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Bob Ross Portrait - My Tribute To Bob Ross
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The above Bob Ross exercises aren't paintings as such or at
least, not in that sense.
They are exercises.
Some are in oil and some are in acrylics; some on canvas, some
on artist board, most on thin card.
Each one started with a "I wonder what would happen if ..."
question that the exercises then answers. Sometimes, more than one question.
And then, we have Bob Ross's famous "happy little accidents".
Those are THE coolest things EVER.
For example, in the "Mars" painting, the palette knife slipped
to make a sharp vertical trace. It looked like a transmission tower, and all the
others buildings that indicate life and productivity on this barren planet which
are there now, would not have been if it hadn't been for the "happy little
It got me thinking about buildings, so I tried the church
exercise with the classic Bob Ross foliage around it, just to check it out how
hard that might be. It's not!
Some insanity happened in the picture with the bright red sky
which caused me to overpaint the whole thing with red lacquer. The photo doesn't
quite do it justice, but the effect is really rather stunning. Which in turn led
directly to take this effect further in the "fire sky" picture.
Every one of these exercises has some thing going on that is
Often, things also just went hideously wrong (sorry Bob, but
they did, in so far as I wanted to do something specific and just failed
miserably - LOL!).
If I had gone at any of these with the idea of "creating a
painting" rather than "doing an exercise", my German character would have
a) instant disembowelling because of the terrifying shame;
b) to avow absolutely to never attempt any painting again, not
even in a future life.
(We all have our problems, right? ;-)
I've only done those few and some random exercises on spare bits
of paper so far, but I can feel that certain things are becoming easier,
becoming UNDERSTOOD, don't worry me any more.
As this is happening, into that space I guess some form of
creativity is entering and we get things like a happy little waterfall but the
sky is on fire and that is NOT reflected in the water on this occasion.
I'd say that this time next year, I might well be actually
"painting" for real.
I might have some ideas for pictures that I want to paint and
have them be what I want them to be before I start.
That'll be interesting also.
For now, I'm just doing exercises.
For those who are interested, here are some "Bob Ross beginner's
Happy, happy little paintings all around ...
1. Understand the wet on wet deal!
The ENTIRE technique set revolves around "wet on wet" OIL. Which
means in other words that before you start, you have to underpaint the entire
canvas with EXACTLY the right kind of liquid white paint. You need to think of
it as an ice rink on which all the other colours slide around with consummate
ease, thus giving you those FANTASTIC soft blends and shadows.
If this underpaint is too liquid, things mush into one another
and the top layers of paint just don't stick cleanly; if it is not liquid
enough, you don't get smooth blends and the whole thing goes to hell in a hand
If you don't get spot on Bob Ross results first time out,
chances are it is because you don't have the right canvas, the right paint
mixture, and the right tools. I'm not recommending to run off and start shopping
for "Bob Ross Recommends ..." wares here; I'm just saying that if your results
are disappointing, LOOK TO THE TOOLS FIRST before doubting your SELF.
The whole Bob Ross painting technique is so straightforward and
watertight, you CAN'T get it wrong if you have the right tools, or if you figure
out how to compensate for not having them.
2. The Bob Ross technique *is a package*.
That's really important to understand.
For example, the SIZE of the canvas and the SIZE of the brushes
are directly correlated.
If you use a smaller canvas, you must likewise reduce the brush
sizes to reflect this shift in proportions or else it won't work exactly right.
Also, listen carefully to the names of the colours he uses. They
are the same ones over and over; you stick anything else in there, such as
Prussian blue instead of Phtalo blue, there is a noticeable shift in the
I've already mentioned the tools and the proportions. If you
want to do paintings exactly like Bob Ross, then you must absolutely copy the
tools he uses and re-size them if you change the proportions of the paintings.
* Here's another weird thing I recently noticed about the
proportions. Bob Ross is HUGE! He has HUGE hands. If you don't, you probably
misjudging the proportions of the tools, the canvas and the effects you are
producing, because human beings take other human beings as a guideline, and they
take AVERAGE human beings as a guideline, not REALLY BIG ones like Bob Ross.
I bought a Bob Ross roundbrush by mail order and when it
arrived, I literally gasped at the size of the thing! In my hand, it looks like
an axe handle and I'm 5'8!
