore art in a fun, colorful, whimsical way. A place to build confidence and uncover creative gifts. To me, children’s art is a priceless treasure. My passion for art and design stems from my mom, who is a quilter and baker. As a child, I spent hours and hours in quilt stores searching for fabric and helping my mom put together the perfect color and pattern combinations. I have wonderful memories of making and creating school projects, which were always my favorite. I was lucky to travel to Europe many times with my grandparents throughout high school and college, where I developed a deep love of art history. When I became an elementary school teacher, I discovered that teaching art was where my heart was. 

MV: What is your art philosophy?
AJ: At Happy Artists, we open the door to a child’s creativity and imagination, by providing gentle instruction and inspiration that is balanced with freedom. We want children to learn art processes, along with completing a finished project they are proud of. We want every child to feel successful and excited about what they have created, and that it is their OWN. Our approach to teaching art is that we learn by doing. A quote by Maria Montessori, “What the hand does, the mind remembers” is the foundation of our philosophy at Happy Artists. From clay to yarn to paint to wood (and more!), we use every medium and teach every art process possible. Children are capable of so much if we give them the courage and opportunities to try. 

MV: What is your favorite thing about teaching art?
AJ: My favorite thing about teaching art is helping children discover their creative gifts. Seeing the joy and excitement in their eyes is incomparable. Making art has become lost in our society today and I am on a mission to keep it alive! The studio is truly a magical place, and I am so lucky to do what I love every day. 

MV: What is your favorite medium (to teach and your personal favorite)?
AJ: My favorite medium to teach is clay. Children LOVE clay! It’s always a fun and exciting process, and the finished product is really rewarding. My second favorite is collage using painted paper. Designing art projects for children is what I eat, sleep, and breathe! I love developing new projects for our artists and this is what I consider to be my personal favorite form of art! “Color” is my gift.

MV: Why did you choose Escalon as the home for the studio?
AJ: I have deep roots in Escalon. I grew up in Escalon surrounded by a large, loving extended family. My husband and I have raised our three children in Escalon. I wanted to create something special for my community. So, eight years ago, I took a chance and started teaching art in Escalon, in a small old building with a handful of students. Since then, Happy Artists has grown into a bustling studio that welcomes hundreds of little artists each year. We have a small but mighty staff that works HARD to provide a wonderful art experience for each child. Also, Escalon is a great location for us because it is central to surrounding towns who support our studio. I am so thankful to all the amazing families who make the trek to Escalon for art! It is truly so humbling and fills my heart when someone tells me they’ve driven an hour for art class. 

You have a couple other options at this kid’s artist studio. Aside from “Art Play” for the pre-k crowd, you have “Art Club” for grades 1-5, which builds on art concepts kids learn in pre-k and kindy. Students will develop a deep understanding of art, through high-quality instruction, materials and practice. For these, you may drop your child off and pick them up. Then you have “open studio”, which is the idea of free play.  Open Studio works like this: reserve your hour-and-a-half session for an unstructured time of making and creating by exploring three “Making Tables” to bead a bracelet or necklace, paint and decorate a wooden project, and make a rainbow keychain! Participants will receive a festive balloon with their finished projects. This is NOT teacher-led and an adult needs to be with your child the entire time. 

​You can also attend specific workshops. These are the ultimate creative experience. Enroll your child for a magical, unforgettable time of drawing, painting, weaving, sculpting, making and creating! Young artists will use a wide range of high-quality materials and a beautiful palette of color to create a collection of themed projects in our signature style. They will explore their creativity and learn new techniques, focused on the seven elements of art (line, shape, space, value, form, texture and color).

Want something less workshop and more play? They also have monthly pizza & paint nights! Held from 6-8pm. Participants will learn new techniques while painting a fun scene on canvas, and receive 2 slices of cheese pizza, bottle of water and cookie for dinner. They will each bring home their masterpiece and a balloon! This is teacher-led. All children must be accompanied by an adult. (Only those creating must register for the open studio, but parents must register for the pizza & paint nights.) Register here. 

They have already posted their January-April 2024 class schedule, so if your funds for the rest of year are tapped out, that’s ok! Simply put gift cards on your kid’s Christmas list and let them book a class in the spring. We will see you there!

Staff left to right:
Sonya Huff, instructor (Jr. High Homeschool Makers & Paint Nights)
Alicia Johnson, owner & instructor (Homeschool Makers, Art Club, Workshops, Summer Art Camp, MORE)

Kasin Alves, instructor (Art Play, Birthday Parties)
Lorie Macsenti, mom behind the scenes (preps, cleans, helps!)

Happy Artists Create
1900 McHenry Avenue Suite 203, Escalon.
For more info email or call  (209) 691-6022

About the Author:

Bring on the rain, and a bottle of Wonky & Wry's Honey Braggot Ale. Loves to roast marshmallows over a fire.