TV's Bob Ross "Joy Of Painting" Inspires SFX ...
Bob Ross Meets SFX
by Silvia Hartmann
So there you are, thinking nothing particularly evil and doing your thing. You flick through the TV channels and ...
... there's a programme on an obscure satellite channel called "The Joy Of Painting". I've seen this programme listed before but never took any notice, having seen a few truly depressing and awful demonstrations with watercolours on TV.
I clicked the button, and that's when I met Bob Ross for the first time.
At first, I had to laugh - at the way he looked, at the way he spoke. But within seconds, I was mesmerised (and being a hypnosis trainer, I don't use that term lightly, believe you me!).
I was absolutely fascinated by what he was doing, how he was doing it, and what he was all about there - call it Bob Ross's energy, if you will.
It is true to say that I had nothing short of an epiphany as I watched Bob Ross create fabulous "little trees" and "happy little bushes" out of nowhere, in seconds; three strokes of the fan brush make a waterfall; a small brush loaded with different paint colours on either side creating instant highlights; and as to the palette knife making a mountain ...
I was hurtled back to school days, those APPALLING art classes that seemed to be structurally designed not only to beat "The Joy Of Painting" out of all and any of us, once and for all, but to make absolutely sure that we would all go away from those with the ROCK SOLID KNOWLEDGE that we could not only not paint, but that we COULD NEVER, EVER LEARN.
I *so* wanted to paint and draw!
I *so* wanted to learn!!
Unlike many other kids who didn't care one way or the other, I really, really, REALLY wanted to KNOW how to paint something.
They gave us cheap watercolours and splayed out shitty brushes, dirty gritty paper that tore, smeared and curled, no matter what you were trying to do. They gave us rock hard pencils that just made a mess, and it was so disappointing - heartbreaking, SOUL DESTROYING.
We could not have NOT FAILED.
No tools. No instruction. Only criticism after the fact.
How I ever continued on in spite of that and kept trying to paint, KNOWING THAT I COULD NOT AND WOULD NEVER LEARN, I can't imagine. I must have more bloody-mindedness than the greatest donkey who ever lived! I even managed to make my way around two ways of my painting, invented along the way, to compensate, like a blind person will learn to navigate with sound.
But here, now, in May 2006, I'm 47 years old and there's Bob Ross.
And I'm sitting on the couch, crying my eyes out for the 37 years of painting experience I never had, and will NEVER be able to regain.
If Bob Ross had been my teacher, if I'd seen a video back then, I would be a painter of 37 years experience now. What loss is that? How can you measure that? The exhibitions I didn't have, the art colleges I didn't attend, and all the paintings I didn't do, and didn't sell?
Do you think I should bring a law suit against the Leopoldinum school in Detmold for "loss of life"?
And if so, how much do you think I should sue them for?
Perhaps it could be a "class action" on behalf of the other 37 kids in my classes?
Would ten million Euros do it ...?
Now, a few days later, I can be a bit more philosophic about all of that and muse how this is so for EVERYTHING in schools, and not just art. I also came away thinking that maths is not something I could ever learn, nor physics; that I was missing the parts of the human brain that would allow another to speak a foreign language and of course, music was a mystery for which I lacked all talent.
It wasn't me. It was them.
Bob Ross went through his painting and explained as he went along. He was speaking softly about there "not being any mistakes, just happy accidents". Bob Ross kept saying how it wasn't difficult, and how anyone can learn to do this, even a blind lady from Idaho who liked to be in a class and paint along nonetheless.
By the time we got into the first ad break, I'd stopped crying and started being fascinated with the techniques and how he was doing things.
By the time "The Joy Of Painting" was 20 minutes running, I'd made the decision to go out and buy some oil paints for the first time in my life (I've NEVER touched oils before on the grounds that they are for people who can paint, those chosen few, amongst which there was no place for me - of course ...).
By the time Bob Ross finished and signed his painting of trees, and mountains, skies and waters, reflections, trees and bushes I had already brought out my acrylics and a piece of paper because I couldn't believe that this could be as simple as that.
