Simplifying the Edges –

Screen Shot 2018-06-23 at 9.06.56 PM

Good morning.  Today I’m talking about a painting I had at the Flower Pepper Gallery’s Summer Show.  This is a still life of orchid leaves inside a copper pot with an orange.  In the setup, there was also a pear, but I knew I wouldn’t finish the pear if I added it – and the composition made it look very odd, too close to the edge of the panel, so I made the decision to leave it out.

Screen Shot 2018-07-02 at 10.43.45 AM

Composition: When I’m coming up with an idea of how I want my painting to look, I often take a photo, and crop that photo to the size of my canvas on my phone.  This way – I can see different placements of my objects and how they would affect the viewers eye.  I also use the View Finder (the small gray square with retractable window) for finding composition, but in this case I did it on my phone.  Since I had trouble with the pear, I left it out entirely.

Painting: You can see here that I have in more or less simplified ALL areas of my colours that will be taking up the whole painting.  This is only about 30-40 minutes in.  A huge advantage of this is that if I don’t want to get too detailed, I can simply leave it as is, and its a more abstract painting.  If I don’t “finish” I won’t have something that looks clearly unfinished, I’ll have a fully realized painting, just some areas will be more abstract than others.

Screen Shot 2018-07-02 at 10.43.32 AM

Here I’ve started to add some details, particularly the large swathes of lights and shadows on the copper and leaves.  Pay attention to each object as it’s own object, so a full value range for the leaves, and also the object as it relates to other objects.  Some of the darkest areas on the painting ended up in the leaves, and the leaves and orange both have reflections on the copper pot.

Screen Shot 2018-06-23 at 9.06.56 PM

The finished painting.  As you can see I really enjoy painting copper and shiny objects.  It was a fun challenge to show the warm light and the two soft, cool, window lights that also affected the pot.  I loved doing the reflection of the orange, and pushing that dark shadow in the leaves that really made this pop.

Thank you for reading.


Drawings in Progress and Thoughts – Los Angeles Gallery of Art K.L. Britton


I am using a lot of the line I was thinking about – however it’s competing with my wanting to continue my old style with the soft shadows.  I am still working on it – but remember to think about where you’re going: Are you wanting to make this soft? Or dynamic?  Are you wanting to make her edges hard or soft?  What is the tone or mood?  Can you tell what it is supposed to be when you see it from afar?


Here is another one I’m working on.  I’ve started adding white chalk to this one to bring out the shape of her face as it turns toward the light on the side. I find many of my reference photos from the stock section of (of all places) deviantart.  There is a bunch of crap to wade through, but occasionally there are some awesome costumed or portrait references, and I’ve used many of them (with credit and sent the finals to the original model and photographer.)  As long as you’re careful to credit, it’s a great resource since there are so many visions on deviantart.  One of the underrated places to find inspiration 😀

I’m really liking the toned charcoal Strathmore 500 paper that I’m using on these, and will post them when they are finished.  I will do a proper review as well.


You can buy it here from Amazon

Thank you for reading.

Sean Cheetham Day Two – Portrait Painting Tips from K.L. Britton

32081574_10156489300037873_1218382874986676224_o (1)

The finished painting!


Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 2.33.40 PM

Here is step one.  Day two was almost completely painting, with Sean walking around to help individual students with their issues, instead of simply demonstrating.  This is great for most people, because it gets from general, to what am I doing right?  I know I wrote this about yesterday, but it was VERY tough for me to work from dark to light and paint as I put down, I usually block in my lights and darks and then work into them, so it was a struggle!

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 2.33.33 PM

Here is with the shadow side of the cheek, not even completed.  I probably could have ended up spending 10 hours on this, frankly, because it was such a challenge.

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 2.33.22 PM

One of the main takeaways I got from the workshop was to create huge piles of your lights, darks, and for each area.  I did a huge background tone, and worked all my paint into it.  I did a huge pile of shadow face, and I worked into it.  Awesomely, I could have worked even further into it after I was done, simply because I’d mixed so much.  Same goes with lights, and this was invaluable for me to learn.  I usually paint very thin and end up spending a lot of time re-mixing a colour instead of painting.

32081574_10156489300037873_1218382874986676224_o (1)

The finished product with some thumb shadow 😀  I am pleased.  It’s quite small, only 9×12, but it took the whole time to finish AND with a migraine the second day.


Here is my set up as I tried to see what issues I had.  There is Natalia Fabia’s setup next to mine.


