Ocoee High student pushing boundaries and educating community through art

Branton Urbieta's most recent notable accomplishment hangs on the wall of Winter Garden City Hall as part of SOBO Art Gallery’s Top Choice High School Awards.

Photo by Annabelle Sikes
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Ocoee High School student Branton Urbieta, 17, is pushing boundaries and educating the community on the importance of art with his creations. 

His most recent notable accomplishment hangs on the wall of Winter Garden City Hall as part of SOBO Art Gallery’s Top Choice High School Awards. 

His oil pastel piece, “Garcon! More Wine!” won Best in Show and is priced at $800.

Branton said he is the biggest proof of the adage, “Fake it till you make it.”

“If you can picture yourself in a situation that is completely different from what you’re in, it’s not far from impossible,” he said. “You can definitely achieve something if you really want to do it. I feel like nothing is stopping you from framing that drawing and submitting it to the next call for artists. If you get submitted, you get submitted. If you don’t, then try again. You 100% will not get in if you don’t submit. You miss all the shots you don’t take. You do not know what you’re good at or what you’re capable of unless you try. You have to believe in yourself and take the risk to put yourself out there.”


Branton started to develop his passion for art when he was only 8 years old. 

His journey started with a teacher who believed in his abilities and submitted his art into a young artist competition at the Orlando Museum of Art.

“Once I saw it hanging there and people were appreciating it, that’s when it became more of a, ‘Wow, I can do this,’ instead of, ‘I just paint and it looks good and my friends think it’s cool,’” he said. “My teacher put a price on it at $120, and when I was a kid, that was a lot.”

Branton took a break from art for a few years to focus on his other activities, such as playing varsity lacrosse at his school and playing violin, which he has done since he was in first grade.

However, art was something that always remained throughout the twists and turns of life. 

“I’ve always had a lot of hobbies and I’ve always done art, but it’s always been more of a secretive type of thing — where it’s always like I make the drawing, and then I close the book and then shove it away,” he said. “I guess what really kept me going is just wanting to improve and improve. Just the obsession with wanting to get better.”

In 2021, Branton took a trip to New York City during the pandemic. He said his passion reignited after he saw the way art helped the city come alive.

In November 2022, Branton took a risk and submitted a piece to the CityArts gallery in downtown Orlando. It was his first show submission since the OMA. His work was selected and featured at the event. 

Branton’s art also has been in shows such as the Avalon Park Arts and Culture Center’s Art in Bloom exhibit and SOBO’s Art in Motion.

For his recently earned Top Choice Award, Branton was selected from more than 175 submissions.

Branton’s specialty is 2D mixed media art, such as painting on paper or canvas with different media such as paint, oil pastels and charcoal. His preferred style generally encompasses abstract realism. 

“I like to make sure I’m using the elements properly while also breaking the rules a little bit — where I can use them just because they look good (and) not because it’s so technical,” he said. “I still like to use what I developed with the realism portraiture, but also I like to use compositions and colors; drawing inspiration from colors I see in nature together and then putting them down in an abstract way where it already feels familiar for the people.”

Branton’s interest in abstract realism stems from his enjoyment of pushing art’s boundaries.

“When I was a kid, I was very much a perfectionist, and I was always very judgmental of myself — but more in a constructive criticism type of way,” he said. “I always stuck to the rules. If something didn’t look good, I would throw it away. Now that I’m developing this style … it’s just about breaking boundaries — pushing what I taught myself and just having fun with it now that I’m more expressive, open and social. The changes in my life kind of translated into my art, where I just do whatever looks good. I always say, ‘Why not?’ If it works, it works.”

Throughout the past few years, Branton has been working on progressing his anatomical work.

Although he practiced realism frequently as a child, he never worked on people or portraits. However, more recently, he has developed his portraiture and his techniques of old master drawings such as cross hatching. 

He said he has been pushing himself to incorporate different themes into his art.

“A lot of times, it’s very intuitive, so I begin a piece, and I just keep going and going until I pretty much get tired of painting it or I think it’s perfect the way it is,” Branton said. “I think more of trying to stick to something and pushing the theme into a piece instead of just going ham on it.”

Branton is completely self-taught, besides school art electives he has taken and watching YouTube tutorials. He has began attending the Technique Tuesday events at SOBO so he can learn more.


Branton is active in the local art community.

He teaches spring break and summer art lessons to children at SOBO and participates in weekend art activities at the Winter Garden Farmers Market.

He said there are a lot of children who have different aspects of what it takes to be great and passionate in art and they just don’t know what to do with it. 

“I was always also confused on what’s next for my art,” he said. “I like to give back to my community in any way possible. Teaching the kids is something that I really enjoy doing, because it’s almost like I’m pushing them in a direction so they can develop their own styles or find a place where they’re comfortable developing their talents. I don’t like saying you’re born with it, but you are born with the obsession to create and the passion to continue going and being obsessed with that.”

He said teaching is also something that gives back to him in a way where he can work on his social skills. 

“When I was a kid, I was very quiet and very in the corner, which is something we get a lot at the gallery with young artist submissions,” Branton said. “They’re typically the people who doodle in the corner of the room, but that was also me. I like to show people that they can also break free from that and they can show people it’s possible to be the art kid and also be the cool kid. You can do galleries and shows and it’s awesome. People recognize your hard work.”

Branton said he thinks art and community go hand in hand in terms of bringing people together. 

“It’s something where people come together to share an experience, and with art it’s something where people can have fun and let loose,” he said. “You almost forget about your life and get to escape from reality for a bit.”

His goal is to get into Art Basel in Miami and to have a painting in a store in downtown Winter Garden.

He hopes people feel an impact when they look at his art.

“One of my favorite things to do when I visit paintings in galleries or museums is to imagine the piece as a photo and a live scene,” he said. “I want people to take away that same experience. I want people to feel like the art is almost in conversation with itself. Seeing the different things in the painting, seeing the different things going on with the colors and the compositions, I want someone to imagine the painting alive — as if it was moving.”

Branton said he also wants people to feel like they can create something just as good as he can.

The first painting he submitted was one of three panels he had bought at Goodwill for $1. He then went to Michael’s and found pastels in the clearance section for 50 cents. He eventually sold those paintings for more than $200. 

“I made nothing into something,” he said. “The time I would have spent scrolling on Instagram or on TikTok, I was painting — consuming media in a good way where I’m listening to music, reading a book and looking at other paintings all at the same time. If you can, why not? ‘Why not’ is my biggest motivator. 

“A lot of people are scared of creating or running with their ideas,” Branton said. “I want people to feel like they can do it. If I can do it, you can do it. If you can do that, do it. It would be great to see you side by side giving back to your community with your talents.”



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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