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:

Landscape in the Bob Ross style. Oil paint on textured paper, linseed oil solvent.

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!

Not exactly like my painting, but this is a fairly similar painting by Bob Ross. Mountains, trees, and so forth.


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  • Nice painting, you are really going out of your element by painting landscapes. Your painting really has some interesting texture.

    I like the sharply angled peeks, and golden green colours in the foreground. I have never used a palette knife before, I know you can use them for Acrylic too, they are just too unpredictable for me to trust.

    • Thanks Shawn! I’m really trying to push myself – I think I need some additional materials before I try another landscape, but it was fun to try.

      At this point, I’m really just trying to get practice in and learn. I’ve got miles under me when it comes to drawing, but I’m still so green when it comes to painting. But I really feel like I’ve gotten something out of every painting so far, so it feels encouraging!

  • I dont think that was the one I saw, John. What I saw was a straight, pretty objective, documentary about his life story and how he built up the business and how he got the programmes aired.
    I do about 5 or 6 a year, but it does seem to be building up – maybe there’s a high mortality rate amongst demonstrators and I’m the last man standing.

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  • I think that magic white allowed him some lovely techniques. They recently reshowed his programmes in the UK. Unlike you, John, (and many others) I wasnt calmed. Half way through I am yelling at him to stop. Just leave it there Bob – walk away.
    Some lovely atmospheric starts which he seemed to trivialise.
    I keep meaning to buy some of this magic white and have a go myself. Though I always find it is difficult to pick up someone else’s technique; but if you persist a bit you come through.

    • I actually know exactly what you mean! Although I do obviously love the shows and find them relaxing, towards the end sometimes he’ll plop something right in the middle that just wrecks it for me. I’m thinking of some with a massive pine tree that just dominates what was a beautiful scene. To be fair, him knocking those out so quickly and timed for a show is quite a feat from my view. Also, I should give him further credit for being so brave about that. I’m cautious to a fault when it comes to art I think, so that’s something I admire.

      This is probably a basic question, but consider it’s coming from someone so new to all this – what is the effect that magic white is supposed to give you? Is it just really effective or smooth blending and color mixing directly on the canvass? It would be really cool to see what an experienced artist like yourself can do with it

      • There was also a programme over here, about Bob and the making of his videos. He is actually copying a pre-prepared version which is out of camera shot. So when he says; let’s go crazy – well he isnt. To be fair, you have to do it that way. To do that time after time seamlessly, is almost impossible. I did a pastel demo for a painting group last night and I had practised the painting beforehand – otherwise people would lose interest as you bumbled about. You’d probably complete the painting, but the audience might not be any the wiser.
        I think the magic white allows easier application of paint with the palette knife and smooth transitions of tone and colour which results in those great starts. Then, as you say he plonks a bloody great pine in, or worse still – that log cabin.

      • Haha oh those log cabins, he sure did love those things!

        Is that from the Netflix documentary – Happy Accidents Betrayal and Greed? Or a different one? If you haven’t seen that one, it’s a pretty solid watch. Definitely told from one perspective and could be a bit dramatized for impact, but still quite a few interesting aspects to it.

        I think you’re right about practicing ahead of time. I’ve never done such a thing (public demo), but I imagine if I ever did, I would feel like I had to practice it a few times just for piece of mind. Do you do a lot of those demos for art groups?

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