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Bob Ross - Fine Art fiend or friend

RhetoricPosted by Emily King Sun, June 12, 2011 17:00:59
Many a Sunday morning of late, I've found myself reclining on the sofa with my 6yr old daughter watching that well known programme 'The Joy of Painting'. There's no better way to relax than to the dulcet tones of Bob Ross, his affable demeanour, the sound of a 2" paint brush on canvas and his anecdotal musing whilst executing paintings from his imagination. Possibly the only Sunday morning relaxation equivalent for me is watching Nigella baking, cooking or whisking up some sort of hybrid recipe to get you salivating and writing your next shopping list. In fact you could say there's a similarity between Bob Ross and Nigella in this regard, neither of them purists and both of them divulging short cut secrets to impressive or satisfying outcomes.

Bob Ross, however, may be outcast from fine art as something of a McDonalds of the art world. His work does have a slightly conveyer-belt look to it as the trees are always the same: pine trees painted with the same brush and technique, mountains carved with the same painting knife in the simplest of application - HOWEVER, what I love about him is his mission to dispel the myth out there that most people can't paint. You don't have to be a member of the RA to be a painter after all. You don't have to sit rigidly at your easel replicating the subject matter before you in a long and drawn out process of execution. What he encourages people to do (mostly newbies to the painting world) is not to be afraid of the paint brush or canvas in the first place, not to be afraid of your own imagination, that certain, albeit formulaic objects are easier to paint than you might think - over and over again, without fail. Just changing the composition or the light or colour palette and you have a whole series of paintings.

What I glean from Bob Ross is his positive attitude towards paintings which is infectious. He says, "If you aren't enjoying painting, perhaps it isn't for you" - painting should be all about enjoyment. He's also famously quoted as saying that, "we don't make mistakes, we just have happy little accidents". He instructs viewers on composition by endearingly mentioning that a "happy little tree" needs a friend just here, painting one in next to it to "keep it company".

He's probably THE MOST portrayed artist in satyr out there - just search u-tube for Bob Ross and you'll find more spoofs than the real thing. Well known for his 70's afro hair (particularly noticeable as a white guy), his softly spoken voice and his gentle American accent, he's an easy target to the world of comedy. However, his contribution is not to be scoffed at - his chief aim most apparent in making painting accessible to all is an admirable endeavour in itself. This is surely to be celebrated not ridiculed. (Although, the spoofs will always be amusing yet predictable).

I for one felt hugely miffed when googling him one day to find out that he'd passed away, much the same age as my own father - sweetly enough it saddened my 6yr old too. I also learnt that he'd held a position in Alaska whilst serving in the army, where most of his inspiration for painting was derived. Also, interestingly enough, he'd vowed when leaving the army never to shout again. Can you ever imagine this guy shouting? SIR, YES, SIR! I for one can't.

I very much doubt I will grow weary of his programmes for the shear calm it exudes on a Sunday morning shared with my little girl, but also, the little gems he presents here and there that I will carry with me on executing my next paintings.

Ems


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