3. You've got to LISTEN and WATCH!
When you "paint along with Bob", you really do have to LISTEN to
what he tells you. If he says to add LIQUID WHITE to your Titanium white for
THAT effect, you've got to do EXACTLY that or else you won't get THAT effect.
That's just an example of the many little instructions which are there but you
don't hear them or you don't pay enough attention, but which are CRITICAL to the
success of the painting as you're trying to stick one layer of wet oil on top of
When I first starting watching the shows, I think I was too
caught up in everything that was going on or doing weird things inside my own
head and I wasn't LISTENING properly to the instructions he gives you.
Here is another pointer in a similar direction.
WATCH how he loads the brushes. By all means, COUNT just how
many times he will tap a brush into a streak of paint before he takes it to the
canvas. Then do the same.
There's a similar deal with, for example, laying the light
colours on the bushes without mushing the paint. COUNT how many times he touches
the brush to the canvas BEFORE he takes it away for further cleaning and
re-loading. With the fine filigree bushes in the foreground, he makes no more
than 7 dabs before cleaning and re-loading and changing colour, too.
It's little details like that which make or break the technique
and having it work exactly right, and with the best results possible.
4. It's not just about paint on the canvas.
You physically can't do a Bob Ross style painting unless you
Have more brushes than a DIY store
You copy EXACTLY what he does with his brushes to clean them in
between ALL THE TIME.
That's an example of watching EXACTLY what he's doing - when I
got my head around the constant and immediate brush cleaning and "fresh brush
using", all of a sudden the blends and foliage started to work when before it
just wouldn't. Couldn't is the word!
The brush cleaning thing is one of those core background deals,
including finding "enjoyment" somehow in that activity and having it become a
real part of the process that is actually essential to getting the right
painting, and to experiencing "the joy of painting" all over.
Which brings me to the last point and that's probably the most
4. Getting creative with the paintings
It's EXTREMELY important to the whole package that at some
point, we DON'T paint along with Bob any longer, but really just get started on
a "happy, happy sky" with the TV switched off and you're all alone with your
(suitably underpainted) canvas, your brushes, your paints, your bucket of
turpentine and yourself.
Bob Ross is NOT copying something, and as we watch him do his
thing, we also observe how he lets himself be guided to just what kind of sky
there is, what time of day, what feeling he wants the painting to express.
Where a tree might go, and if this tree has one friend, or two;
if there is a waterfall or not.
THAT is the outcome and the core activity that makes "The Joy of
Painting" such a totally unique and fascinating experience.
Bob says it, time and time again: "This is YOUR world. YOU are
in total control here. You can move mountains here and decide where everything
Arty people bitch at Bob Ross style paintings because they're
No, of course they're not!
They are landscapes of the mind, they are
PROJECT SANCTUARY HABITATS.
But I've found that as I'm going out now, post-Bob Ross, I'm
looking at shapes of beautiful trees and I'm thinking, "I'll have myself one of
those in MY WORLD ..."
I saw some amazing little flowerbeds today and those are going
into MY WORLD, too, at some time.
That's where the real joy of painting is, that's what it's all
This is a very, very cool thing in every sense and I'm just
having so much fun with this, I'm so glad I found this!
Looking forward to what happens next ...
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Alright, so this is not wearing off.
I remain (now 4 weeks into it) completely fascinated with the
"Bob Ross Model" in and of itself; the active attempt at my modelling of his
approach (that would be in the NLP term of "modeling"), the results and what
it's doing to not just my approach to art, but also to the way I am looking at
the world in general, and at other landscape art, trees in real life and
Stargate SG1 in particular.
How do you know you have changed? When your REACTIONS to some
thing which has remained essentially the same are DIFFERENT from what they used
Now I've sat through more Stargate SG1 episodes than I would
care to admit, mostly due to the fact that it was "family viewing" when both of
my sons were still fairly young and one of those programmes we would always
My main complaint about SG1 was the ENDLESS, and to me, it was
ENDLESS!! "stumbling through forests".
If you watch StarTrek, any series, any episode, you'll notice
they've made an effort to keep the illusion going that we're in the future.
Little things, like weird shaped glasses and the flowers on the table look a bit
freaky. To keep the cost down, we'll use steel corridors or caves, that can be
In Stargate, to keep the cost down, we have extended scenes of
folk running around in the same goddamned forest and no-one's even bothered to
stick a few blue tails on the trees to give some sort of indication that we're
supposed to be half way across the galaxy.
