About Us

“What makes our art classes different? The students who take them.”

Do you have a five year old that draws for hours on end, a ten year old that has plastered the walls with paintings of horses 100 different hues, perhaps a teen that seems to do nothing else but draw Manga? Children love art but some may find it frustrating when they get it or do it “just” right. Many tweens and teens moan they don’t like to paint. One reason could be after they spent hours on a great pencil drawing, they then tried to add color smearing the pencil lines ruining their hard work.

Master Artist Thomas Cleveland, like many creative children, struggled to overcome many such creative obstacles. Perfectionism, paintings left unfinished to pursue the “next big idea”, feeling unsure of his abilities, fear of failure when considered talented, all can stifle one’s desire attempt creating art. Thomas eventually found ways to overcome or manage most of these. in 2004, he founded the Artist Within Studio School located in Cypress to help others avoid these pitfalls while taking ownership of their fledgling talent. In 2016, the school expanded with a sister location, The Houston School of Art & Design, in the Spring Branch area of Houston. 

Students receive personal instruction and step-by-step demonstrations of professional drawing and painting techniques, from practicing professional artists, presented in easy to understand analogies and everyday language that takes the anxiety out of trying new art techniques and mediums. Allowing them to relax while taking their artwork to a level they may not have thought possible.

Our Aspiring Artists classes inspire, educate and encourage students in a nurturing, motivating and judgment free environment. Thomas believes allowing one self to be a perfectly flawed perfectionist, is key to enjoying the creative process and the results.

Meet our Instructors

Amber Cleveland, Director, Artist, Instructor 
The eldest daughter of master artist Thomas Cleveland, Amber was born into art with both parents in the graphic design industry. In the late 1990’s, while her father was the lead instructor of the children’s program at the Houston School of Art & Design (HSAD), Amber spent every summer and weekend at the school working with a variety of artistic mentors that helped mold her creative mind. Her mentors included Charlie Brown, the original founder of HSAD, who gave her the opportunity to work as the administrative assistant starting at a young age. After Charlie’s passing, she took the opportunity offered to her family to share their wealth of artistic knowledge with a larger audience of students. In addition to the Artist Within Cypress School of Art they took on the new location and continued the dream Charlie had envisioned and adapted it with the methods her father Thomas had taught her over the years of working at both locations. With a degree in Biology she sometimes calls on her logical mindset to teach but her true calling is to inspire and support artists of all ages through the school and by visiting senior and church communities all over the Houston area.

Her students have won awards in the Houston Art Society and Lone Star Art Guild art shows. She has worked with many talented teens pursuing a career in art to help build up a solid portfolio by pushing them to enter shows and other art opportunities that can help add credibility to their creative style. She is more than just an art instructor she inspires creativity to come to its full potential.

She is an active board member of the Houston Art Society and member of Houston Art Connect which promotes the arts for HISD.

Check out Amber’s interview article (her artwork is displayed on the cover as well): Memorial Lifestyle Magazine – February 2020

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Chu Okoli, Artist, Instructor – Houston School of Art & Design
Chu Okoli is a passionately-driven, award-winning Artist and Art Instructor; classically trained in the fundamentals of drawing as a backbone of all visual arts. He utilizes his vast experience in drawing to guide students through the principles and elements of art in a way that makes a lasting impression and helps to unlock their individual talents. He has created a method and approach to art instruction that’s guaranteed to improve the skills of students of all artistic levels. He enjoys helping each student uncover their hidden skills and improve their abilities through perception and spatial cognition. In doing so, this accelerates their confidence and the results often speak for themself.In his 15 years of teaching, he has guided hundreds of students (children and adults alike) to higher levels of expression by focusing on each individual student’s strengths by using the fundamentals to accelerate what they are best at to find their own signature and style.

Let the students speak for themselves though as he has worked with a promising 9 yr old throughout the years who is now a gifted 19 year old with full scholarship at SCAD, one of the top 3 Art Schools in the country.

He is also currently working with a 90 yr old retired Opthalmologist who has never drawn a day in his life, but is now creating masterful works of art since the last three years that he started working with Chu. There are so many other stories that abound in his commitment to students over the years these are just a few of the youngest and oldest artists to give you an idea that it is never too early or too late to start your path to a more creative future.

Chu has worked with the Houston School of Art & Design from 2002 to 2015 and recently returned to us in 2019 as an instructor between his many art shows that require traveling, so take advantage of the time he has dedicated with the school and schedule a class with him today!

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Rachel Parks, Artist, Instructor – Artist Within
Rachel has her Bachelor of Arts with a minor in Art History from The University of Houston. She began lessons with The Artist Within when she was 16 years old and was soon hired as an instructor. She has worked for The Artist Within for over 15 years. She also attended lessons at Houston School of Art and Design, working with various artist mentors to learn different styles of teaching. She does commission pieces, as well as teaches private lessons. Her medium of choice is colored pencil, but is also talented in acrylic, watercolor, pastel, and graphite as well.

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Lucy Nguyen Holgado, Artist, Instructor – Houston School of Art & Design
Lucy graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Arts in Art Studio and a minor in Teaching Education. She loves creating visual art that embodies realism, expressionism, and impressionism. She works with drawing, painting, photography, and digital art. Lucy’s goal is to learn and appreciate the philosophy of art education. She enjoys building relationships with children while teaching. Lucy is one of the most beloved teachers at our school. Not only does she teach students about the art world, but she also educates herself along the way. As a novice art teacher, teaching about the art world involves appreciating the dedication and effort every artist puts into sharing their stories with the community.
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Beatriz Fuentes, Artist, Instructor – Houston School of Art & Design
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Kathryne Brayton Lieser, Artist, Instructor – Houston School of Art & Design
Born in New Jersey, Lieser embarked on her artistic journey at the tender age of four. Demonstrating remarkable talent, she received her first commission at 14, producing two large acrylic paintings of tigers for a designer. Lieser pursued her academic interests, obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Marketing with a minor in art from Seton Hall University in 1979. Following her graduation, she served in the US Navy, utilizing her artistic abilities to craft murals for training school walls and design menus for Naval restaurants in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Guam. After eight years of dedicated service, Lieser returned to Houston to further cultivate her artistic pursuits. Establishing herself within the artistic community, she participated in various esteemed events such as The Island Market in Galveston, Texas, the First Saturday Art Market in the Houston Heights district, and the Art Market at Sawyer Yards, among numerous other outdoor exhibitions. Today, she is a respected artist represented by the Art Machine Gallery in the Silos at Sawyer Yards. Alongside her artistic endeavors, Lieser generously gives back to the community by donating pieces to various nonprofit organizations and finds fulfillment in educating aspiring artists at two esteemed art schools.
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Houston School of Art & Design

1450 W Sam Houston Pkwy N #110                              Houston, TX 77043

(713) 464-2787

Artist Within School of Art

12639 Kluge Rd.
Cypress, TX 77429

(713) 464-2787

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© 2021 Houston School of Art & Design