Me and Natalia’s work in progress


My awesome new friend Marian made this gorgeous painting on the right in such a short amount of time!  It was a very large canvas and so exciting to see her progress as we went along.

I’m glad to answer any questions you might have about the workshop, feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

Sean Cheetham Painting Day One and Art Tips by K.L. Britton Art

Over Cinco de Mayo weekend, I had the pleasure of painting with Sean Cheetham at his workshop.  I knew I’d be integrating this information into my painting and drawing classes at Los Angeles Academy of Art, so I wrote down detailed notes and got as much feedback as possible.

I’m going to go ahead and present it photo by photo:

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 2.33.52 PM

This was the biggest struggle for me in this painting.  If you’ve seen my previous painting posts, you know that I block in large areas of mid-tone first, and then work in from there, on top of an under-drawing.  The way Sean showed his painting was with very little drawing, and absolutely no lay in.  He went straight for each shadow area and light area, starting with the darks so he could get that rich, gorgeous contrast he is known for.  Here you can also see that I had my panel toned for cool light – the warmth would show in the shadows and be covered in the lights.  Unfortunately the model was under a warm light, so I switched plans on day two.  The Edge Pro Gear was well loved and I’m sure a couple people bought it after seeing how convenient it was for me 🙂

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 2.33.59 PM

This was very challenging for me, particularly because Sean mixes his paints on his palette, and puts them straight on the panel as is.  I am used to working in the mixes on my panel – I can put straight cad red on the panel itself, and blend it with my huge areas of light and dark to get what I want.  In this case, I had to know what it would look like on the panel before even adding the brush stroke.  I was sweating!  More because it was 90 degrees, though.

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 2.34.23 PM

Here is a crop of my finished work.  One thing I started to look at more was also the brush strokes.  I really love the one light indicator under his chin, it is a confident, deliberate stroke that I planned in advance, instead of just painting it in.


Sean’s painting.


More on that.


We had amazing artists in the course, including Natalia Fabia, who just won an award at Portrait Society of America, and Jeffrey Watts, as well as Erik Gist and Ryan Heitman, all from Watts Atelier down south.


Here is a selection of Sean’s work.


I’m a fantasty and RPG addict, so of course I had a close up of this one.

That’s all you get for day one, but day two is coming next 😀

Thanks for reading.

“Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” said the Sloth part 2

Here is part two of my roses so far.

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 7.11.27 AM

In my next step, I’ve gone ahead and filled in some major shadow shapes.  Keep in mind that *white* roses (or cream here,) are very, very light.  Their darkest form shadows, which is the shadow on the rose itself caused by the light being turned around the rose, is never going to be as dark as the form shadow on the much, much darker stem or leaf.  Because white is inherently a higher value than rich greens, it is impossible to think that if an object is white and laying in the same light as the green, unless painting deliberately chiaroscuro, it will get as dark as the green will.

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 7.11.33 AM

This is what I’m working on now, starting to really start to detail out the flower itself.  Each rose takes almost as long as a small portrait to me, because of each shadow plane and light plane.  It’s very interesting work!  I love to think about the edges and how they might guide my viewers eye around the rose itself, keeping in mind how that rose’s light and dark will relate to the others.

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 7.11.42 AM

That’s all for now, until I paint some more on this!

Thanks for reading.

“Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” said the Sloth part 1

I’ve been working on a painting of roses for the past couple months.  I know that sounds long, but it was really just “one two hour session,” and now, one more “two hour session” so it’s really not that long.  Cleaning up afterward has taken longer than the actual painting.  Just kidding, kind of.

Here is a neat look at some of the process of painting traditional roses in oil paints.  I use Lukas 1862, Michael Harding (yes, I swing both ways ;)) and some Williamsburg and W&N thrown in there.  Sap green is what really made my florals go from “ok” to “ok!” since before the only green I had pre-mixed was vridian.  I have now come to the conclusion (subject to change!) that vridian is easier to mix from my basic paints, and since it’s very expensive, I doubt it will be showing up as often as it was before.  It is still fantastic for skin tones, though.

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 7.11.07 AM

Step 1 – I really had an idea of where to place these, and of course it’s simply based on how they were arranged on the table.  You can see me watching My Lottery Dream Home in the background.  I admit right now it’s my life goal to be on that show.

