Bob 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.