The joy of trying to paint

Hallie Bartelt and Hana Mohamed

Robert Norman Ross: almost everyone remembers or has heard of the amazing painter who could make beautiful landscapes in under thirty minutes. If you haven’t heard of him perhaps you would recognize him by his informal name, Bob Ross. More and more often, the media has seen people attempting to recreate Ross’ paintings in numerous different ways from using frosting to even trying it blindfolded. There is no denying that Ross has become very popular. Many television shows make references to him. He has become an ongoing meme with most social medias. Even products have been designed around him, such as the Chia Pet. However, after 24 years why did Ross rise in popularity now?

There are many reasons as to why Ross became so popular, such as his encouraging words, iconic perm, and laid-back style.

Ross’s accessible traits could make a person feel comfortable, calm, included, and confident,” said Alexxa Gotthardt, a journalist for

People like Ross for many different reasons. Many of the viewers enjoyed watching his, The Joy of Painting. Ross would spend around 30 minutes using the, now-famous, technique wet-on-wet painting. There are even classes dedicated to Ross’ paintings. Frederick Community College had classes called, Happy Little Trees: The Bob Ross Painting Class.

Ross first learned this technique from his mentor, William Alexander. Before meeting Alexander, Ross had been in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years. He left with the title of Master Sergeant, as he wanted to pursue painting. He took private lessons with Alexander until he surpassed his mentor and was offered his own show on PBS. From there his career had took off, and The Joy of Painting ran for 11 years. Over four hundred episodes were created, leading to a grand total of 31 seasons. However, at age 52 Ross died from Lymphoma. Some believe that his Lymphoma was caused by the continuous exposure to oil paints, however what we all know is his legacy will continue.

The Bob Ross Company is continuing to rise in popularity as millions of people attempt to paint what Ross has painted no matter how experienced of a painter they are. Thousands of YouTubers have tried following his tutorials, and that is what we, Hana and Hallie, plan to do. We will try following his tutorial of how to paint “Camper’s Haven” (Season 19, Episode 5).

“Beat the devil out of it,” said Ross in one of his tutorials, “Camper’s Haven” when cleaning his brush. This saying was really funny and was one of the reasons why we choose this to recreate this painting.

We were also inspired to recreate this particular painting because the use of colors seemed simple enough but at the same time the painting was difficult enough to have a fun challenge. We started the process by visiting a local Michaels. As predicted it took a while to find the paints as they were very specific colors. Even though it was fun roaming around the store and grabbing paints and materials, reaching the cashier brought out dread. Buying the necessary materials costed around $100. Clearly, doing a Bob Ross tutorial was not as cheap as we were expecting it to be. 13 paints, 7 canvases (in case we made a mistake), 2 palettes, and 2 easels later, we finally left Michaels.

In the tutorial, Ross started painting right away, we however, still had to set up our supplies.

It would actually take a few hours of setting up before we could begin to paint. While setting up supplies we realized one easel was bigger than the other. That, although, did not stop us. We simply set up a bunch of boxes, put a blanket over it and placed the small easel on top. We set up the camera, chased Hana’s cat away from the camera, and began recording. We started with Camper’s Haven, which was a dreadful task to complete with around 6 hours of painting, despite Ross completing the painting in only 27 minutes. As you can imagine, lots of touch ups and pausing was frequent.

“Why is this purple?” Hana said in distress. That was when we discovered the first rule of painting, follow Ross’ techniques. Although mountains are normally grey and brown, Ross mixed the colors to make a lavender for the mountains. However, we believed that it was not supposed to be a purple color, so we ignored what Ross had said. Clearly that did not turn out well as we had different mountains than Ross did. The color he choose mixed well with the titanium white and midnight black to make a smooth grey.

Throughout the video we had some trouble mixing colors, making the mountains, and keeping up with Ross’ pace. Mixing colors should be one of the easiest tasks however, we were both unsure how much of the colors to mix with the other. A master chef would understand how much a pinch of salt would be, however new chefs would be unsure. Ross, being the master painter he is, knows how much to mix to get the color he wants. We, although, were suffering trying the mix the colors. (A word of advice to anyone who wishes to try a tutorial: label your paints).

When Ross started making the mountains in his painter we realized how unprepared we were. He passed his paintbrush along for what appeared to be a small painting knife. Using the side he created many mountains. We used our brushes and tried as hard as we could to make the same thing as he could, and did not fail as much as we imagined we would. Ross also was a fast painter, so naturally we had to pause the video quite a bit.

Although we had our difficulties we found the experience to be very enjoyable and would definitely try painting again. Both paintings turned out well and trying this tutorial was more fun than we could have expected.

After completing the paintings we realized why Bob Ross Tutorials were gaining popularity. Although sometimes stressful, the overall process was a lot of fun. Both teachers and students have realized how influential Ross is.

“I think he was really influential because he was calm and seemed to be friends with everything,” said Chloe Dietlmeier, an AP art student. Dietlmeier has seen quite a few episodes of Ross’ show and finds him to be an inspiring man. She has tried following his tutorial before, but she thought it did not turn out well, as this was before she took painting classes. She finds it very satisfying to paint and naturally finds Ross to be an amazing and memorable person. However, Dietlmeier is not the only student at New Berlin West to think that Ross is memorable.

“Happy trees, who could forget that guy?” said Dalton Paff, a current sophomore.

Ross has made a large impact on the world. His personality, paintings, techniques, and dedication have influenced many people, not only in the world, but in New Berlin too. His tutorials have gained millions of views and continue to rise in popularity. His company, appears, to be growing larger as more people buy his products. Even the local Half Price Books Store in New Berlin have gained a section dedicated to Bob Ross products and books. His influence is clearly prevalent and has had a positive effect on people.

“I think that Bob Ross has had an impact on the art world,” wrote Alexandria DePagter, an art teacher at New Berlin West. “With his simple techniques he made painting approachable and something that everyone can do!”