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 7.11.18 AM

In step two I get more detailed about what I want this to look like.  Which roses do I want to be brighter? Which ones do I want to be darker?  This helps divide the space between them, with the brighter and higher contrast roses making the viewer feel as if it’s closer to them, and the darker, shaded, less contrast and less detailed making the viewer feel as if the rose is toward the back.

Rembrandt painting tip: Only one area on your canvas should be hit with the brightest highlight.  Since there will only be one plane closest to the light itself.  Not that I’m Rembrandt, but I try to keep this in mind.

That’s all for part one.  Tune in next time for part two!  Thanks for reading.

The Portrait Part II – Portrait Painting Tips by K.L. Britton Los Angeles

How to Paint Skin Tones by K.L. Britton Art Los Angeles Oil Painter

This is still what I’ve been working on in the last week.  You can see here if you go back a couple posts, the problems I encountered are still giving me issues, however you can see here I’ve started to go into the details.  Go back one post to see my method: Large, abstract shapes in generally the right places, followed by getting more and more detailed.

Another thing you might notice is my limited palette.  I have a deep and resounding love for colour.  If you take a look at my paintings, there are hidden punches of out-of-the-tube colour everywhere.  Color is such a deep passion that I end up wanting to put all the colours in my painting.  This means that even if a colour doesn’t necessarily go with the others, it would still show up, completely negating any colour harmony I might have been trying for.

In this case, and for almost all portraits, I use a really simple palette for skin tones in oil paint.  Here I’ll lay it out with simple descriptions of each colour and how I use it on my paintings:

Titanium White – This goes with everything for anything midtone or lighter, and sometimes even darker.  A reminder: It will cool down any colour you mix it with!

Burnt Sienna- My favorite warm shadow tone.  I use it straight out of the bottle where the shadow starts, and I mix it with Ultramarine Blue to get a rich, beautiful black.  I also mix it with Ultramarine Blue for the wash under my painting.

Ultramarine Blue – I use the Williamsburg tube, which is extremely dense in pigment.  I use much, much less of it because it is so vivid.  Keep in mind this will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.  This tube from Williamsburg has lasted triple as long as the old Lukas one I used to use.

Ivory Black – I use this as little as possible, as I prefer to mix my own black, however, it is good for cool, local colour blacks.  Add burnt sienna for shadows, you may not be able to perceive the difference on your palette but people will notice on your painting.

Alizarin Crimson – a non-opaque paint I use to add reds to colours that are in “cool” zones.  I.E. Cool lit cheeks, or cool shadow cheeks.  It is a cool red, very beautiful.  Also great for ears and inner eyes.

Cad Yellow – Hardly ever gets used actually.  Great for outdoors and still life, though.

Cad Orange – I also use this more in outdoor and still life, however I will put a “shot” of it in those rich areas where the core shadow is.

Vridian – a cool, lovely green that really goes well in skin tones.  You could use just white, burnt sienna, and a bit of green and you would have a lovely base tone.

Burnt Umber – This one I also use sparingly, it tends to go in the shadows, but I normally paint my models under very cool lighting and so I need warmer shadows.  It’s great for underpaintings and for underpaintings of still lives in particular, as it’s very neutral but can be driven into quite a dark value, unlike the lighter burnt sienna.  Also great for shadows on warmer lit subjects.

That’s an overview of my skin tones in oil paint.  Let me know if you have any questions and thanks for reading!


Process Part One – Painting the Portrait by K.L. Britton Los Angeles Artist

These past two days I’ve been working on a more detailed portrait, so I thought it would be fun to document the process to some extent.  I know I’ve previously written about the drawing I did to prepare for this, and watch as all of my predictions come true (the same problems I had with the drawing, I have with the painting!)

How to Paint Skintones by K.L. Britton Los Angeles artist and teacher

I do an under-drawing first.  You can find several examples of under-drawings farther back in my blog. Then in this case, I wanted to start with huge areas of wet paint to work into.  In this picture, I’ve blocked in only my light areas.

How to Paint Skintones by K.L. Britton Los Angeles artist and teacher

With the shadows blocked in.  Notice that in the first picture, my model looks like he has quite a warm skin tone, but as I add the warm shadows, you can see that the skin is actually on the gray side.

How to Paint Skintones by K.L. Britton Los Angeles artist and teacher

Adding more depth here.  One trouble I run into is that when I do the cool lighting, the shadows should be generally “warm.”  However, often my warmer tones don’t get quite dark enough to really show my form.  Here I’ve utilized mixing my favorite warm shadow colour, burnt sienna, with ivory black, which is a cool black often used to mix blues.  The burnt sienna disappears into the black, however the eye can tell that it’s there and it’s correct.

