If you’re looking to infuse a little creativity into your life, we’re offering a few suggestions on where to start. You can find all of our Art Challenge projects here.
So far this year, we’ve tackled unusual books, crafty envelopes and spray paint fine art. To continue our dive into the world of at-home crafts, we’re turning to the master artist who brought the joy of painting to amateurs across the country: Bob Ross.
Now, if you’re familiar with his beloved PBS program “The Joy of Painting,” you know how simplicity can be deceptive. Ross, with his poised presence and soothing instructions, makes churning out “happy little trees” within a tidy 30-minute time limit look easy. But transforming a blank canvas into an intricate forest or mountainscape in the amount of time dictated by the length of an episode sometimes requires some additional help.
Enter Certified Ross Instructors, also known as CRIs.
Ohio-based artist Kathleen Sheppard is among those accredited to convey Ross’ signature wet-on-wet technique, a vital component to mastering our joyful guide’s paintings. Sheppard is featured in an episode of “Broad & High,” produced by WOSU Public Media in Central Ohio. In the video, the artist walks viewers through how she came to be a CRI and the unique challenges that painters run into when trying to replicate a Bob Ross creation.
“What he does is he puts layer upon layer upon layer of paint,” Sheppard says, explaining the wet-on-wet technique. “And the more layers you do, the more you have to liquefy your paint because a thin paint will stick to a thick paint. And that’s what it is.”
To get started with your Bob Ross painting, you’ll need to select a work. For practice, you can cut your teeth on the plethora of free episodes available on the official Bob Ross YouTube channel. And once you’ve mastered your technique, we challenge you to tune in to the ALL ARTS broadcast channel and paint along with our weekly “The Joy of Painting” marathon, which kicks off each Saturday at 11 p.m. Eastern.
Though the tubes of oil paints required to capture the final vision vary based on the piece, Ross tended to stick with a consistent palette comprising hues like cadmium yellow, phthalo blue, titanium white and Van Dyke brown. Similarly, the tools used to lay paint on canvas are relatively basic — a two-inch brush and a palette knife will get you pretty far.
“He’s a very unconventional painter,” Sheppard says in the video. “And a lot of people shunned him for this, but he uses big brushes — two-inch brushes, one-inch brushes.”
“Bob doesn’t go out and give you purple,” she explains, noting that, instead, Ross would have you mix the paints to get the color you wanted — something she struggled with at first.
After you’ve assembled your accoutrements, it’s time to dive in. When Sheppard is creating a painting, she lays out all of her supplies and simply does what Ross tells her to in the video. She takes this same approach with her classes.
“My students don’t care for the palette knife, but I make them use it,” she says. “They all want to do mountains, but they don’t care for them once they start. They freak out a little bit on cabins and trees.”
But despite these anxieties, Sheppard reports that 95% of her students walk away happy with their paintings, a result she attributes to her taking her time to explain how each element of the painting comes together.
“We all have little bit of stuff in our life that is keeping us busy, and I’m not saying in a good way,” Sheppard explains. “When I paint, it frees my mind up about whatever is going on. And that’s what I tell people coming to my classes.”
If you need a bit more of a helping hand before you start, you can always turn to this very insightful episode taped by Ross at the end of the first season of “The Joy of Painting.” During the special, Ross invites his son to join him in answering popular questions from viewers. What’s “magic white”? Why aren’t the brushes you’re using not working? Why is the snow on your mountains not “breaking”? Ross answers all of these questions and more while demonstrating their application.
Think of it as a half-hour primer. Bonus: if you paint along with the Q&A, you’ll create a magical landscape by the end of the just-over-28-minute-long video.
Once you put in a little practice, you’ll be a pro. (It’s worth a mention that Sheppard explains in her “Broad & High” episode that at the beginning, it would sometimes take her eight hours to perfect a painting.)
And no matter what painting you choose to complete, we want to leave you with the inspiring words of Bob Ross himself: “You too can paint almighty pictures.”