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Quick Look: Download my new free book, "Advice on Painting from
John Singer Sargent"

This forty-six page digital PDF file is suitable for viewing on your computer or tablet. It contain two authenticated accounts of Sargent's teaching and painting methods, illustrated with full color paintings and annotation by Thomas Jefferson Kitts – Free and available to share with your friends!

May 15, 2015

How to Keep Your Oil Painting Brushes Clean...

Hey all, here is a quick studio trick for all the oil painters!

Why? Because I am lazy...




Would you like to improve your outdoor painting skills in Italy this next September? If so, click here to learn about my annual Plein air Tuscany! workshop. It is a fantastic experience and garners rave reviews! 

If you want even more info send me an email asking for a FAQ Sheet. It will detail where we will stay, what we will do, what we will learn, and of course, what it will cost. But wow, the US dollar is strong against the Euro right now so there may never be a better year to go than in 2015. Registration is open and folks ARE signing up!...

May 14, 2015

On Writing and Painting...

If you have ever met me in person then you know I am all about the cross-disciplinary approach to making art. Filmmaking, photography and design can inform the painter, as well as music, theater, and dance, plus the sciences, mathematics, and philosophy – and even individual or team sports, to mention a few.

And then there is writing. Both fiction and non-fiction. In the end it all comes down to creating interesting associations within the mind of your audience, and maintaining a semblance of clarity as you do so.

In that spirit here is some terrific advice on writing from William Zinsser's book, "On Writing Well." 

Wait...okay, so what does this have to do with painting? Well, if you simply substitute the word painting for the word writing, and are willing to make a few other metaphorical leaps from the pen to the brush, then what Zinsser has to say turns into sound advice for the young artist as well. 

Because when teaching writing, Zinsser valued simplicity, efficiency, and enthusiasm. All of which are essential to the painter as well. Here is his checklist:
1. Don’t make lazy word choices: “You’ll never make your mark as a writer unless you develop a respect for words and a curiosity about their shades of meaning that is almost obsessive. The English language is rich in strong and supple words. Take the time to root around and find the ones you want.” 
2. On the other hand, avoid jargon and big words: “Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other. It’s impossible for a muddy thinker to write good English.” 
3. Writing is hard work: “A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.” 
4. Write in the first person: “Writing is an intimate transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity.” 
5. And the more you keep in first person and true to yourself, the sooner you will find your style: “Sell yourself, and your subject will exert its own appeal. Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.” 
6. Don’t ask who your audience is…you are the audience: “You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.” 
7. Study the masters but also your contemporaries: “Writing is learned by imitation. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.” 
8. Yes, the thesaurus is your friend: “The Thesaurus is to the writer what a rhyming dictionary is to the songwriter–a reminder of all the choices–and you should use it with gratitude. If, having found the scalawag and the scapegrace, you want to know how they differ, then go to the dictionary.” 
9. Read everything you write out loud for rhythm and sound: “Good writers of prose must be part poet, always listening to what they write.” 
10. And don’t ever believe you are going to write anything definitive: “Decide what corner of your subject you’re going to bite off, and be content to cover it well and stop.”

In my mind, after reading this it would be a mistake to think one artistic pursuit is inherently more unique than any other.

May 12, 2015

Announcing Three Portland-Area Plein Air Scholarships for the Young Artist!...

These merit-based scholarships will be offered to young developing artists in conjuction with Thomas’ 2015 Essential Plein Air Techniques Workshop. 

The scholarships are open to anyone age 18 to 26.

The outdoor instruction will be offered August 14 - 16, 2015 in the Portland, Oregon area.

Tuition for this workshop will be funded 100% by a generous anonymous donor. Instruction will be presented outdoors in a small mixed-age group and focus on the technical and artistic requirements needed to paint the landscape from life. What will be taught will also apply to other painting genres and working in the studio as well.

How to apply...
Application requirements: (Please read carefully...)
1. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 26 years of age. Proof of age will be required after portfolio review, before final acceptance. 
2. Applicants must show a strong desire to paint directly from life, as well a strong interest in painting the Pacific Northwest landscape. Applicants do not need to have previous experience painting en plein air (outdoors on location), but they must demonstrate a high level of interest in doing so. 
3. Some experience with oil painting is recommended, but is not required. Applicants must provide 6 examples of recent work; 3 paintings and 3 drawings, executed from life without the aid of any mechanical device or photograph. Size of the work submitted does not matter. Subject matter does not need to be limited to landscape, but all portfolios will be evaluated for the applicant’s understanding of color, form, and drawing level. Remember, this is a merit scholarship. 
4. Applicants must live in the Portland, Oregon / Vancouver, Washington area. They be able to provide their own transportation to all painting locations during the workshop. 
5. Applicants, if accepted, must agree to attend all three days of the workshop. If necessary, field easels will be provided during the workshop. Also, if needed, a second scholarship may be provided for materials used during the workshop.

