February 19th, 2021

artistic

The Joy of Painting

I told one of my friends that I’d been painting along with Bob Ross videos, and was surprised to discover that Bob Ross is not as ubiquitous as I’d thought, since my friend had never heard of him.

In case anyone else is unfamiliar with Bob Ross: he is a landscape painter who did a show for PBS called “The Joy of Painting” for about ten years. There are 31 seasons of “The Joy of Painting”, each of about 13 episodes each, and each episode a little under half an hour. Bob Ross is famous in part for his productivity, speed, and skill -- he’d begin and finish a painting in every episode -- but more for his unfailing enthusiasm for his subject, and his gentle, positive attitude. He’ll paint a “happy little tree” and then paint a “friend” for that tree. After I’d watched a few episodes, Lut joked that I needed to find a Bob Ross video without mountains in the background and trees in the foreground.

Me: “He does a few seascapes.”

I haven’t watched any of the seascapes yet. I watched the first video that came up when I did a Google search for Bob Ross, and after that I started browsing through Bob Ross’s work to find a painting I liked and then watched the accompanying video. There’s a website, twoinchbrush.com, that’s devoted to Bob Ross paintings and sells the accompanying supplies for them.

I “paint along” when I watch a video, although instead of using actual oil paint and brushes (Ross’s medium), I use ArtRage, a digital paint app. ArtRage is designed to mimic real media -- that was its original design philosophy -- but it is not designed to mimic how Bob Ross uses real media. So, for example, Bob Ross makes a snow-covered mountain by painting a dark underlayer, and then putting white paint on a palette knife and dragging it gently down the line of the mountain. The “snow” part takes him like fifteen seconds. Load paint, drag, done. The effect is astonishingly good, and ArtRage does not, so far as I can tell, have a tool that mimics it.

So Bob Ross spends half a minute painting his mountains, and then I pause the video and spend ten minutes trying to make something that looks half as good.

Others of his techniques, I’ve found tools to imitate. For instance, he does this blorp thing with the fan brush to create trees. To my surprise, the best way to get the same effect in ArtRage was to use the “leaf” brush. At first, I assumed the leaf brush would be too overly detailed and fussy to mimic the painterly style of Bob Ross, but it works fine.

I started painting along to Bob Ross videos a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve painted seven of them now, plus one landscape where I was seeing if I could use his style without following a video. (I do not feel like I’m there yet.) It takes me about an hour and a half to two hours to finish a single 24-28 minute video. It’s more fun than my usual art practice, because at the end of it I have a complete picture in full color, as opposed to, say, a dozen sketches of hands. Because I don’t have to worry about proportions or precision -- a tree can be gigantic or short, crooked or straight, and it’s still recognizably a tree -- it’s a lot less fussy than figure drawing.

I expect I will end up counting one landscape or another as my art for the month. I might try again with an original landscape. I want to do another painting of the skylands in the Demon’s Series in setting, but during daytime. We’ll see how that goes.

I’ve been putting the finished paintings on my Flickr account for archival purposes, and I shan’t link to all of them because seven is A Lot. But here’s my favorite of the lot:

Based on Joy of Painting s26 e13

(It's the second of the ones I painted; they're not posted in order.)



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