Thursday, November 17, 2016

Artists Collective: #4 - Robert Norman Ross

One of my earliest memories during my childhood was watching Bob Ross as a family with my parents and brother in the evenings on PBS. Bob's calm voice seemed to put me into a trance and with just a few simple strokes, Bob had created a beautiful pieces of work that now are highly valued and sought after by collectors around the world. Bob Ross is probably one of the most influential creators in my artists collective and I still find myself just as entranced and captivated by Bob's creations on the canvas today as I was when I was growing up. Its not hard to see why The Joy of Painting has had such an enduring impact on society. (It still plays on PBS and there are millions of videos on youtube!) Bob Ross is even widely considered the grandfather of ASMR! (Do you get the tingles? Find my favorite ASMR youtubers HERE and HERE.)

One thing I found out while writing this article was that Bob Ross was once compared to Fred Rogers, which in and of itself should be considered a great distinction as Fred Rogers was a saint.

Fun notes! Bob hated his afro hair and the only reason Bob had it permed was to save money on cuts as money was tight.  By the time that the show took off, it was too late to change the hair because the 'fro had become Bob's telltale trademark.

Another wonderful thing about Bob was his calming voice. That's why I was surprised to find that, prior to learning the wet-on-wet technique and the show, Bob had been in the military. (I know, right?!)  He was stationed in Alaska with the Air Force, which is where most of his paintings are inspired from. Bob did what he was told because it was his job, but afterwards he vowed that he would never have to yell or scream again.


Anyways, Bob was so cool - he not only created these quick, beautiful pieces of art; and Bob did it with style and panache.  He learned his wet-on-wet technique from another painter (Bill Alexander) whom he later had a falling out with.  Bill Alexander is famously quoted as saying "He betrayed me. I invented wet-on-wet. I trained him and now he is copying me - what bothers me is not just that he betrayed me, but that he thinks that he can do it better." (Side note: Really, Bill? You 'created' wet-on-wet? I'm sure that those early Flemish painters from the fifteenth century, such as Broederlam and Van Eyck, would simply agree to disagree with you on that...) Bob later dedicated a show at the beginning of Season Two to Bill and held no ill will towards his mentor.

And of course, we love him not only for his beautiful artwork and inspiration, but his dedication to helping animals.


I learned so much from Bob, just by watching the program. I learned to work in layers and to use cool colors farther back to make things look like they are receding (this works for copic markers as well!) Every time I watch the program it inspires me to try new things in my own art, and that's why I think Bob Ross has had such a lasting impact. He is a great inspiration and continues to grow in his popularity, even after his untimely death. Even now, I watch and take notes. He was a wonderful teacher.


“We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” 
― Bob Ross

Leave a comment - what's your favorite episode, painting or quote from Bob?




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