Happy Little Trees

This week’s To Do was to paint along with a Bob Ross Joy of Painting show.  When I was younger, we would run across his shows on the local PBS channel as we flipped through the channels.  Back in those days, we had only 3 or 4 channels so programming was limited.  I was always mesmerized by his ability to create a beautiful painting in 30 minutes.  He always made it look so easy.  I would daydream about having a set of paints and recreating his works of art.  And then I would remember that I have zero artistic ability.

If you don’t know or remember the name Bob Ross, I bet you will remember him when you see a photo.  His distinctive curly hair and beard are what most people remember.  He also had some memorable lines.  Trees are usually “happy little trees.”  To clean your brush, dip it in paint thinner and then ‘beat the devil out of it.”  His calm voice would encourage you to paint freely, knowing that there are no mistakes.  His show, Joy of Painting ran from 1983-1994.  Bob passed away in 1995.

I had completely forgotten about Bob Ross in my adulthood.  In 2016, our college student daughter, Bailey, mentioned that she and her friends watch Bob Ross shows for relaxation. His calm voice is a guaranteed anxiety reducer.  Who can’t be happy watching him create a beautiful mountain scene or paint a dream cottage in the woods?  Bailey asked for a Bob Ross original painting for Christmas one year (she didn’t get it).  I think I read that he donated most of his paintings to different PBS stations.  From this conversation came the idea of painting along.  Of course, life is busy, so we never really got around to it.  That is, until I decided to do 52 new things this year.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to complete this childhood bucket list item.

Bailey was my go to person for this activity. She watched several episodes to determine which painting she thought would be best. We didn’t want to spend a small fortune on this artistic endeavor, so she used the following parameters in making her selection:

  • Relatively limited number of paint colors
  • Smallish list of items required for purchase
  • A beginner’s project-no buildings
  • Something that would allow us to paint several elements of landscape

She selected Valley View which included mountains, trees and water.  This gave us a great introduction to lots of different painting techniques.  We only needed about 12 colors and were able to come close to the list by purchasing a relatively inexpensive set of oil paints.   The colors could vary a little from the colors selected and blended by Bob which gave us some flexibility.  We also only needed 3 brushes and one tool.

As you scroll through the photos, remember what I said in the first paragraph.  I have ZERO artistic ability.  I literally cannot even draw stick people.  Please be kind in your critique of my finished project.

Now that it is over, I will tell you…I LOVED this project.  It was so fun.  I totally get how painting can be relaxing.  Bob is right, there are no mistakes.  Did I feel this way all day, absolutely not.  The type A in me freaked out multiple times that my mountains don’t look anything like Bob’s. I stressed way too much about trying to match his colors or making something the exact same size or shape.  When I was finished though, I was amazed that it looked even remotely like his painting.  But one can recognize mountains, trees, water and rocks in my piece.

What I will do differently next time:

  • I will watch the entire episode in advance. We would have been more targeted in our purchases and had a better idea of the tools that were needed if I had seen the project for start to finish before I started my painting.  A preview of the episode would have also better prepared me for the important decisions I had to make while painting…Where do I want to put trees?  How far up on the canvas do I start the mountain?  How important is it that I have his exact color?
  • I will invest in a palette for the paint. We used paper plates.  This works great for finger painting.  It makes life difficult when trying to mix colors for a real painting.
  • Use way less paint. It really takes a lot less paint than you think.  Bob’s shading was so much better than ours, and the shading was important in elements such as the sky and water.  I think we had too much paint to get the proper gradual fade we needed.
  • Allow plenty of time. Bob’s 30-minute show took us 3 hours.  There was a lot of rewinding and re-watching.
  • Drink wine. I will admit it, I had an epic meltdown mid painting.  My “trees in the distance” were a smudged green mess.  I was devastated. “Bob Ross is a liar.”  “I hate this project.”  “I am NEVER doing this again!”  Bailey was horrified to hear me speak of her artistic idol with such anger.  Thank goodness the “happy little trees” salvaged the disaster and returned the joy to the afternoon.  Maybe if I had a little (or a lot) of red wine, I would have been more “Bob like” in my attitude.

Will I ever paint a work of art that causes others to marvel?  No!

Will I proudly hang my piece prominently in my home?  No!

Am I excited to share it with you on social media?  You bet!

Will I occasionally view my treasure and smile at the fun memories we created?  For sure!

Will I do it again?  Absolutely!

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