My love affair with Bob RossJun 29, 2021 08:00AM ● By Arlyn Macdonald
I’m not sure what first attracted me to Bob Ross. It might have been his outrageous hairstyle, fuzzy and full. It might have been his warm smile or his soft voice. Whatever first attracted me to this man who changed more than a million lives, I’ve been in love with him for at least 15 years. And I’ll never fall out of love with him, for he changed my life, too.
It happened suddenly one Saturday morning when I stumbled into the living room, a cup of coffee in my hands trying to wake up. I turned on the television to help ease me into the day and there he was, standing before a blank canvas with a palette in one hand and a two-inch brush in the other.
Out of his shirt pocket peeked a tiny little squirrel. He loved squirrels and would often raise babies that’d been abandoned by their mothers. He took that huge paintbrush (which I would’ve used to paint my house) and began crisscrossing color across the top of the canvas to paint in the sky, encouraging his viewers to be bold.
“You’ll never believe what you can do until you get in there and try it,” he said.
I was mesmerized. Before my eyes, in one short hour, a beautiful mountain scene took shape. I thought to myself, “I could do this.” The way he easily explained how to paint a mountain, tree or bush encouraged me to go out and buy some oil paints and brushes. The next Saturday, I stood in front of the television, ready to start painting on my own blank canvas.
BEAUTY IN EVERYTHING
As the weeks and months went by, it felt like Bob was talking directly to me.
“Exercising the imagination, experimenting with talents, being creative...these things, to me, are truly the windows to your soul,” he said.
I couldn’t wait until Saturday morning when I could spend time with him. I did all right when I followed his instructions in front of the television, but it was harder to try to paint on my own. I missed him. I needed him.
Arlyn Macdonald shows off one of her Bob Ross-inspired masterpieces at her home in Montrose.
Paintings began to fill my bedroom walls. I was too shy to hang any in the living room. From winter scenes to bubbling brooks and little cabins in the woods, we explored nature together.
“There’s beauty in every tree and every brush. Just take the time to look at ’em,” he told me.
And I did. I began to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors in new ways. I could see the dark shadows and the light, and why they were both important not only in paintings but in life.
“Every day is a good day when you paint,” he said.
Just when his viewers thought the painting was finished, he’d pick up another two-inch brush and say, “This is your bravery test. You worked so hard and then a crazy-haired guy tells you to throw in a big ol’ tree on top of it all.” Before you could gasp, he had painted a huge tree right in the front! I learned it was okay not to put the tree in if I didn’t want to, and okay if I did.
Eventually, I gained enough confidence to try a seascape. I suffered over that painting. I didn’t know how difficult it was to paint the ocean waves and capture the glint of sunlight in the curl. He assured me, “The very fact that you’re aware of suffering is enough reason to be overjoyed that you’re alive and can experience it.”
In time, I missed our Saturday mornings together, and I moved into my wise years. I tried my hand at other art forms, but what I learned from my love affair never went away.
A CONTINUING LEGACY
Bob passed away on July 4, 1995. I still grieve for him, as do thousands of his other fans. However, we are fortunate to live in this modern world of technology where we can bring him to life again and experience his gentle spirit through YouTube videos, DVDs and numerous books.
From time to time, his show “The Joy of Painting”—the most popular art TV show the world has ever seen—appears again on PBS. His show was on for 31 seasons, with more than 400 episodes airing on 275 stations across the globe.
Today, a whole new generation of budding artists are discovering and falling in love with Bob Ross. Every time I hear him say, “Anything we don’t like, we’ll turn it into a happy little tree or something; we don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents,” I remember the first time I watched his magic unfold before my eyes. Love fills my heart again.
I am deeply grateful for all the lessons, both in art and life, that I learned from Bob Ross. I shall never forget him and what he taught me.
“If what you’re doing doesn’t make you happy, you’re doing the wrong thing.”