I recently got into painting at the beginning of the new year as a random hobby that I had expressed interest in doing for some time. I was first turned on to the idea after reading an article about former president George W. Bush taking up painting as a pastime after his departure from office in 2009. Although I have no formal training and my work is amateur at best, I am proud of what I do as it comes from raw emotion and my interpretation of mental visualizations of my world. I draw most of my inspiration from a man who to this very day, nearly 25 years after his death, continues to influence a generation of new artists, while retaining the awe of YouTube viewers from across the globe…Bob Ross.
Robert Norman Ross was born on October 29, 1942 in Daytona Florida. The son of a carpenter, he dropped out of high school and later enlisted in the US Air Force at the age of 18. He began painting during his military service, and was later mentored by German Artist Bill Alexander who taught Ross how to paint in his signature “wet on wet” style which calls for an artist to create their works via painting layer upon layer (of paint) while it is still wet. The process of an oil painting drying could take up to weeks. Years after he studied under Alexander, Ross ventured on his own which later yielded him landing his own TV show The Joy of Painting, which was soon broadcast on PBS outlets throughout the country. The show ran from 1983 to 1994, and each 30-minute episode consisted of Ross painting various landscapes (mostly nature inspired), in the aforementioned “wet on wet” technique. Ross died in 1995 due to complications of lymphoma at the age of 52.
Bob Ross was truly a man’s man, in that he retained a degree of healthy masculinity that never adhered those tenets of it’s toxic form, examples which I will list below. As intriguing as Ross’ creation of his works from a mere palette of colors and a blank canvas, is the degree of confidence in which he does so. Ross was never brash in his delivery of art and even made small mistakes in his works which he termed “happy little accidents.” In doing so, he was able to convey to his audience that even an expert painter makes mistakes from time to time. One of the many distorted beliefs of toxic masculinity holds is that a man can never make a mistake, and if he should do so, then he has committed a transgression that is the equivalent of a cardinal sin. Ross’ calm and inviting demeanor makes viewers also feel an emotional and non-threatening connection with him, even so many years after his passing. One YouTube viewer commented that Ross was that person he wished to chill and have a beer with while talking about art. Men who adhere to the concepts of toxic masculinity often feel a man should be aggressive and persistent in his call from attention from others….namely women. Ross was also an artist, which in itself is a form of expression. He commented on some shows his thoughts on life and the ideas of having moments of sadness to appreciate joy. Toxic masculine beliefs state that a man should never express his emotions and should do his absolute best to “be strong” in moments of great emotional distress. Not an easy thing to do at the funeral of a close loved one.
Men everywhere can learn lessons from Bob Ross in how to build a form of healthy masculinity that conveys the assertiveness many males seeks, but that also promotes conveying of emotions, empathy towards others, and commanding respect from those around him sans displaying over-compensatory aggressiveness. I have included a clip of Bob Ross in action, and hope you will take the time to appreciate a true legend doing nothing more than sharing his craft for our visual enjoyment.