The Joy of… Life
Back in the summer of 2017, I spent a lot of time inside and by myself as many of my friends went off on vacations or were constantly preoccupied. During this time, I was feeling extremely low and often struggled to feel better. Similar to today, I was often watching live streams on twitch.tv, looking for new streamers to watch from time to time. Never would I have guessed that I would stumble across the official account of Bob Ross. It just so happened that at the time I found it, the account was running episodes of The Joy of Painting 24/7 for the summer. I fell in love with the atmosphere and vibe that Bob constructed within each episode. His friendliness, care, and love for life and creation was always so inspiring and lifted me out of a truly dark place. When seeing that we’d be watching an episode for class, I was nothing short of ecstatic.
I was given “Secluded Bridge (Season 10 Episode 4),” an episode where Bob makes a scene of a hazy wooded area. Right off the bat, Bob’s use of vocabulary invokes a sense of happiness and freedom, directing you to “dance around” and “let it play” when doing brush strokes. When cleaning his brush of color, he likes to smack it against a metal pole to get it dry, almost always proclaiming, “Just beat the devil out of it!” with a bit of a chuckle. These moments keep the atmosphere friendly and calm, though he may not be directly expressing those intentions.
When getting to the portion of the episode where he begins painting trees, he clearly says to begin making decisions and that it’s truly up to you what you’d like to do with your painting. This is a common theme on the show, expressing that the painting is your little world and you can do whatever makes you happy. This is especially inspiring because many people often stick to unspoken rules in life and don’t travel outside of their comfort zones to experience new things or don’t allow themselves to do what they would truly like to in different circumstances. Even if you don’t follow along and paint with him at home, his words can reflect onto life and free you more than you may realize. In this episode specifically, he says, “wherever you think there should be a tree: that’s exactly where it should be.” Regardless of Bob’s initial intentions by saying this, he not only empowers the viewer in their confidence with painting but also their confidence in life.
Another theme of many of these episodes is that Bob likes to give personality to the things he paints. While drawing up various trees in this episode, Bob says, “…some of [the trees] have little kinks in them…they’re like people: everybody’s different, trees are different.” Not only does this add character to the painting, bringing it more to life, but it also is a humbling reminder that your differences aren’t to be neglected and disliked but instead celebrated and cherished. Something Bob Ross also enjoys doing is calling things “happy little” things. In this episode, one example comes when he is painting a bush, where he says in his world the bush is in the shade but in yours it may be out in the sun, where you could give it some “happy little highlights.” A popular use of this in many of his episodes is to admit to his mistakes when painting but instead of being bothered by them, he reframes and changes them into something beautiful and claims that they are “happy little accidents.” This term has stuck with me so personally that my high school quote in the yearbook was “‘In life there are no mistakes, only happy little accidents.’ -Bob Ross.”
Bob loves to express the importance of the imagination, and in this particular episode it is no different. While painting, he says that you would certainly have to have a way of crossing the stream in the painting if you were to live there. This gives direction to the painting while also tying things together and making it feel more real. To me, this speaks to the idea of using your imagination to picture what “could be,” visualizing goals and aspirations in a way that makes sense to you. Though this may not be the intended message, Bob must have been fully aware of the impact of his words, stories, descriptions, and general energy in his episodes.
Though not entirely related (but related enough), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to mention that for my senior year of high school (2017-2018), I was given the option to paint my parking spot. I immediately knew I wanted to do something Bob Ross related, but instead of painting a scenery, I chose to paint his face. It turned out (I think) really well and is even visible on Google Earth. I can only hope he would’ve been honored. Below are a couple of pictures of the painting and then a very blurry image from Google Earth.