Country flair of Lexington painter attracts students worldwide

Brandon Thomas

LEXINGTON-- In a basement classroom off Reynolds Road, they mix colors in every corner. Bright blue and red smoothies are stirred in the blender on the left side of the room; dabs of oil paint are mixed on palettes on the right side.

Once students have smoothies in hand, it's off to the races as they try to turn out a painting in about 30 minutes.

Instructor Brandon Thomas makes sure there's lots of energy in the room.

"I tell people to get monkey-faced on it, " he says, repeating one of his favorite phrases. "If you see a monkey, they have big eyes. They go at it. They get something going."

The analogy isn't lost on his students, who know Thomas is telling them to not be timid when it comes to slapping paint on canvas.

"Beat that brush," he tells them. "Beat it like it owes you money!"

Home sayings pour out of Thomas, who was born in the mountains of Breathitt County but now lives in Lexington. He's only 23, but he's been showing people how to paint for ten years.

"I started teaching some of my family members, " he says. "They always thought I was painting by numbers. I said 'No man, that's a real canvas up there.' So I had to prove it to them and said 'Alright I'll teach you how to do it.'"

He uses big brushes and knives and can turn smudges into trees or waterfalls. If that sounds like iconic painter Bob Ross, it should. Brandon taught himself to paint by watching videos by Ross and others. Some people call him a countrified version of the laid-back legend.

Brandon also makes videos, in a series he calls "Painting With Magic." They're accessed for free on

"People can see me painting. They don't understand when I'm talking," he laughs, referring to his thick accent. "Most people who speak English can't understand me anyway, but I have people all over the world say 'I can't understand you but I learned how to paint a bush today or a tree.'"

His inspiration for paintings is often the surroundings of his childhood. Mountains, lakes, waterfalls and cabins are favorite subjects.

" He made it really easy to follow step by step and put your own little things on it as you go along," said first-time student Megan Lafountain. "So I'd actually like to take more classes on it."

With his business sense, Brandon's future appears as bright as the colors on his palette. He also sells his own line of brushes and has written two books.

He'd like to open a chain of studios throughout the state someday, with instructors certified to teach using his methods.


Spirit of the Bluegrass is sponsored by Regency Memory Care.

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