Drawing School

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Left to Right: Jackie, Billy (the Best Boy) Chloe, Claire, Chris, Carly, Julie
Missing: Jai, Melissa, Tim, and Tracy

How we teach

Our once per week classes at ActonArt are presented along a guided or semi-guided demonstration model where instructors lead students through logical thinking processes and actual drawing sequences. Students work on their own artwork independently and follow the "process" as presented by the instructor. Using this instructional technique students are able to see the drawing being built as a demonstration in front of them, yet also work independently by interpreting and following the verbal and visual instructions. Most of the learning takes place as a result of the hands-on execution by each student as they model their artwork process after the instructor's drawing. Instructors demonstrate how to resolve problems and move through routine issues that every artist faces during projects.

Projects are designed for each age/ability level. We make every effort to create projects that are interesting to children. Frequently we present background information on the subject matter to give students more information with the goal of engaging them even more. Students who are curious or engaged by a subject are much more likely to stay focused and pay close attention to the instructor. Typically Beginners and Basic Drawing classes feature a new project, and new subject matter each week. Intermediate level classes do have multi-week projects but the majority are single week as well.

Every project is created with a specific learning objective which varies according to the class level and student ages. Some projects may be identical regarding the subject matter but the learning objectives may be different depending upon age level. The learning objectives are age-appropriate and provide enough flexibility that students who fall above or below the average skill-set can still learn and benefit.

ActonArt provides necessary materials and supplies for all regular foundation drawing classes. We use very high quality supplies that are capable of producing excellent results. Students are expected to have respect for the materials and supplies since they are shared by many classes. Portfolio and specialty classes may have additional materials charges due to the quantity or artist grade quality of supplies provided.

We consider Foundation class projects completed in class to be exercises that lead students through specific learning objectives. Many students will create stunning artwork which is clearly worthy of being seen as "fine art" but we do not recommend that students represent it as original artwork outside of the studio in exhibitions or competitions.

Mission & History

ActonArt opened in June of 2003 with 30 students in a five-class summer program. Our schedule now lists approximately forty weekly classes. During the past twenty years we have added a number of classes tailored to various student populations. Among them are Portfolio level classes which are designed to provide high level instruction for students who wish to pursue fine and commercial art careers, and classes designed for the interests and schedules of adults.

WE HAVE LONG NOTED that virtually every master artist of the past received detailed and comprehensive instruction when they were young. Even artists far back in history were trained as apprentices prior to themselves attaining any notoriety. Leonardo and Michelangelo both worked as apprentices for years prior to working independently. More contemporary artists like Picasso, Matisse and many others attended formal art schools where they were taught how to draw and paint according to the standards of the day. At ActonArt, our approach is to teach children the skills needed to draw and give them the confidence to see themselves as "artistic" regardless of the career path they choose. If everyone had just a bit of the skill and soul of an artist, the world might be an even more beautiful place.

ACTONART PROVIDES drawing and fine art instruction to students ranging in age from five years to adults. Our curriculum driven program is designed to teach to the strengths and abilities of general age ranges, however our class sizes are limited and small so we can focus on the needs of individual students as well. Our program and class structure has evolved over the years into a comprehensive presentation of core concepts and developmental skill building projects built around student friendly topics and drawing subjects. We offer classes that are specific to elementary, middle-school, and high-school children, intermediate and advanced level students, and even students who are developing portfolios for further study in art schools and colleges. We also have adult classes for people looking for personal enrichment and individual skills development.

OUR MISSION is to provide the highest quality drawing and fine art process and technique instruction to children, teens and adults. We will always endeavor to accomplish this goal by creating a safe, supportive and non-critical environment for students. We believe that everyone can benefit by learning foundational drawing skills whether they intend to use them in their careers or as a means of personal self-expression or enjoyment. Art is one of the oldest and highest accomplishments of mankind. We can think of no better purpose in life than to teach the skills that allow people to express themselves artistically regardless of their fields of study or careers.


Our Teachers & Staff


Julie Ripley

Painting, Printmaking, Mixed Media, Charcoal, Adult Drawing and Painting, Foundation Drawing

Julie began teaching here in 2010 and is the director of ActonArt. She is a professional artist who works primarily in oil paint and is an MFA graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She regularly exhibits in galleries and museums in and around Massachusetts. Julie's web site is here.


Chris Parent

Manga, Cartooning, Sculpture, Portrait Drawing, DD&D, Foundation Drawing

Chris is a graduate of Monserrat College in Beverly, MA. Chris is our Education Manager overseeing the content of our program, responding to parent questions and building most of the projects we present. He is a skilled illustrator and sculptor capable of working in a variety of subjects and mediums. Years ago Chris developed many of his current skills as a young Manga artist and today contributes his own knowledge and experience to all of our Manga classes. His background as a sculptor has also made it possible for us to offer both workshops and more recently a full year sculpting class. Chris is also a certified Art teacher in Massachusetts. Some of his art can be seen here.