Portfolio Submissions are being accepted now:
To submit a portfolio for consideration:
Please email 3 paintings and 3 drawings from life, with titles, sizes, and painting media,  in the form of a jpeg to:

Submission Deadline and Notification Date: 
Portfolio submissions will be accepted until midnight, July 1st, 2015.  
Notification of acceptance will be announced July 10th, 2015.

I hope some of you young painters out there in the Portland / Vancouver area will participate!

Thomas Jefferson Kitts


About Thomas: Thomas is a Signature Member of the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painters Association, a member of the California Art Club, the Oil Painters of America, and the American Impressionist Society. He has taught at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, now teaches small private groups, and is a repeat lecturer at the Plein Air Convention & Expo. He regularly writes articles or appears in artist publications  such as PleinAir Magazine, OutdoorPainter.com, and PleinAir Today. Thomas travels extensively to paint and maintains an active and distinguished exhibition history. His work is widely collected throughout North America.

May 4, 2015

2015 Essential Plein Air Techniques Workshop: The PDX Edition

(above: "Steelman Lake", on Sauvie Island, 20 minutes from downtown Portland)

When: August, 14th - 16th, 2015
Where: In and around the greater Portland, Oregon area
Tuition: $350.00

Registration is now open!
Email thomas@thomaskitts.com to request a registration form.

I am pleased to announce yet another plein air workshop this summer, only this time in my very own backyard... 

It is always nice to travel to exotic places and paint, but sometimes it is even nicer to paint an area you know intimately. Of course, this August, folks from out of town are welcome to come join the locals too – and if any of you do we'll make you a (temporary) honorary Oregonian during your stay. (ha!) So don't feel shy about coming if you want to experience an awesome long-weekend of painting, and an opportunity to see what Portlandia is all about. Just let me know and we will be happy to issue you a visa. Heck, we will even put a bird on it... (ha, again!)

About this workshop: This class is for anyone who is interested in learning to paint en plein air using an alla prima oil painting technique. It is specifically designed for the novice-to-intermediate artist. Some experience with painting will be helpful but is not required. If you have experience using another media your skills should transfer to this class.
Your instruction will focus on how to paint en plein air under natural light, in the field. By the end of this week you will understand how to resolve many of the issues that confront the outdoor painter. Thomas’ instructional style is both fun and informative and he is respectful of everyone's level. Each day he will present a series of brief talks, demos and plenty of one-on-one instruction tailored to your personal ability. This will be a fun and enjoyable experience that will carry you forward many years.

During this workshop you will also learn additional tips and tricks that help in the studio.

Here are a few of the topics we will cover during out three days together:

1. How to recognize and mix naturalistic color. Then if desired, how to expressively accentuate it...

2. How to use the Hue/Value/Chroma system to mix you color rapidly...

3. How to simplify and separate the values you see into dynamic groups of light and shadow...

4. How to become faster and more decisive...

5. How to become selective about detail...

6. How to use lost and found edges to lead the eye...

7. How to develop your own individual brushwork...

8. How to start (and yes, end!) a painting...

9. How to use of both thin and thick paint to your advantage...

10. How to apply impasto brushwork...

And much, much, more!…

We will also discuss concerns often overlooked by even the most experienced pros
— such as how to paint in an archival manner, basic material science, and what everyone should know about health and safety.

Once you register you will receive a materials and recommended reading list. You may be surprised at how little equipment is required, and what you can do with it!

To learn more about my previous Portland plein air workshops – or to read a few testimonials from previous students, visit: http://tinyurl.com/PDXpleinair and scroll to the bottom.

So join me this August to work on your plein air skills! Enjoy yourself and make new painting friends, or meet up with some old ones. You can expect this workshop to boost your confidence and ability to paint anywhere, anytime – indoors or out

For more information or to register, email me at pleinairPDX@thomaskitts.com

May 2, 2015

The Early Bird Discount for Plein Air Tuscany Ends May 31st...

Hey all, here is a quick reminder letting you know the early bird discount for my 2015 Plein Air Tuscany workshop ends May 31st...

If you have been thinking about going (and I hope some of your are) you can save 10% on your painting instruction, lodging, and meals if you register before then.

On top of the 10% savings offered for this workshop, the Euro has declined significantly against the Dollar, which makes it the least expensive time to tour around in Europe in years. So it is definitely a good time to go. Bring your spouse or partner and we will keep them busy. There have many things for them to do as you paint.

We have just a few spots left. So if you are interested please know soon by email and I will send you detailed information about this exciting trip.

Email Thomas



Apr 27, 2015

The Eye vs the Camera...

It's not exactly a Smack-Down between the two, but interesting none-the-less...

