Bob Ross

Bob Ross

The afro. The easel. The soft, relaxed monotone voice.

“Little more black, little more blue. And we’ll just put that in using little crisscross strokes or–or little X’s, whatever you want to call them. Whatever.”

Even if you’ve never picked up a brush in your life, you know Bob Ross.

You know him because his Valium dispenser of a voice plastered you to your armchair one Sunday afternoon. You remember him encouraging us all to paint “Happy little trees” in the landscape paintings he was teaching us to create. Then of course there’s that time he smiled wide and showed us his furry little squirrel.

Ahh, memories.

“I started painting as a hobby when I was little. I didn’t know I had any talent. I believe talent is just a pursued interest. Anybody can do what I do.”

I used to make fun of Bob Ross when I came across his show on PBS as a kid.

I’m ashamed as all hell now, because at 26 I recognize that Bob Ross—like his colleague Mr. Rogers – was giving me coded lessons on guitar, performance skills, and life all along.

“Traditionally, art has been for the select few. We have been brainwashed to believe that Michelangelo had to pat you on the head at birth. Well, we show people that anybody can paint a picture that they’re proud of. It may never hang in the Smithsonian, but it will certainly be something that they’ll hang in their home and be proud of. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Yeah! Damn the man! Screw the establishment! I dig that punk rock do-it-yourself attitude. Art colleges may look down their nose at Bob Ross’s methods, but what’s the harm in somebody picking up a brush and painting something in an afternoon that makes them feel good? Bob Ross inspired hundreds of thousands of people: not just to paint snowy mountainous landscapes, but to see themselves as capable, creative people. Even some blind people would listen to his show, enjoying the man’s soothing encouragement.

Try this: when you screw up at an audition, when a hard drive crash wipes out your new album-in-progress, when expensive gear breaks… go home and find an episode of Bob Ross on Youtube. Sit back and let him tell you “You can do it,” that there are no such things as mistakes—just “Happy little accidents”.

That verbal blunder was a happy little mistake indeed. Honestly, though: if you’re a guitar teacher, you’ll benefit from watching this guy in action. He’s unbelievably patient, thoughtful, and sympathetic. And his voice is like a deep, soothing scalp massage.

Pick up your guitar, and let’s all strum a “happy little chord to float through the sky” in the spirit of Bob Ross.

Nicholas Tozier (82 Articles)

Nicholas Tozier is a book hoarder and songbird from the woods of Maine. In 2012 he made a small cameo in Songwriting Without Boundaries by Berklee professor Pat Pattison, and was named one of CDBaby’s top 10 Songwriting Resources to follow on Twitter.