So yesterday was Sunday, I put on the TV, there was absolutely
nothing on, so from the nothing I picked Stargate as a standby to run until
something better came along.
It had already started and - yes! We were stumbling around in
the forest! Of course!
But this time, I went, "Wow! Look at those happy trees! What
interesting shapes! And those happy little bushes! And those neat little rocks!
COOL! I'm going to paint them!"
Yes, I think we can say that Bob Ross has changed my life!
The other two things were I've really noticed it is looking at
trees, shadows and lights, houses, perspectives, skies in a different way.
And so, to the landscape paintings. Now I don't know what I saw
when I used to look (or more like glance) at a landscape painting before I met
Bob Ross, but my goodness, that has changed so much, it's nearly scary.
Some new thing has come into the whole deal which makes them
fascinating and inspiring now, when they were never anything to me before.
I've been looking at galleries of artists on the web every night
for about 4 weeks now and the interest has spread from landscapes to *all*
paintings - abstract, even kitschy kitty pics now hold some interest.
Wow. That's an interesting development and one which I hadn't
expected. But it's very welcome because I was getting bored with my usual
thoughts and ways of looking at things :-) and it is also nice to notice real
change when it has happened. There's hope for more then ...
Am I getting any better?!
I'm trying to do at least some painting exercises every night,
and weekends I've reserved for serious painting - that's when you get the whole
lot out, the oils and the turpentine, the large canvas, the brush cleaning pots
and beater pans, dozens of brushes, kitchen towel, and the whole caboodle that
entirely covers my den in every way and precludes any other form of activity for
at least 3-5 hours.
So, am I getting any better?
I think so.
I'm more confident, more relaxed and I think I've got the basics
of water, sky mountains and vegetables down now. What I mean by that is that I
think I understand how it translates from the real objects to the
representation/illusion on the flat canvas.
That's a good start, as far as I am concerned.
Here are some of my latest efforts (as of June 26th, 2006):
This little painting might not look so impressive
but what I like about it was that I knew exactly what I wanted it to
look like, what I wanted it to be and to do, and I got it done.
Painting snow, ice and frost on the ground and the
trees is not that difficult and as I come from a place where there
was a lot of that, I have a connection with the snow landscapes.
I'm really pleased with the way that is going and
how it came out.
Sunset Lakescape - I was a bit naughty there and
snuck in some blue flowers which aren't usually found (or ever at
all!) in a true Bob Ross painting. But as he always says, it's my
world and I can do as I please ... :-)
|This sepia style forest waterfall was the first time I committed
myself to a large canvas.
To be honest, I'm really amazed at it.
It's standing on an easel in the front room to dry at the moment
and every time I walk in, I just can't believe I actually painted
I guess that is my first ever "proper" oil painting.
Now this is my version of "Valley Waterfall" and I'd
say probably my real first tribute to Bob Ross.
Valley Waterfall is a painting from Series 23 and I
tried to paint it in real time (but failed! LOL)
Still, sitting here looking at this I'm having a
similar response with this as I'm having to the sepia waterfall -
you've got to be kidding me! I can't paint something like that!
But I did, and I can, and I'm still not over the
astonishment of it.
I do think that I have some kiddie thing going on with these
Consciously I know that we're not talking about art here, not
like "grand masters" and the Mona Lisa and stuff. I do know that.
But that's me thinking as an adult.
There is a part of me that is still small and sees these sort of
paintings hanging on the wall of my parent's house, my aunt's house, my great
aunt's house. They "don't know anything about art" but they gave over space in
their abodes to just such paintings, in thick golden frames.
So as I was processing the photographs of the paintings, it
occurred to me to put them into a virtual gold frame, to see what they would
And they would look something like this:
Now I really don't know if that's just me, or if the world over
just such pictures are hanging on the older generation's walls, but there really
is something about this particular thing that I find most peculiar, and also in
a way, reconciling.
After years of "high magic", to be painting something like
Valley Waterfall there, and to be able to appreciate what my Valley Waterfall
would actually bring to a room in *energetic terms*, is a strange thing indeed.
Perhaps I noticed this already when I was a small kid.
Perhaps the "arty diatribes" about kitschy waterfalls and stupid
people with flying ducks on the wall are an affectation, or simply a
misconception and a mis-understanding between the arty folk and those who use
pictures on the wall to brighten their every-day-lives some.
