Meet our Learning To See Outreach Teaching Artists!

All LTS Teaching Artists are professional, practicing artists with extensive educational experience.  This powerful combination enables us to impart a deeper understanding of the art making process on each student.  Learn more about Learning To See Outreach HERE.

Aimee French is a lifelong artist whose earliest memories are of being fascinated by shapes, edges and textures. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and drawing from The Ohio State University. Having explored and worked in a wide range of mediums, a painterly quality marks much of her work, even when using the hardest materials. It is process oriented, and symbolism is often used. After many years of painting on silk and with oil, her current mediums are assemblage, felted wool and encaustic.  Aimee joined Focus on the Masters as the Learning to See Outreach Education Director in January 2011. Her extensive arts education experience includes class instruction, program development and management serving populations from all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and learning levels.  Her experience in museum education, certification as a Social/Emotional Arts Facilitator and 7 years working in humane education has given her a broad insight into the importance of how and what we learn manifests in a student’s life. Her goal is to nurture inspiration and trust in one’s unique creative voice.

Visit Aimee at

What led you to become an art teacher?
I wasn’t planning on teaching at all. I got pulled into it little by little. The rewards have been priceless.
What inspires you to make art?
I just love the process of creating something new. Feeling the textures, watching the colors blend and change depending on what you put next to it, getting my hands dirty. Being surprised.

Jessica Diaz is an artist currently attending California State University of Channel Islands majoring in art with an emphasis in animation. Narratives and story are her favorite aids to the arts, which are reflected in the of personality and character story of her work. She also works with the Santa Paula Art Museum as the current Assistant Art Educator. Growing up in Santa Paula, she acquired influence from the life of agriculture and a California setting. Her introduction into arts education came alongside her interest in museum culture, wanting to know the process of the artist’s work and their exhibitions in museums. She has taught in classrooms through Artist In Residency programs with elementary students, led school tours for k-12 grades, and taught children’s art classes through the Cole Creativity Center.

What led you to become an art teacher?  My biggest supporters in my artistic endeavor were my art teachers from elementary to high school, they left a big impact. Without their little push of guidance, I could’ve missed my chance at becoming an artist! Being an art teacher means I can be that beacon for the students who have yet to acknowledge their artistic persona. There is no greater gift than helping younger generations realize their creativity and the power they hold.

Why do you practice your chosen medium(s)?  I’m an artist who values studies over a final render; I like using watercolors, dry mediums like graphite and pastels, because they are done instantly unlike oil paints. Like impressionism they can give me a chance to color in the moment.

Gabriel Islas grew up in the coastal city of Oxnard, California. He obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in painting from Academy of Art University, San Francisco. After graduating, he moved back to his roots in Ventura County where he teaches oil painting courses for adults, teen art programs and workshops for kids through VITA Art Center, The Santa Paula Art Museum and the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. Gabriel is a member of the California Art Club and has exhibited at the Santa Paula Art Museum’s ‘12th Annual Art About Agriculture’, the CAC virtual exhibit ‘Welcome toCalifornia’, and a dual-solo show at the Conejo Valley Art Museum. His current work expresses the drama of the Southern Californian atmosphere across the local landscape. Gabriel joined the Learning To See team in 2021.

Visit his webpage at

What led you to become an art teacher?  It was an early opportunity for me to surround myself in a professional artist environment where I could grow and help others in expressing themselves. 

What inspires you to make art?  Natural displays of light and color.  Capturing the dynamic interplay between light and shadow across the local landscape. 

Hobbies, interests outside of art?  Photography, Bass guitar and hiking.

Born and raised in Artesia, California, Jem Morris moved to San Francisco to study at the Academy of Art University. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in oil painting.  Throughout her collegiate career, Jem developed a fixation on the art of expression, particularly through traditional illustration, imaginative realism, and abstraction. She won 1st place at the Academy of Art University’s Spring show in the Undergraduate Abstraction category. In November 2019, Jem moved back to Southern California to pursue a full time career in art, eventually moving to Ventura to teach at various locations including Vita Art Center, Cole Creativity Center, and the Oxnard Performing Art Center. 

Visit Jem at

Why do yo practice your chosen medium(s)?  I love the quality and viscosity of oils as well as its lengthy dry time. It allows me to make easy corrections and render with plenty of implied texture. 

What inspires you to make art?  As early as I can remember, I have felt like an artist. I remember writing in 1st grade that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. It has always been a lifestyle for me to create, and a healthy method of expressing what is important to me in this world. 

Jann Realica

What inspires you to make art? Nature, cultural traditions from the Philippines, and my social environment. Growing up in Oxnard and in Las Vegas, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different art styles. Being around other artists inspires me to create work.

Why do yo practice your chosen medium(s)? I am a multidisciplinary artist that works with yarn, acrylic paint, graphite, wood, and even skin. I’m currently a tattoo apprentice and learning how to perform body art. As well as being a student at California State University Northridge, I’m encouraged to explore different mediums.

What led you to become an art teacher?
As a former dancer and leader, I enjoyed watching myself and others grow. One of my former professors, Christine Morla, has inspired me to pursue art education as well. I love having the opportunity to help others achieve their goals and aspire more creativity.
What is the latest thing you’ve been working on?
I’ve been working on a series of wooden pieces that illustrate Filipino culture. Two of which, along with other works, have been included with Oxnard College’s permanent collection. My goal is to showcase more Filipino narratives that usually go underrepresented.
Hobbies, interests outside of art?
Dancing, gardening, weight lifting

Elizabeth Souza life’s path has given her the opportunity to work in many artistic genres. She is a painter, fiber artist, craft teacher, published writer, and dancer. Her work is influenced by her diverse cultural background as an immigrant from the Netherlands of mixed ancestory. She holds a BA in Art with an emphasis in painting from California State University Channel Islands, and is currently pursuing a graduate degree from California State University Northridge.  

Visit Elizabeth at and

What led you to become an art teacher? I’ve always wanted to teach art, probably because when I was in high school I had such an inspiring teacher.  Pass it forward right? I’d like to share that kind of experience with other people.
What is the latest thing you’ve been working on? Right now, a lot of water color paintings. I’m also drawing a lot, which I compare to ballet for dancers, it’s the basic training that keeps you sharp.
Hobbies, interests outside of art? Knitting! I love knitting. I’m making a sweater, and a hat. And also spinning yarn, which is a very meditative activity.


Your donations support the programs that are at the heart of the FOTM’s mission…

 to document and archive extraordinary artists and their work through photographic portraits, audio and video interviews and biographical research that encompass each artist’s experiences, artistic reflections and development; and to present this work to a broad public through extensive education outreach to all ages – including at-risk youth through our Learning to See Youth Outreach program, Art & The Creative Spirit Enrichment Program for Seniors, a public monthly Artist Spotlight Series, exhibitions, publications, website and an extensive resource library.


Ventura County Community Foundation
Hilton Foundation
Passion Flowers
Reed Foundation for the Arts
Museum of Ventura County
Dennis Mitchell at i Cappelli Salon
Ventura Breeze
California Arts Council