Here is my first attempt, using one old brush, a few random acrylics, a kitchen knife and a piece of thin white card:
Approx. 1 hour after 25 minutes of instruction from Bob Ross - Exercise 1
Here's a close up of that exercise picture:
I will tell you honestly that I couldn't BELIEVE it as I was doing it.
What Bob Ross had said was ALL TRUE.
It really was that easy. It really was that simple. It was just simple tricks and if you knew them, you could do a blended sky. You could do water. You could do a really neat tree!
And you could even have "happy accidents"!
I made a smear mark on the black rock (done with black acrylic paint and a kitchen knife because I didn't own a palette knife) and now if you look at it, you can wonder what that might be - a sculpture, a weird tree, perhaps even a person standing there waving to you?
As I was doing it, I could FEEL that I was understanding how this worked, and that I could do it too.
It was completely incredible.
Look. That exercise is not "a great painting". There's all sorts wrong with it and there's those snotty fucks who go round and say "Oh that's just kitsch ..."
FUCK them. Bob Ross isn't about "pretty little trees".
He's not about overly romanticised landscapes or unrealistic trees.
This is about PEOPLE BEING GIVEN ENTRANCE TO THE WORLD OF ART.
In this case, me, specifically.
I had the hope begin to grow from a little ember to a real candle flame as I was watching and listening to Bob Ross that I might be able to do that, I tried it out and he hadn't been lying to me - it was really true, and the little exercise painting proved that to me.
I was COMPLETELY blown away by that and then, I got very, very excited.
The next day was a Sunday so I couldn't go out to get some oil paints, but as soon as the shops opened on Monday, I was there, buying things I've seen but always thought they were for "other people". Linseed oil. Turpentine. A real wooden palette!
I spend two week's worth of allowance on oil painting supplies and as soon as I got home, I sat down to just simply "have a go". To mix some paints, try some of those unfamiliar brushes and items, do some little exercises, LEARN SOMETHING about this.
I'm still not doing this right, because the Bob Ross style "wet on wet" oil painting technique doesn't work on a piece of paper or card - the background just sucks the oil out of the paint and it doesn't flow and merge properly, but that's beside the point.
This first EVER attempt at doing anything with oils is this one:
The whole thing is done entirely with a palette knife and red, blue, white and black.
Wow. Palette knife painting is AMAZING! I love the way the textures reveal themselves and I absolutely LOVED playing with that. But what was even better was how the alien landscape just unfolded itself as soon as I started. So cool!
As it was still dark, I thought I'd try something else, with the fan brush.
Here are the results of that exercise:
Both paintings took only a couple of hours, all told; in the meantime, I was learning about the need for ventilation when you have open jars of turpentine around (LOL!), how to clean the brushes and how neat it is to use only some colours for these paintings because it brings them together, makes them look arty.
The painting above, I only used blue, red and white and nothing else.
Exercise 2 is Greenworld:
Exercise 2 - Greenworld by SFX
My head is literally swimming (might be from the turpentine!) with the possibilities and the potentials of this.
I can do Project Sanctuary habitats. I can do alien trees, plants, creatures. I have a shot at painting some of the stuff in my head which I always wanted to. I can illustrate stories! I can MAKE STORIES from illustrations that just unfold themselves as soon as I put the brush to the paper, like the two above.
I want to look at different kinds of trees and figure out how to paint them.
My GOD, I can FINALLY learn how to paint!
I've looked around on the web and found out that he died in 1995. I cried when I read that. Still, his spirit and his teaching that you can discover "The Joy of Painting" for yourself lives on, very much so. There are literally thousands of testimonials just like mine all over the web, of people who've discovered something about themselves and opened up a door that was slammed shut a long time ago.
He's going straight to my personal "Golden Line", and I've put this here to say, "Thank you SO MUCH, Bob. You can't know what this means to me. You really have transmitted to me The Joy Of Painting."
And for the rest of us who are still here, look out for some fascinating alien landscapes ... coming soon to a monitor near you!
To Bob Ross, with love.
May 24, 2006
Addendum March 2010:
Art is not just for the chosen few or those who went to art college.
It is for you, and me, and all of us are immensely enriched by engaging in art at any level.
Bob Ross knew this, and HE WAS RIGHT.