{Note: I have edited a portion of this material as I was pursuing a couple trains of thought simultaneously. Also I miswrote that I have heard critics deride the technique of wet-on-wet painting, what I meant to say as I have heard critics dismiss Bob Ross as an artist. Critic being a deceased profession entirely without meaning in the realm of art for about a century now.]

I have always needed the television on to fall asleep. Otherwise the wheels keep turning and I’m tossing all night. The wife and I decided that 2017 would be murder television free – no crime shows, real or fictional. That leaves out a lot of sleeping material. Easiest thing is to stream shows that have fifteen thousand episodes and most cop dramas have about that many!

A couple of months ago my wife finds this show, The Joy of Painting, on Netflix streaming (do they still do DVD’s?) and so we give it a go. Man, you talk about drifting off to sleep. Forget Lunestra or any other sleeping aid. All you need is Ross’ soothing voice talking about happy trees and clouds with friends and… ZZZZZ…ZZZZ

Not that it is boring, mind you. Painting was one of the first things I had ever wanted to do which is one reason why I had never watched The Joy of Painting. It is quite fascinating to watch what begins as a real mess take shape in such a short time (yes, we all know he had a reference painting he painting before the show). I swear he can start with a blue smear, I turn to adjust my pillow or something – hey! where did that stream and forest come from?

It should be noted that as mesmerizing as it is to watch the process, Ross only applied it to limited number of settings and styles, basically those that interested him. Mountains, trees, clouds, streams, beaches, what they call landscape painting. Any man-made objects usually consisted of old cabins, never was there a skyscraper, jumbo-jet or any harsh modern object of industry. No, this was John Denver country here.

Ross’s technique, wet-on-wet, or alla prima, is a technique with a long history and not just with oils. Oft times it was a technique employed with several other techniques. So this approach can be used for any kind of painting not just landscapes of forests and happy clouds. See Frans Hals, see Monet, see the Impressionists, etc.

I am uncertain whether it lends itself to industrial type art. I am not sure if it lends itself to the clear sheen of a strip of metal. I am not really a fan of industrial products reproduced into art.


Also, for twenty-eight minutes of work those painting look pretty damn good!

Oil paints do not dry in twenty-eight minutes or sometimes, depending on the thickness, in twenty-eight hours. If applied you could put dozens of hours into an alla prima painted with exquisite detail.

That said, getting going with landscape is far easier than portrait or figure painting. These do not rely on the vagueness of distance to achieve their effect. No man perceives both the forest and the trees, and so they are comparatively easier to brush in. Not so of portrait painting, that relies on detail, that takes another level of practice, skill and talent to achieve. I believe that with enough practice most people could do a decent rendering of such landscapes as Ross presents on his program. You are not going to do anything approaching Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer.

Nor Golgotha by Englebert Fisen

Not, at least, without A LOT more study and practice. And I mean years.

There is another painting show on Netflix called Your Brush with Nature.. Which is also a twenty-some minute show of oil painting using a much different technique. This one is like being on a train that you are sure is going to wreck at any moment. This guy paints an actual landscape. But his paintings do not start to take shape until well into the program. He starts by outlining in smears of color and it looks like crap through much of the program, then suddenly it starts peaking out at you and comes together.

It’s a real nail biter. Also he mixes his colors on the canvas whereas Ross does them first on the palette.

I have seen some of the Ross student paintings (some, not all) and they are decent (they couldn’t make into the awesome Museum of Bad Art ) but uninventive. He has a cabin by the lake, they put a cabin by the lake. Why not a teepee? Or a spaceship, but of steampunked wood? Now as a science fiction, fantasy, weird and horror fan, when I think of how I would do some of these paintings, I really want to go get some supplies and do some of these my way. I have enough experience I would pick up the skill quite easily. There was one Ross episode that was a crowded grove of trees that loomed over a small body of frozen water in the foreground. And near the end of this episode Ross is explaining how he is just there showing technique and it is up to the viewer to put their own personality into their painting. Well, I thought, “there’s a body trapped under that ice!”

What I like about the Museum of Bad Art is it just looks like modern art. Visit any gallery of any contemporary art museum and you will know the only difference between it and the works in the MOBA is pretension. This is art because someone who says they are an artist and others who are accepted as in the know (read mystical shaman) back up their claim. That is all. Say so.

Although Ronan the Pug from the MOBA is a pretty damned bad piece of art!


Still though, I can see no rational argument why this cannot be next to:

Sneeze by Dana Schultz

or Beautiful Night by Louise bourgeois

I have read many a critic dismiss Bob Ross as an artist (I would class him as good, not great).  This is probably said while sniffing a carafe of their own saucy, metered farts. Also probably said by people who purchase “art” that is indistinguishable from someone barfing or shitting onto the canvas. See my discussion of MOBA and the pieces by Bourgeois and Schultz above – although they all belong to the class of art while the shit-canvas does not, imho. Needless to say I would put a Ross painting in my house before a Pollock any day. Although they would both lose to Dali.


Anyway, an hour is way to long to be sitting writing a post!


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