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Jonathan Van Brunt: Palette Knife Landscape Paintings

Jonathan Van Brunt has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from Maine College of Art and a Masters of Fine Arts degree in painting from Ohio University School of Art. As if that doesn’t prove his dedication to his craft, Jonathan, who works full-time, spends most of his free time making art and promoting his work.

Although acrylic paints and graphite have been his go-to mediums in the past, recent work features oil paints and the use of painting knives.

“There is a purity of color that can be achieved when painting with a knife that is very different than that done with a brush. The ‘creaminess’ of the paint really shows, and the intensity of the color is strong, which is partly due to its layering on the paint surface,” Jonathan said. “It is a difficult tool to master because initial application of paint is so direct and striking.”

Still using the same painting knife bought during his Ohio schooling days in 1993, Jonathan recently created Brookside, below.


The muddled autumn colors are rustic and warm, depicting a quiet, peaceful day along a placid stream. Layers of yellow, orange and brown add complexity to the painting, creating fullness within the embankment.

My favorite part of this painting are the etch marks—the fine, wispy lines—Jonathan dropped in to represent tall blades of dry grass splaying out in every direction. They add character and texture to the painting, as well as movement to contradict the still waters and densely packed autumn foliage.

Freeport Marsh is the perfect example of a landscape created solely with a painting knife. You can see the texture the wide knife creates with each stroke—I can imagine Jonathan dragging his knife across the top of the canvas, leaving a trail of wispy white clouds behind in the sky.


The white mixes unevenly with the blue, creating energy and an element of spontaneity. He used the same technique with the scenery, using short, sweeping strokes to create a dark, rough patch to depict trees in the background, and again trailing that black mixed with some burnt umber and blue to create a sort of shallow ravine—a pathway leading through the waterlogged marsh.

Jonathan doesn’t overwork the canvas, but lets the idea of minimalism do the work for him, creating a beautiful abstract landscape in his wake.

Merrick Bay below has a lovely composition, encompassing a wide marshland field crossed with streams and pools of water.


Sunlight and shadow pour down from the sky, flooding the land with a patchwork of warm and cool. Thick, boggy grasses stifle one another, all yellow, green, and pale orange, while vibrant blue water reflects the hue of the sky, forming a perfectly complementary color palette.

If you liked these pieces, then by all means, check out Jonathan’s blog to see more of his beautiful paintings, both in oil and acrylic.

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Oil painter Rick Berry has a flair for creating expressive portraits that blend realism with a sense of otherworldliness. His artwork, which seems to have one foot in the world you know and one in a world you don't, has been called “heartbreakingly beautiful"—a sentiment I can agree with.

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