Perhaps there should be more precise categories of art that
doesn't disrespect people like Bob Ross so completely or denies their right to
exist, or denounces them for simply being a sign of stupidity, lack of good
taste and refinement.
Perhaps we can call it "Feng Shui Art" when you try and really
EVOKE the essence of a sunset or a waterfall or a little cottage by the lake
with roses round the door, instead of tearing up the canvas with slashes of red
paint and semi-formed skeletons lurking in the shadow.
That form of art has its place also but it certainly isn't all
there is in a wide spectrum of human expression and discovery, and what I'm
thinking is that it isn't any *better*.
Different, sure. But not "more worthy".
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I developed a personal style of painting things that I found
fascinating some years ago, a simplified representation of the elements that
make up the image behind it (like DragonRising).
Now I haven't done anything in that style for a long time,
probably because I was busy with the symbol paintings, but one appeared a couple
of days ago, right in the middle of Bob Rossing. Which surprised me somewhat.
I was looking at a photograph of a light house in a bay and
thought that I would like to paint that. So I started to get the kit out, but as
soon as I was about to put brush to artist board, I got a real strong
message/sensation/whatever to do it in the old style.
I was surprised at that, argued it a little but it was very
strong; so in the end, I did.
In the middle of all the "happy, happy trees" we now have ...
The Lighthouse, June 2006
I have to laugh though. These paintings just don't photograph
well. They don't look anything like the originals - they photograph so wrong,
it's stunning. Perhaps they have a soul that won't be captured in a camera, or
perhaps I just suck as a photographer!
I guess I'm having an experience in art as I'm going along.
One of the fun things, and something I look forward to
immensely, is after the "happy tree" painting is finished, to take what's left
on the palette in the way of paint remnants and just go mad with it.
It's good fun and things happen that I make a mental note of to
use elsewhere and for other purposes; you could say its a whole lot of "happy
accidents" rolled into one and happening all at once.
Here are some examples of this in alphabetical order:
Blue Fire (On An Emerald Beach)
The Return Of The Fish Skeletons
Rain Of Fire
Ah well ... as long as it's interesting - it shall be done :-)
Masterless ... :-(
I recorded a lot of "Joy Of Painting"s to my Skybox, and lost
most of them, including one that I had underpainted ready for a particular
Masterless, the canvas kept staring at me so I completed it
anyway, best as I could.
We may wonder if masterless is the opposite of masterful? Still,
I did the best I could with it and that's all you can do, right. I like the sky
Sepia Waterfall In A Real Frame
Well, Sepia Waterfall has dried sufficiently to be handleable
now. In passing, I saw an old big frame, which used to contain "Me & Me" before
someone took it home (hoping here it went to a good home, like many of my other
artworks which keep vanishing mysteriously!).
I kept looking at it and in the end tried it - only to find it
is the perfect fit.
So here's the Sepia Waterfall in a real old frame:
Man, that's weird. Even weirder seeing it right next to a big
symbol painting ... This is either a culture clash, my usual multiple
personality disorder re-surfacing or let's call it a phase that I might outgrow
I don't care what anyone thinks, this painting and art business
is DIFFICULT. It is scary, it is challenging, and reveals reversals by the
Anyone who hasn't tried this really can't know what it's like,
and how WEIRD that is.
I think that's a part of it, inherently.
I'm supposed to be an adult. I'm supposed to be able to do
things well. But if we're going back to basics here with traditional art, I'm NO
ADULT. I'm a beginner. I'm a kid, clumsy and fearful, yet fascinated by the
colours and the promise of expression, of creation.
I can wow other adults with my language skills, hypnosis skills,
and a few other tricks beside.
So do I have the courage to start again with something that I
won't be able to do well? That many might laugh at, others might condescend to?
Well yes I do. Only thanks to a massive and constant application
of ET, and also EFT for good measure thrown in (I should write an article, Bob
Ross & EFT = REAL Joy Of Painting!).
But it is hard. There's always the temptation to stick with the
"safe stuff", the things you can already do well, and that have form and
function and get suitable recognition. You can't live like that though. *I*
can't live like that. I have no shame!
Bob Ross often says that if you want the good fruit, you have to
go out on a limb, cause that's where it is and nowhere else.
