Beautiful Bob Ross
Last year one of our students showed up with a gift she’d received. It was a small plastic figurine of Bob Ross. When you pushed a button on it’s base it said phrases like “Happy little trees,” and “Let’s give him a friend, everybody needs a friend,” in Bob’s calming voice.
Why we Teach with Bob
Much to my surprise, most of the kids in my classes knew who the TV artist was and were interested in learning more about him. As a kid I remember the dulcet sounds of Bob describing his painting techniques, the soft swish of his brushes, and thought out loud, “why don’t we do a Bob Ross painting?”
To my surprise the kids were super on board!
Bob Ross is best known for teaching everyone to paint during the 10-year run of his popular PBS TV show The Joy of Painting. It’s now available on reruns, YouTube, and on Netflix. Ross’d paint brilliant landscapes in oils while narrating instructions for getting the right highlights on trees, how to create snow-capped mountains, and realistic reflections in water.
“I can make this world as happy as I want it.”
For the last two years we’ve brought Bob Ross into the classroom, choosing to paint with less-toxic acrylics on stretched canvases, instead of oils. Ross’ paintings look deceptively easy with most of the students going into them with great gusto. But once Bob whips out the palette knife the mood gets slightly more tense. Nearly all our students have risen to the occasion though, learning when to add pressure and when to back off. It’s a challenge and a skill that’s learned over time and one the students have gotten more excited about. As well, the progress between last year’s paintings and this years’ is astounding!
Bob teaches us kindness and patience with one’s art. To allow ourselves to create worlds we want to see rather than follow his instructions too closely. His motto is that there are no mistakes, only happy accidents and his is a refreshing voice to bring into our classrooms. Now that’s inspiring!