Non-Stop Bob Ross and The Joy of Painting

Moving to a new home naturally comes with an adjustment period. I guess everyone’s timing may vary, but eventually that sense of newness wears off and most people fall into some comfortable routines again. My family and I have a few months now under our belt in our new home, so we’ve had a good opportunity to settle in at this point. We’ve slid into new routines, and part of that has developed from an accidental discovery. One day recently, I was trying to set up an antenna I bought for our game room television. It’s a Roku TV, so we’ve already got the streaming side pretty well connected, but I thought it would be nice to have access to some broadcast channels too. After hooking everything up, I found a “live TV” icon, so I dove in…and discovered like 100 free channels! I’d struck the jackpot, but not in the way I had initially thought. Rather than being from the antenna, the huge bonanza of free content came from “The Roku Channel” which is apparently available on all Roku devices. How did I not know about this already?

There is a lot of cool stuff available via The Roku Channel app; 80s and 90s music videos, movie channels, nature channels, tons of kids shows. It’s really an impressive offering. But two in particular have blown me away – they have dedicated channels for Mystery Science Theater 3000 (which I’ve written about before) and Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting. Since discovering these gems, MST3K has become my favorite “the kids are sleeping” background show, whereas Bob Ross has become our primary background show. We’ve gotten into the routine of always having it on when me and the kids are drawing, but it’s often just playing while we’re doing other things.

I am a big fan of Bob Ross, and there are two primary reasons. The first is due to his calm demeanor and the audio aesthetic of the show. From what I understand, the producers/technicians had to turn up the volume significantly due to his very quiet way of speaking, which in turn made the brushstrokes and various tapping sounds more prominent, thus contributing to the calming noise effect. There many more detailed discussions online about the soothing qualities of The Joy of Painting; you can certainly jump down a rabbit hole with the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) discussion. Many people even use the show to help them fall asleep, which apparently Bob Ross took as a compliment. Anyhow, there are a ton of episodes and they just show them one after another on this Roku channel, so we can easily tune in for some soothing “happy little trees” anytime.

The second reason I am such a big fan of Bob Ross is that he makes creating art seem accessible in a way that few others have for me. As an untrained amateur, I haven’t had a ton of voices providing guidance. But I have an encouragement from less formal sources like family and other artists online (mostly via WordPress). But I also feel encouraged from this person who I’ve only ever known through a TV screen. It’s hard not to be influenced by his relentless positivity and consistent reinforcement that anyone can make art. I have read some critical opinions of him in the past, mostly from trained professionals who don’t care for anything that could be considered formulaic. But that doesn’t matter to me. I love that someone was willing to pull the curtain back and show the mechanics behind creating something visually appealing (even if I use pencils instead of paint). So, I will always appreciate the message along with the way in which he delivered it.

That was quite a long path to get to the main point of this post, which is that my most recent drawing is a tribute to this man Bob Ross. Since we have his show on at our house seemingly non-stop, it seemed fitting to finally do a portrait! According to Amdall Gallery tradition, first I’ve shared the final version above, then I’ll talk about the process in this section, and end with a progression video towards the end of the post.

I started the outline for this one and actually ended up putting it aside for a couple of weeks. One weekend, my oldest daughter was drawing something…I came over to check out her project, and saw she was coloring my sketch! I was initially frustrated, but that feeling melted away when I saw the look on her face. She and I have talked about situations like this before; in fact, her little sister had once done the same to one of her drawings, and there were some hurt feelings between them about it at the time. The point being, she knew better and I could tell she realized immediately. I also quickly understood the reason she did it – she just enjoys being a part of the whole art process with her dad. Both kids like drawing, but my oldest especially seems to enjoy it in a similar way to how I did as a kid. What would Bob Ross do? What would he say? Well, I’m sure he would have encouraged creating art, and not worried too much about small things. So, that’s basically what we did! We made it Bob Ross portrait day, and we all worked on drawings.

I can still see some of the areas where my oldest applied color, but honestly I don’t think an outside observer would really be able to tell. She did a pretty good job laying down color! In fact, I wonder if I should have just let her fill in more color, then I could come back in and blend it. Anyhow, the final result turned out better than I expected. I based this directly on the show itself, Season X, Episode X (“asdf”). I wanted a scene that had a good view of Bob Ross himself and of the painting, but that’s tricky without showing his back. I think I succeeded on selecting a pose, but I was still worried I would lose the details of his face after blending. Fortunately, it does still look like him – maybe I underestimated how recognizable he is with that hair!

I don’t really have any complaints about this one, which is pretty unusual for me. I’m usually ready and willing to dissect where I think something went wrong. According to what I’ve read about Bob Ross, that’s apparently somewhat true for him as well – it’s one of the reasons he said he didn’t hang up his own artwork in his home. Hilariously enough, I think I saved my best “scenery” work, possibly that I’ve ever done, for this portrait dedicated to a painter who specialized in nature scenes. It’s generally not a strong point for me, so maybe that’s not saying much, but I like how that turned out.

As usual, I’ve embedded the progression video from YouTube in this post. I actually think I’ve finally figured out the best way to capture these videos! It’s taken quite a lot of trial and error, but I’ve positioned the camera arm on a different surface that doesn’t touch the desk at all. An issue I was having was the camera shaking when I vigorously blended. The shaking wasn’t terrible at normal speeds, but when I tried to present the progression at high speed, the shaking almost becomes vibration…which is very disorienting. So, I think this is better! At least I hope so. Trying to record myself drawing has been quite a learning experience.

That’s all I have for Bob Ross – although my next drawing won’t feature him, I am certain he will be playing in the background when I work on it. I’m not sure exactly what the next project will be, but I have some ideas. I’ve accumulated a nice collection of unfinished/abandoned sketches, as well as a large folder of new inspiration. And I still want to build towards another book, with subjects who I have publishing rights for…but I haven’t even started the ball rolling on that.

10 comments

  • Terrific post! I too love Bob Ross. Years ago I discovered the added bonus of observing my feisty toddler suddenly calm and drift into a nap while watching an episode. Great news about Roku as well! Enjoyed this!

    • Thanks Liza! Really glad you enjoyed it. That’s so funny, I wish I’d thought to try watching Bob Ross when my kiddos were younger! Might have really helped with naps time.

      The Roku thing is so great – I really can’t figure out how they’re able to give so many channels for free. I guess I should enjoy it while it lasts though, because surely they’ll monetize it more heavily at some point right?

  • Love it! I like Bob with his ‘doers’ and happy little accidents. Lovely portrait x

  • Always astounded when he has a beautiful landscape on the canvas and he takes a knife full of almost black paint and obliterates a whole section, only for 5 minutes later that dark patch is now a path leading into the scene with ripples on a lake and seemingly endless detail. I don’t do landscapes but I am tempted to follow along with one of those demonstrations one day. 😁

    • For real man! I have the similar thoughts watching him…like here he goes with that knife, and I’m thinking there’s no way this is going to work out. And of course, it looks fantastic at the end. If I ever get more adventurous and try paint, it sure would be fun to try to “Bob Ross” (a verb) something like that

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