How to Paint Skintones by K.L. Britton Los Angeles artist and teacher

Last night I started working more closely on the features, starting in with a smaller paintbrush than one I used for my large block ins.  Buy some large paintbrushes for your big areas and use them as long as you can – this helps you get that initial paint on the canvas that you can then paint the details into, and it also helps you break each shape down into the largest, most simple form you can.  Take a look at the eyes I blocked in at the top – those are most definitely not detailed!  However, as I work on this tonight and tomorrow, you will see the progress quite easily and you will see where I add details later.

In this final picture you can see that I moved the neck in a bit too far – this was a problem I also had with the drawing!  Most of the other parts of this painting are correct more or less, because the width of the face was addressed in my drawing and I went out of my way to make sure it was correct on my canvas before putting it down – but apparently I got carried away around the neck.  Take the time to put in your shapes correctly – it’s worth it!

Part two coming soon!


Open Studio at Situ Art Academy – AllaPrima Portrait by K.L. Britton Los Angeles

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.24.29 AM

On Sunday I began taking a class at Situ Art Academy in Covina.  It’s only a 30 minute drive to and from DTLA / Koreatown where I live, and it’s well worth it.  Before the class is an open studio, every Sunday from 2pm-5pm with a costumed model.  I brought my Edge Pro Gear Sketchbook, however it was a bit small for my efforts.  I painted on a 9x 12 panel, and couldn’t get my paint piles large enough to do enough mixing, so it came out quite dry.  This would be solved with a larger palette.  That’s a great excuse to get the larger setup for myself for Christmas 😉

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.24.11 AM

In all of my paintings, I like to block in an idea of where the final product will end up, so I can understand the composition.  This one is not what I’m used to, I like lower left to upper right compositions, but with the lighting and hair, I had to do the opposite.

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.24.21 AM

You can see the struggle here!  I’m trying to paint the face, then the hair, then the collar, and I’m trying to keep them to compare them, but it’s not possible to get much bigger piles on this little baby.  Still the best for anything under 8″ though!  I will try a smaller panel next time (or plop my larger palette on top :D) The open studio was great, there are a ton of master artists painting there, and I always enjoy seeing each person with their own view and depiction of a similar subject.  There was such variety and I was lucky enough to sit behind two extremely creative guys who painted beautiful and exotic depictions of our gorgeous model.  Looking forward to next week at Situ Art Academy!

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.24.29 AM

Thanks for reading!

The Lake – Daily Art Tips by K.L. Britton Los Angeles Artist

This weekend was a busy one.  I wanted to get some good outdoor painting in, that’s somewhere you can really learn about the properties of light.  When the sun is rising and setting, it gives a warm, yellow glow.  When this happens, the shadows become much, much cooler.  Think of the way the sunset is – you can see the clouds closest to the setting sun are still lit by it, a bright yellow, and that contrast with the greys, purples, and blues of the shadows of the cloud (as well as any pink turns and highlights) are what give that striking feeling to the sun.

As the day goes on, the sun gets a little less bright yellow/orange.  It’s still a warm light, all sunlight is, but it changes hue during the day.  This is a very great time to work outdoors, during the day when the light is more steady, to get practice painting cool shadows.  Objects and items are almost perfectly their local colour at these times.  All you have to do is cool down the shadows by adding some ultramarine. 😀

If you’ve ever tried to capture a photo of the sunset, you know it’s not the same.  It’s always too light, too dark, too over or undersaturated.  Only when you’re painting outdoors can you really capture those light patterns and the patterns of other natural lighting.

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.24.56 AM

You can see here how warm the sun is in the beautiful gardens.

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.24.45 AM

But here you can see, the local colour of the fixture was “grey.”  Instead of making a “warm” grey, I made a cool shadow colour, giving the indication of a warm light by being a relatively cool shadow colour.

In painting relativity is everything.  It’s ok to use a cool colour in a warm light, but make sure your shadow areas are even cooler than that, so the eye will perceive the light areas as “warmer.”  If you think about this in the case of mixing skin tones – you can start with almost any tone that’s the same value as your subject – because your relative and surrounding colours can make it loook relatively cooler, warmer, brighter, etc.  I have done skin tones with white and a touch of cadmium red or alizarin crimson.  I’ve also done just white with orange – as long as the shadows were warmer or cooler based on the light, it came out like skin.

Thank you for reading!