Jackie Musto

Portfolio & Advanced Studio Art, Sketchbooking, Faces/Features/Figures, Comics, Colored Pencil, DD&D, and more!

Jackie is a graduate of Montserrat College of Art, and a professional illustrator and comic creator who has applied her trades to video games, book illustration and character designs! She also creates writes and illustrates comics, including two of her own. Her skills working in the field are passed on to her students in Fantasy classes and Nature illustration, as well as to prospective college-bound students in the Advanced Studio and Portfolio classes. You can see one of Jackie’s web sites


Jai Hart

Foundation Drawing

Jai joined us at the beginning of 2023 as a Foundation drawing teacher . She has a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, MO. and a MFA from The School of Visual Arts, NY.  She has attended several artist residencies, and has exhibited both nationally and internationally.  You can visit Jai's web site here to see samples of her artwork.


Tim Eliyesil

Foundation Drawing

Tim is one of our newest foundation drawing teachers. He first came to ActonArt as a teenager taking our Portrait drawing classes. Later Tim went on to attend Lesley University and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration. He specializes in highly detailed character and background concepts. You can see his work on his website here.


Tracy Reed

Foundation Drawing - Online

Tracy is an experienced art teacher who worked at ActonArt for 12 years teaching all levels of classes. She was loved by her students and appreciated by everyone for her enthusiasm, energy, and commitment to children. Then a new life-adventure moved her to Maryland permanently. One of the few "silver linings" of the pandemic was that we reconnected and succeeded in arranging for her to teach ActonArt classes remotely via Zoom. Today Tracy is an exclusive online teacher and is quickly building a completely new set of fans. We're very happy to have her once again connecting with our students and providing an opportunity for students in any location to learn and enjoy our classes.


Melissa Wafer

Foundation Drawing - Substitute

We are thrilled to have Melissa join us as a Foundation drawing teacher this Fall.
Many years ago, Melissa was a studio potter and organized children’s programming for a large art center in Chicago.  She taught after-school students, summer campers, bilingual public school classes, and chronic-care patients at an inner-city children’s hospital.  She then moved to MA, homeschooled her own offspring, sent them to ActonArt, and learned alongside them how to watercolor from Julie!  Now Melissa is glad to be a part of the ActonArt family in a different way.  Outside the art world, she has a BA in Physics from Dartmouth and over three decades of experience teaching everywhere from college laboratories and nonprofit board rooms to her kitchen table and the great outdoors.


Carly Faber

Foundation Drawing - Substitute

Carly first came to ActonArt as a young student who loved drawing and art. She attended classes with us all through middle and high school. Upon graduation she attended Mass. College of Art where she completed her degree program at the end of 2021. She has taught summer classes and programs at ActonArt while she was completing her college curriculum. She also received her MA teachers certificate and is now working as a full-time art teacher in Lowell. Carly is a skilled artist who loves working with children. We feel lucky to have come full circle and have her return to ActonArt (currently as a substitute teacher) to continue teaching the next generations. You can see her work on her website here.


Claire Bourguignon

Foundation Drawing - Substitute

We are very fortunate to have Claire join us as a substitute Foundational drawing teacher. She has a BFA in Illustration from Mass College of Art and will complete her MED in Art Education from Lesley College in spring 2023. Claire has already proven herself to be an excellent teacher working with our full range of foundation classes. She’s fit into ActonArt like she’s been working with us for years. And she’s already received the kid’s seal of approval in her classes! You can visit Claire’s web site to see samples of her artwork.


Chloe Goodnough

Studio Manager

Our Studio Manager has been with ActonArt in various roles since its inception as she grew up working here from a very young age. Her Marist College degree in Media Studies and Production, with concentrations in television, film, darkroom photography, and psychology, further developed her artistic and people skills. She is a talented videographer, video editor, photographer and artist. She’s taught children’s workshops in film and worked on video teams creating content for national marketing campaigns and community television. She loves working with people of all ages and specializes in getting things done.


John Goodnough

ActonArt Founder

John is the founder of ActonArt, a teaching artist who is passionate in his belief that drawing is a life-skill that everyone can and should learn. He spent the early part of his career after graduating from Rochester Institute of Technology's College of Imaging Arts and Sciences working first as a biomedical photographer/illustrator, and then as a commercial Art Director and designer. In 2003, John combined his artistic talents, scientific interests, and natural teaching ability with Joanne's business knowledge and experience to create and offer the unique ActonArt Drawing School program.


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