Facebookers, if you can't see this video click here...


Would you like to improve your outdoor painting skills in Italy this next September? If so, click here to learn about my annual Plein air Tuscany! workshop. It is a fantastic experience and garners rave reviews! 

If you want even more info send me an email asking for a FAQ Sheet. It will detail where we will stay, what we will do, what we will learn, and of course, what it will cost. But wow, the US dollar is strong against the Euro right now so there may never be a better year to go than in 2015. Registration is open and folks ARE signing up!...

Apr 20, 2015

The 2015 Plein Air Convention & Expo...

Well, that was fun. 

Last week consisted of a flashmob of around eight hundred plein air painters – accompanied by a host of seasoned pros, supported by a professional staff intent upon keeping things moving along, and lots of energy in the lecture rooms and out in the field. 

Last week was the 4th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE), in Monterey, California, and from my perspective, it was the best one yet. Every year the organizers work hard to raise the bar based upon the feedback they get from the previous year. In fact, the only complaint I heard this year came from a participant who said, "Geez, there are just too many things on the schedule to get to them all!" – which is a nice problem to have. And really, the person who shared that didn't seem all that upset.

As expected, there were a lot of first-timers and newbies in the crowd, ranging from those who had never picked up a brush before to those who had some experience painting outside but were struggling. There were also a lot of intermediate to experienced painters as well. Yet the show agenda was designed to serve all levels and by and large everyone's expectations were met. Maybe one or two people went home unhappy, but if so – well, you can lay the banquet but you can't make everyone eat. 

The demos were well-presented, the talks engaging, most medias were covered, and afterhours fraternizing was encouraged. It was an open, inclusive, and informative event for all.

If I were to try and convey the spirit of this year's convention I'd liken it to the medieval tradition of Kermes, a yearly ritual where everybody in the village gathers together from the King on down to celebrate the advent of Spring. (Oh, Spring, the annual rebirth of the world and what every outdoor painter eagerly anticipates, yes? Especially those of us up north this year!...) A festival time when the planting was celebrated, barriers came down, and people would feast and dance late into the dark. A sort of ancient let's all get down and boogie. Where else will you see the superstars and unknowns of an artistic genre hang out until the wee hours of dawn to talk and laugh together? And then get up to do it again the next day?

There were a few bumps and hiccups, of course. But nothing worth mentioning beyond that. Nothing you shouldn't expect or even embrace during such a large and free-wheeling event as PACE. If you knock off all the corners you are likely to end up with too much polish...

Sure, the cost of admission is high, and perhaps that makes the event a no-go for some folks. Every year there is a call for an alla carte format but I can't see how offering the experience in bits and pieces could work logistically. PACE is an all-in sort of event and frankly, therein lies most of its charm. PACE sets out a giant smörgåsbord of art so if the only thing you want to eat are chicken wings and pizza-by-the-slice then perhaps you shouldn't go. But if you are the kind of person who noshes widely, or someone hoping to take a series of workshops from different master painters over the next few years, then attending a PACE permits you to meet and evaluate many of the best instructors in the business – in one week, in one place – for about what you'd pay for a single workshop. Plus, you can evaluate a potential teacher's interpersonal and communication skills face-to-face, which can be invaluable before you plunk your money down.

The plein air world has always leaned towards inclusion. Because at its core it is a democratic genre. It is also, in other ways, a self-policing meritocracy, and it attracts like-minded people who enjoy painting outdoors together. Not every plein air painter wants to buddy-up, of course, but the general principles of the genre encourage camaraderie and fellowship and the submission of your ego to a thing larger than yourself. So conceit is harder to find in the plein air world and that fact showed at PACE. You could talk to anyone.

After all, where else can you paint next to an artist you've venerated for years only to crash and burn your painting? And then turn to to your left to see they have crash and burned theirs too? (Oh, that 50 mph wind at Asilomar...ha!) 

Where else can you go to meet other members of your tribe? Where else can you be called an 'art-dork' have it feel like a compliment? (I'm looking at you, S...ha!) Where else can you go to meet people from all over the world, make new friends, and create opportunities to paint in places you've never been?

Next year, PACE will be held in Tucson, Arizona. After three years in Monterey, California, the Southwest is the next venue. So get ready to go. There may be some picante twists added into the mix for 2016 but you can expect it will still be a moveable feast...


Would you like to improve your outdoor painting skills in Italy this September? If so, click here to learn about my Plein air Tuscany! workshop.

Or send me an email and request a FAQ Sheet and Trip Itinerary. They will detail where we will stay, what we will do, what we will learn, and of course, what it costs. But wow, the US dollar is now stronger than the Euro so there may never be a better time to go than in 2015. 

Registration is open and folks are signing up!... (Now just six spots left.)