Is Bob Ross Helpful or Harmful to Artists? Look at the Bob Ross Method of Painting.

by Dan in Misc > Art Opinion

Published Jan. 29th 2007


Bob-RossBob Ross: TV personality, painter, and well-known author of the Joy of Painting series.

If you’re an artist, you probably have an opinion about him, and I‘m no exception to that. Personally, I think in his life he did a lot of good—most notably by encouraging countless numbers of people to start painting, even if they’d been discouraged from doing art before.

But there are a few problems with the Bob Ross Method which have kept me from being a fan of what he taught.

First of all, the way that Bob Ross teaches, most of his students’ paintings end up looking just like his. This may be fine in the beginning, but all it does in the long run is encourage a dependence on Bob Ross. In other words, what happens when a truly dedicated “Bob Ross Methods” painter wants to paint a scene that Bob never covered? Where do they go for help?

There’s really nowhere TO go. They’re stuck, because they were never taught how to come up with ideas for paintings on their own.

Second, those who do strike out on their own find out they only know how to paint from their imagination like Bob did. But the problem with painting from your imagination is that your imagination will always be a poor imitation of reality.

For example, look at all those “happy trees” Bob Ross taught people to paint. They don’t really look like actual trees. . . they look like, well, “Bob Ross” trees.

The best painters LOOK at what they’re painting, and paint directly from the source, whether they’re painting trees, a person, or fruit in a bowl.

Thirdly, there’s not enough room to grow artistically when you paint the “Bob Ross” way. His techniques show how to make simple, cookie-cutter paintings, but he offers no techniques for improving, and no deeper insights into art at all. The proof of that is Bob Ross himself—he painted pretty much the same way throughout his entire life.

If you learn from Bob Ross, that’s the best you can hope for, too.

As an artist, I want to grow, and learn, and improve more than anything else. Even if I pick a certain subject to paint in for the rest of my life, I want to push my boundaries, and I especially don’t want to use someone else’s methods of painting as my own.

My advice to new artists who want to learn to paint? First, really learn to draw. Then take a painting class your local college and learn how to mix colors. Study art by the masters of painting—artists who have been revered for centuries.

Learn to see the world around you and paint it for yourself. Develop your own style and make your own unique compositions from real life instead of copying the ones Bob Ross used. . . because that’s what your art should be about—how YOU see the world, not how Bob Ross imagined it.

Did you like this article? Share it!
Then check out the related posts below.
Years after his death, Bob Ross is still teaching artists how to paint in his "Joy of Painting" series and many other books and videos—and yet if you've read my short critique of Bob Ross's methods you know I don't agree with how he taught painting. I DO think it's important to show both sides. . . read more
There's no doubt that Bob Ross is an iconic American figure—it seems like nearly everyone knows who he is whether they're artists or not. With this poll, however, I wanted to find out what all of you (who are primarily artists) think about him. I've always found it an interesting topic because. . . read more
Japanese artist Hokusai said this on his death bed, "If Heaven had only granted me five more years, I could have become a real painter." Hokusai's quote applies equally well to art students, amateur artists, and full-time artists. Learning about art is a life-long pursuit; an artist is forever. . . read more
A few years ago, I was on the verge of concluding that art was either for snobs or elitists, and that it was exclusive, as opposed to inclusive. The general public is often led to believe that art is for those who’ve received a nearly spiritual calling, whose dedication borders on fanatical wo. . . read more
Today's featured artist is Linda Apple, a daily painter from Ohio whose most recent paintings are a collection of quick, almost snapshot scenes from her daily life—usually of people wrapped up in their own world. There's a lot to like in these little paintings, but I especially enjoyed seeing . . . read more
Stay current.
Subscribe to EmptyEasel's free weekly newsletter for artists. Sign up today!
CanvasFlyer
Art Contests
More art contests. . .
EE Writers
Alyice Edrich Cassie Rief Steff Metal Niki Hilsabeck Brandi Bowman Michelle Morris Lisa Orgler Adriana Guidi Carrie Lewis Aletta de Wal Erin SparlerLuke Montgomery

If you'd like to write for EmptyEasel, let us know!

We love publishing reader-submitted art tutorials, stories, and even reviews.Submit yours here!