Art Academy East was founded by Norfolk based fine artist and teacher Claire Frances Smith. Working in partnership with ‘The College of West Anglia’, the Academy has grown in size and popularity. Courses are delivered in a bright studio space in the centre of Dereham. The Academy offers a dedicated space for creative learning with facilities for painting, drawing and printing. It accommodates the local and broader community providing a variety of art courses from leisure classes to UAL accredited Diplomas.

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Our Approach

Art Academy East has a strong traditional focus. Skills such as colour mixing and the use of a reduced colour palette, the importance and effective use of tonal values, design and composition, brushwork and paint handling are taught as fundamental building blocks. Experienced painters and makers will find these neglected areas invaluable as they incorporate them into their practice. AAE delivers step by step carefully designed programs of study that can lead to technical excellence. Fine art evolves continually and finding ways to use the traditional skills of the old masters in conjunction with experimental new ideas makes for exciting discoveries. Art Academy East offers intensive tuition designed to meet individual learner's needs and goals.


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Claire frances smith - owner & course leader

Claire Frances Smith is a practising fine artist and founder of Art Academy East. Claire delivers a carefully designed step by step program that starts with the core basics of paint handling then colour mixing, good drawing skills, working with tones, creating mood and atmosphere working towards eventually exhibiting work. Claire has experience in teaching complete beginners and taking them through to becoming professional, exhibiting independent artists. She is a knowledgeable and patient tutor with a wealth of experience of the commercial art world, publishing and art sales. Students are supported in their learning with demonstrations, achievable projects and opportunities to take part in exhibitions, events and shows.

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Louise Maclaren - tutor - printmaking & watercolours

As a talented printmaker and painter, Louise has worked with groups of often socially excluded people of all ages to use creativity and art as a means for expression. Projects she has worked on include: Action for Children and the Victoria & Albert Museum, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS foundation trust, Greyfriars Artspace, Kings Lynn, First Focus, Fakenham and South Norfolk District council.

She is experienced with teaching learners with a variety of needs and can deliver a diverse range of Arts practices, enabling students to express themselves creatively. ‘I strive to make my courses and art workshops engaging and accessible to all, offering painting, printmaking, photography and mixed media’.

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george collier - tutor - drawing, oils & acrylics

George Collier has experience in traditional drawing and painting with acrylics. After completing formal art training at Art Academy East, George became a member of the team working with the younger learners. He offers a calm and patient approach mixed with natural abilities and skills. ‘My inspiration comes from the Impressionists who turned their gaze to the beauty of everyday life, which really appeals to me. There is so much colour to see in shaded woods or rainy days most people would like to forget about.’