Detail from
Detail from "Angel of Sunlight"

Contemporary Figurative Art Oil Paintings > “Taha Clayton is a multi-talented artist with a multi-faceted background,” said Allison Malafronte (“3 to Watch,” Fine Art Connoisseur). “Born in Houston, raised in Toronto, and currently living in Brooklyn, he is a portraitist who previously worked as a carpenter, scenic painter, and set designer for films, photo shoots, and high-end events. Today all of these influences and areas of expertise flow through Clayton’s fine art, helping him approach each new work as a storyteller, as a designer, and as a director.”

Oil painting of a person wearing colorful fabric
Taha Clayton, “Angel of Sunlight,” oil on panel, 48 x 72 in.

Contemporary Artist Spotlight


I draw my inspiration for my oil paintings from an energy or a power that is not afraid to stand alone but stands for the people. These figures embody dignity, culture, and beauty. Many of my subjects are discovered through my travels and I’m blessed to be able to highlight a moment in our passing.

These four paintings are great examples to show my love for fabric and bringing clothing to life. I feel my subjects are all artists in their own right, and all of these paintings have a strong fabric presence that allow the viewer a look into the model’s personality.

Oil painting of a person wearing colorful fabric
Taha Clayton, “Ubiquity,” oil on panel, 48 x 72 in.

My Oil Paintings, My Process

When I approach a painting, I try to gauge what areas will be difficult or time-consuming, and what areas I have the most confidence in executing or the most enjoyable. I start by blocking in the painting just to give some overall tone. Then I spend the majority of my time on the most difficult or time-consuming part, the part people will usually avoid until the end.

Because I personally strive for higher detail in my paintings, I find that it is easy to lose momentum and sacrifice detail when reaching the end of a painting. I start a painting with a surge of enthusiasm and as I progress, I lose steam. This is when I start to paint what I’m more comfortable with and it gives me a good second wind that builds back momentum.

I photograph all my reference images and paint the majority of my work on wood panels that I build myself. I am starting to get back to painting on linen and canvas due to the inability to create oil paintings larger than 4’x8’. This will allow me to create larger compositions, which is definitely something I would love to pursue.

Oil painting of a person wearing head scarf
Taha Clayton, “Mama Nairobi,” oil on panel, 30 x 30 in.
Colorful oil painting of a person
Taha Clayton, “Soular Power,” oil on panel, 48 x 52 in.

Connect with Taha Clayton: @tahaclayton

This article is sponsored by the art video workshop, “Chantel Barber: Painting from Photos


How to paint from photos