Bob Ross holds a special place in my heart. As a kid, I used to watch his program The Joy of Painting on PBS with my grandmother in Watertown, SD. When my parents and I would come to visit, they would drive into town to run some errands and leave me with her. I would plop down in front of the TV and suck on butterscotch discs while she painted along with him. She painted charming Bob Rossesque paintings, nature scenes, mountains, evergreen trees, happy clouds. When she ran out of canvas, she’d tear a scrap of wallpaper off of the wall or she’d take cardboard from one of the many cases of Coca-Cola she kept on hand, flip it to the blank side, and paint on that. It didn’t matter the materials, just as long as she had something to paint on. It was a beautiful thing.
There’s something about his voice that makes everything that’s wrong with the world seem like a sigh, like just another one of those things, like it’s all going to be okay. One of his most famous quotes is, “We don’t have mistakes here, we just have happy accidents.” I love him for that, too. I also love him because he worked at PBS practically for free for over a decade (The Joy of Painting ran from January 11, 1983, to May 17, 1994) until his lymphoma progressed too far for him to continue the show. He donated most of his paintings to PBS, and he made his money off of his line of instructional videos and painting supplies that are still sold today.
Bob Ross popularized the wet-on-wet painting technique, which he learned while living and working on an Air Force base in Alaska, where he spent most of his Air Force career. The wet-on-wet technique allowed him to paint with oil paints without the tedious wait for the paint to dry. He painted on top of the wet paint, which also allowed him to create a masterpiece every 30-minute episode.
He believed that art was for everyone, not just for a select few, “Traditionally, art has been for the select few. We have been brainwashed to believe that Michaelangelo had to pat you on the head at birth. Well, we show people that anybody can paint a picture that they’re proud of. It may never hang in the Smithsonian, but it will certainly be something that they’ll hang in their home and be proud of. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Have a happy day, everyone. I hope you East Coasters are safe.