My worst reversals of them all do revolve around the subject of
Drawing people. Whatever that is when you try and depict human
beings and you look at your stick figures and you just know you're not getting
Nicola and I were talking about this the other day and she
mentioned those classical anatomical drawings of skeletons and muscles. Her tone
was despairing; I got very angry and said, "Well have you EVER, and I mean,
EVER, seen some bloke strutting around with his skin off???
"What GOOD is that, unless you want to become a surgeon?
"We just can't go at it like that. It's not motivational to folk
like ourselves, and furthermore, it's silly. Think about it. HOW MANY PEOPLE
HAVE YOU SEEN IN YOUR LIFETIME SO FAR?
"And you STILL think you don't know WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE?
"How they move?
"How they express themselves?
"This is TOTAL BULLSHIT! We have this knowledge inside of us,
more than we ever needed to capture at least the essence of people in some
medium - surely!"
I know this is true. I KNOW I already KNEW that things in the
distance become bluer, BEFORE Bob Ross told me this. I've seen distances for 47
years, for heaven's sake! I've seen trees. The knowledge is THERE. It just needs
to be accessed, and let out.
Easier said than done though ...:-)
So I mustered my courage, got a brush and all the handy self
help techniques and just started doing some really basic drawings, my first ever
really, of PEOPLE.
I didn't set anything up in advance and just let whatever wanted
to come, come.
You can psychoanalyse me if you want, that's alright. It's
probably even relevant on some level.
So here, and after all of that, are my "kids drawings of
people", in acrylic ink with a single sable liner brush on paper.
The day after the people drawing exercises I had some left over
paint to do some of the "strange things" with the pallette knife - and a people
crept into the picture!
The Blue Man
I'm not sure I like this drift-off into art therapy. But perhaps
its necessary - who knows? Not as though I'm either stable, or sane, is it!
Fair enough. Art therapy it is if that's what it's got to be ...
As I joke, and really, as a *joke*!, I said to to Nicola, "Hey
let's do self portraits!"
She went off and did one!
Which left me amazed but really not motivated to try for myself.
So it should be somewhat strange that at 9 o'clock in the
morning, as I was about to go to bed, the very last painting to be done, in a
state of walking sleep by then, should turn out to want to be a self portrait.
Now unlike Nicola, I didn't seem to have it in me to be specific
or even recognisable; this is how it was:
SFX Self Portrait June 2006
There actually is a face in there, you just have to step back a
bit before it becomes revealed as it were.
Most peculiar colour choice. Watermelon tourmaline. Not colours
I would have ever knowingly associated with me.
Well there we have it.
It's a peculiar thing to put these images on this site, which
does have considerable traffic. But on the other hand, why paint at all if you
don't want other people to SEE what you're doing?
Just let it happen ...
(July 1, 2006)
Well, what can I say?
Bob Ross has changed my life. I've always had the talent but
what I didn't have was the self belief and the confidence. I thought I was too
clumsy to paint, that I couldn't learn how to do it. Bob talked me patiently
through my reversals and with the help of a lot of EmoTrance along the way, I
now know this to be untrue.
I can paint, or perhaps more precisely, I can now start to LEARN
I wanted to do a tribute to Bob Ross and with my heart in my
mouth, if not higher, I decided to paint a portrait of Bob Ross.
If you don't know me personally beyond what you've read on the
web, you have no idea just how difficult and personally challenging that was,
from even daring to form the idea to the execution.
I don't think I've ever been so afraid of a project, or during a
project, ever before in my entire life and I'm absolutely serious when I say
I didn't want to let Bob down, if you know what I mean.
But for my first ever portrait of anyone, it was a stiff task.
Full of trepidation I set to work. During the planning of the
painting, creating the layout and deciding on what the feel of it should be, I
often heard Bob's voice; to get started on the face took me a whole week of
fighting and resolving reversals.
Still, in the last 24 hours I've painted it.
Am I pleased with it?
I don't know, I'm still too shell shocked. But I kinda asked Bob
if it was alright and he said it was. (And he also said that it's ok for artists
to be a bit crazy, indeed, it's expected!).
So, here it is.
Bob Ross by SFX.
May not be the greatest painting ever, or even any good at all,
but it does have my heart and soul in it.
Portrait of Bob Ross by SFX, August 2006
Oil On Linen, 24" x 30"