Bob Ross Style Landscape Painting
This post will be an interesting one, at least from my perspective. If you’ve browsed this site, you can see pretty quickly that I’m all about portraits. Usually head-and-shoulder views of people, but sometimes animals or other scenes featuring a human being in some way. But this writeup is actually about my first fully committed, no-people-at-all, landscape attempt! It’s kind of funny to put it in perspective, but it’s taken me five years of creating art to finally get comfortable enough to try something without a person or animal in it. This particularly painting was my sixth overall, and was the second in the frenzy of five painting I did during a long weekend in October.
I’ve spoken often about my appreciation for Bob Ross and his old show the Joy of Painting. I even did a sketch of him painting to frame a more lengthy discussion of why I am such a huge fan. Even before I started painting, I’ve enjoyed watching his calm demeanor and welcoming approach to art. His perspective was always that anyone can create art; as a self-taught hobbyist, that really resonated with me. He made being an artist something that seemed approachable and achievable, and that it’s okay to just try it and have fun. I think part of the reason I felt comfortable enough to just “dive in” and try oil painting is that same overarching message of accessibility.
All that being said, it’s probably not surprising that when I started that whirlwind of holiday weekend painting that I mentioned, much of it happened with the Joy of Painting on in the background. In fact, early that Saturday morning, as I sat on the couch sipping my coffee and watching Bob Ross do his thing, I was struck with a notion to try and paint along with him. He sometimes encouraged viewers to do just that – well, I finally listened. On Friday, I had gotten most of the way there on a portrait of my wife. I didn’t really know what else to paint, but I knew I still had that spark to do it. So, I started a fresh episode on PlutoTV and tried to emulate some of the basics.
At this point, I don’t even know how many hundreds of hours of his painting I’ve watched. I have it on so much at home it’s ridiculous, even if it is mostly on in the background. But I’ve seen the basics many times; the color components, light crisscross strokes for the sky, horizontal conjoined swipes for reflective water, palette knife for mountains, hard pressed bristles for trees. I’m over simplifying of course, but the techniques are there for all to see. And so, I gave it a shot! With a much smaller canvass, and vastly inferior tools. But, it was not the complete disaster that it easily could have been. Here’s the final landscape scene:
I’ll go through the process and “good vs bad” that I usually do below the art image, with an eye towards challenges with this one. To start, the sky was mostly fine. I did not have any magic white/liquid white to prime the canvass (used to facilitate that awesome wet-on-wet blending), so instead I coated it with some titanium white thinned down using linseed oil. I still have no clue if that was an okay thing to do; did I make life hard on myself? Was it basically the same? I’m too inexperienced to know for sure. I think my sky and clouds looked okay, but I also did not have any large, thick brushes…so another difference from the Bob Ross path. I think he used a 2.5 inch brush for this, whereas my biggest brush is probably not even a half inch.
Another materials issue was the fact that Bob Ross always used a large, rigid palette knife for mountains. I have a small, poorly angled, flimsy plastic one…it was not up to the task. So, I had to reform my mountains quite a lot, and even ended up having to utilize a brush. In the show, he typically used a brush only to smooth out the downward slope and create a misty fog effect. I wasn’t able to get to that point. Once I got to the trees, things started working out better. I followed the guru’s advice, putting light on top of dark, to pretty good effect I think. I pressed the brush right into the canvass/paper like I was trying to squish a bug, which did well to simulate leaves. Then I used my flimsy palette knife to gouge some branches.
Unfortunately, one significant area that was a bit of a misstep was my poor planning. I initially wanted a lake in my scene, but I ran out of room! My lake ended up getting covered almost completely by trees, whereas it was supposed to be right in front of the mountains. Not a huge deal, but that did not end up as I originally imagined. Overall though, I feel like this was a surprising success! I can’t believe I actually finished a landscape painting…and it looks just fine somehow. Very odd development. So, big “thank you” to oil paints for being so friendly to work with!