Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas
I can’t think of anything more rewarding than being able to express yourself to others through painting. Exercising the imagination, experimenting with talents, being creative; these things, to me, are truly the windows of your soul. Bob Ross
Last night I painted with a certified Bob Ross instructor. I didn’t know certified Bob Ross painting instructors existed. Bob Ross is a personality many people are familiar with who wanted everyone to believe they could be an artist. There was another artist William Alexander who taught this technique of wet-on-wet oil painting on television long before Bob Ross.
The story goes that when Bob began his own show William Alexander made a promotional commercial where he handed off a paintbrush to Bob as a symbolic nod to Bob as his painterly heir apparent.
According to PBS, fewer than 10 percent of the viewers painted along with Bob. Although the show was about teaching painting techniques they tuned in for Bob’s soothing tones, the quiet place of happy trees, happy clouds, and in general creating your happy place.
Bob’s curly hair we are told is because when he wasn’t making much money he permed his hair so he’d require fewer haircuts. The story goes he came to hate his hair but because this was his trademark and on all his products, he kept it. He even wore a wig when he lost his own hair to cancer.
Bob Ross’s TV show ran from January 11, 1983, until May 17, 1994. These shows are now available on YouTube as well as others by certified Bob Ross instructors.
I first encountered this wet-on-wet technique when I came to Toronto in 1976. At the exhibition, there was an artist named Varga who quickly painted one painting after another. I was enthralled watching him paint so quickly and beautifully.
I type Varga into the computer and up comes “Fall Forest Scene” antique oil on canvas by Varga 4ft x 6ft selling for $4000.00. The Painting was recently obtained from an estate sale. Original receipt in possession from almost thirty years ago and the price it sold for then was $5000.00. The date this work was painted is unknown. Obviously, this was not art to invest in. It looks to me like it is probably done by the artist who enthralled me at the exhibition.
My husband called me downstairs last night. He had YouTube on and a Bob Ross certified instructor came up. I have a Bob Ross book and I found the painting they were painting in it. Then my husband put the show on a computer tablet so I could watch it in my studio and paint to it. It was the same show we thought but I soon realized it wasn’t, but I painted along anyway. It was a fun night of painting. I didn’t know what I was going to paint, and by painting along I actually painted something, instead of spending the night thinking about painting. I’ve dabbled with Bob Ross techniques but never painted along with him or one of his certified instructors.
I don’t paint in oil, instead, I use acrylic but the techniques translate, although acrylic dries much quicker. I don’t have the palette knives so maybe a trip to the art store is warranted. Not a hardship since art stores are one of my favorite places to visit.
All you need to paint is a few tools, a little instruction, and a vision in your mind. Bob Ross
The certified instructor was good at explaining the techniques but he lacks Bob’s personality. They had a class set up they were filming, and it was interesting that everyone was painting along but every painting was different. The colors were subtly different, the placement was different, the trees were different, and the intensity of lights and darks were different. The mood created by each artist was different.
This is the thing we sometimes don’t realize, even when we paint along, we are creating our own art. We are expressing our own feelings, desires, and viewpoint. Do we paint “Happy little clouds?” Art is expressing our self, the subject doesn’t matter. Every artist painting along created a unique painting. No one had an exact replica of the instructors, and that was the idea.
Bob Ross wanted each person to be an artist, to express their own ideas, to tease out their own clouds out of their own skies. He was teaching techniques so everyone could create their own art. His instruction was a starting point.
Finding a way to express our self is important. We can write, sing, sew, draw, make pottery, wood carvings, garden, cook, or any other form of self-expression. Neuroscience is teaching us that “self-expression” might be one of the most important ways people connect, navigate, and grow. It might be important that our voice is heard and acknowledged, but maybe it is more important that we acknowledge our own voice and our own creativity.
We have something inside us that longs to be expressed. We often feel shy that our expression won’t be enough. This is the beauty of painting along with anyone, or singing or writing with prompts. We are still expressing ourselves, but we are not as alone. Many times we sit and look at a blank page and don’t know what to write. We stare at our blank canvas and don’t know what to paint. We need a starting point, once we start, we are on our way.
The fact that so few of Bob’s viewers painted along with him is a testament to how we hold ourselves back. How many wanted to paint with him but thought someone would think they were stupid for thinking they could paint? We hold ourselves back all the time. We censor ourselves, we let others censor us. If we aren’t letting those feelings and thoughts out, what happens to them? How are we making our life smaller than it needs to be by not finding a way to express ourselves through some form of creativity? It isn’t about singing because we are great singers, or painting because we are great painters. It is expressing ourselves and getting what is inside of us out.
Maya Angelou told us in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that it sings because it has a song. We have things inside of us that long to be expressed. As we find a form of self-expression we find ourselves. Will our form of self-expression make us money? Who knows, we’ll never know unless we put ourselves out there. If it does, the money is not likely our biggest payoff. Sometimes when money comes into play we are no longer expressing ourselves, we begin to express what we think we should, must, and what is expected.
Maybe even if we make money with one form of self-expression, we should have another that we do only for ourselves.
Believe that you can do it cause you can do it. Bob Ross
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