ARTOHOLICS ANONYMOUS: How master sergeant Bob Ross became my painting muse

I am not a painter. Every time I try to paint all that I produce is a pile of mud and regret. I do not have the patience or the knowledge of color. But I have not yet been asked to paint, so I am happy to remain incompetent.

That does not change the fact that I love the concept of painting, and the person who most inspired me not to hate it was Bob Ross.

If you don’t know who he is, Bob Ross was the host of the PBS show, “The Joy of Painting.” In each half-hour segment, he would walk the audience through one of his painting techniques by creating a beautiful landscape painting.

So how did Bob Ross become Bob Ross?

When Ross was only a child, he lost his left index finger in a carpentry accident, but he continued to paint, and eventually enlisted in the military despite this loss.

He served in the Air Force for 20 years telling people what to do, retiring at the rank of master sergeant, and swore after that he would never yell again. His voice has been compared to Mr. Rogers’s, being soft and slow and calming.

Ross was always eager to tell the viewer that he was not special; anyone can be an artist. How could you not love a man who talks about painting “like a whisper floating over there” in order to create a “happy little cloud”? He even claimed that when painting, sound effects were necessary to get the shapes just right.

Each segment was half an hour long and focused on a single painting. Ross would always finish his piece exactly within the allotted time, without there being any dead air or overtime. He always spoke about the landscape as if it were alive, as if it expressed emotion or personality. The rocks were regal, the trees were self-confident, the clouds were delighted and the lakes were intelligent.

What most impressed me about his art, however, is the way he used the brush. The shapes were almost entirely dependent on the type, shape, and amount of paint on the brush. In fact, a single stroke with the right brush conditions could create an entire mountain. The landscapes just seemed to appear before the eyes of the viewer, leaving a sense of simplicity, despite the somewhat complicated set of attributes of the brush.

Ross made a career out of making silly noises and doing what he loved on camera, and if that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

In truth, “The Joy of Painting” is possibly one of the best ways to calm down after a long, stressful day. Ross was so passionate about his simple painting techniques and his beautiful landscapes that one can’t help but feel safe and happy.

Unfortunately, Ross died before I was even born, so all of his work that I have experienced has been from youtube. However, kind, charismatic people are few and far between, so my appreciation for his art does not waver simply because he is no longer around to produce it.

If I am ever a painter, it will not be through hard work and dedication, as I am unfortunately apathetic and lazy. But with Bob Ross on my side, maybe even I can discover “The Joy of Painting.”

Clips from previous episodes of “The Joy of Painting”:

Happy Little Clouds

Mountains—Good Brush Demo

Quiet Pond

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