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San Clemente Journal

Side Street Art Studio - Art Classes and Workshops with a Parisian Flair

Nov 28, 2023 07:36PM ● By Nina Welch

Claire Kavaya graduated from the University of Fine Arts, Paris.

by Nina Welch

“Fill a space in a beautiful way.” 
– Georgia O’Keeffe

Just behind the 200 block of Avenida Del Mar, there’s an art studio with an appropriate name. The Side Street Art Studio opened at 205 Avenida Cabrillo in September of last year. Claire Kavaya purchased the space from the previous owner, who was ready to retire. The studio was completely refurbished with the help of her father-in-law, a retired mason. Claire is a French artist and art teacher, who taught figurative drawing and painting in Paris for 16 years. She graduated from the University of Fine Arts of Paris (Beaux-Arts de Paris) where her work was influenced by American painters Georgia O’Keefe and Edward Hopper. 

  Claire met her husband Peter (P.J.), a San Clemente native, in Paris when he played professional roller hockey. After moving to California, P.J. got a job working for the City of San Juan Capistrano, and Claire opened the art studio in our picturesque beach town.

  The Side Street Art Studio offers classes and workshops in figurative drawing and painting for adults and teenagers. According to Claire, students come with an idea or she has image sources they can choose from. One man had an idea of a scene from the movie Oppenheimer. 
  The classes involve oil painting, the color wheel, and the theory of color using only seven tubes. Students learn about the various brush strokes and how to apply the paint and mix the oil.
Specific drawing workshops are conducted twice a year, and in the summer, Claire taught budding artists how to use soft pastels. 

  These workshops are one week, Monday-Friday. Categories include water color, pastels, pencil, and charcoal. Live figure drawing is offered one Sunday morning every four weeks. The weekly painting classes are held Saturdays, 2-5pm.

  Other happenings at the art studio include team-building sessions where Claire provides the canvas and draws an image from which each participant creates their own painting. A popular session called Brunch and Brushes involves French food and sparkling wine. And, of course, there’s also sip and paint for groups, which is a fun way to bring people together and create a bond.

  Claire’s teaching philosophy is to provide a safe place for students to learn with no judgement. “Most of my students have never held a brush. My mother-in-law is a retired P.E. teacher, and now after a few classes, she paints very well and loves it,” says Claire. Her goal is for each student to be an independent artist and, after a number of lessons, be able to create on their own with workshop participation from time-to-time.

  The large studio space presents a comfortable ambience along with the studio dog, Oscar. The beautiful English cream golden retriever, is very chill. “He says hello to the students and then just hangs out,” says Claire.

  When asked where she exhibits her art, Claire pointed to the windows of the studio, which displayed interesting depictions of termite tented houses in bright colors. These paintings are reminiscent of the works of Christo for his large-scale environmental installations, often large landscape elements covered in fabric. 

  Just in time for the holidays, gift certificates for classes make great presents. 

For more information on classes and workshops go to