Let’s remember 80s and 90s – disco, Jane Fonda’s aerobics, Ronald Reagan, soul music, Tarantino’s movies, Aerosmith’s songs, saxophonist Bill Clinton… But what about TV? We all gathered to discover the Art world through “The Joy of Painting”, where Bob Ross taught the painting the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe.
Robert Ross was born in Daytona Beach, Florida, and raised in Orlando, Florida. As a child, Ross entertained himself by caring for injured animals, purportedly including an armadillo, snake, and alligator. Robert dropped out of high school in the 9th grade to work as a carpenter with his fathe Jack, where he lost part of his left index finger. This, however, did not affect the way he held his palette while painting.
Ross was working as a part-time bartender when he discovered a TV show called “The Magic of Oil Painting”, hosted by German painter Bill Alexander. Alexander touted a 16th century style of painting called “Alla Prima” (Italian for “first attempt”), better known as “wet-on-wet”. Ross studied and became quite good at Alla Prima through Alexander’s show and, became famous worldwide for creating and hosting the TV program “The Joy of Painting”.
Ross used the wet-on-wet oil painting technique, in which the painter continues adding paint on top of still-wet paint rather than waiting a lengthy amount of time to allow each layer of paint to dry. From the beginning, the program kept the selection of tools and colors simple so that viewers would not have to make large investments in expensive equipment. Robert frequently recommended odorless paint thinner for brush cleaning.
By the way, art historians have pointed out that the “wet-on-wet” technique actually originated in Flanders during the 15th century, and was used by Frans Hals, Diego Velázquez, Caravaggio, Paul Cezanne, John Singer Sargent, and Claude Monet, among many others.
Artist painted three versions of almost every painting featured on his show. The first was painted prior to taping, and sat on an easel, off-camera, during filming, where Ross used it as a reference to create the second copy — the one viewers actually watched him paint. After filming the episode, Robert painted a third, more detailed version for inclusion in his instructional books. The landscapes he painted — typically mountains, lakes, snow, and log cabin scenes — were strongly influenced by his years living in Alaska. He repeatedly stated on the show his belief that everyone had inherent artistic talent and could become an accomplished artist given time, practice, and encouragement, and to this end was often fond of saying, “We don’t make mistakes; we just have happy accidents.”
In 2014, the blog FiveThirtyEight conducted a statistical analysis of the 381 episodes in which Bob painted live. By his own estimation, Ross completed more than 30,000 paintings in his lifetime. In the end, we want to make your day with Bob’s quote, “We don’t make mistakes, we just have happy little accidents”.