Trying (and Succeeding) to Paint like Bob Ross

I have always been a little bit jealous of painters.

Sure, I can take pictures that are halfway decent and am creative in other ways. I can draw alright and choreograph an aerial routine. But there is something about painting that is so mesmerizing. The skill. The strategic timing. The fact that there are artists who can paint animals, landscapes, humans so realistically, they could pop off the paper. I decided to make it a New Year’s Resolution to at least try.


If you are not a painting prodigy, like me, then you probably understand my struggle. Paint is patient and messy and layered. There is no eraser. Sometimes you have to cover the canvas black and start from scratch.

So why oil painting then? Oil has to be exponentially worse, right? (As I found out, it is). Well the answer is that of the thousands of others who our intrigued by painting happy little trees.

Bob Ross’s ability to create entire 18×20 landscapes in less than 27 minutes, all while maintaining a carefree and cozy attitude, found him his stardom. The background of Bob is fascinating – he was in the Air Force for years, where he traveled around the world and saw the spectacular views of mountains and seascapes that he would later paint. Bob described himself as having to be “tough and mean” while in the military, and he vowed if he ever left that he would never scream again.


Lucky for me, David knew of my desire to learn and, in true best-boyfriend-ever fashion, purchased me the “Bob Ross: Joy of Painting” set for Valentine’s Day. My best friend, Claire, then volunteered to venture on this painting journey with me, and finally this weekend we were able to attempt, fail, and then attempt again.

There were two significant mistakes that I made on my first go-around.

  1. I did not read the instructions.
  2. I did not listen to the directions.

Funny how that could set ya back, huh?

As it would turn out, you cannot remove oil from a paintbrush with water. This is probably third-grade for most people, but I am exceptionally good at glossing over details. Luckily, I had dish soap which acts as a degreaser (it’s what they use to save those animals caught in oil spills!) and it worked…. well enough.

Second, Bob started his canvas off by painting where the ocean would be with acrylic black to give him a darker base. I ignored the “acrylic” part and just went with the “black” part, and painted my base with midnight black oil paint. When it came time to paint my ocean, all of my waves mixed with the black and turned from white to gray. It kind of looked like…. an oil spill! The irony is not lost on me here.

Banished to the staircase in shame.

After my third vodka-cranberry was failing to take the edge off of my heightened nerves, we decided to call it quits on this one.

The next day, however, I was miraculously renewed with a sense that I’d learned from my mistakes and decided to give it another go. I knew the hardest part were clouds and waves, so I avidly avoided those themes. Unfortunately most of his paintings have skies, and therefore clouds, but I did find one with approximately only one percent waves called “Sunset Aglow”.


Turns out, listening pays off, and my next painting turned out, in my words, “alright”, and in David’s words, “awesome”. It certainly is no where near the standards of a real Bob Ross piece, and my clouds suck, but I also know that Bob wouldn’t want me to compare myself to him anyway. After all, “there are no mistakes”!

2 thoughts on “Trying (and Succeeding) to Paint like Bob Ross”

  • Wow so nice to see the end result! Looks amazing! Great to here that you can really improve these skills in a short time. Always liked painting when I was younger, now I also don’t have the patience when it doesn’t turn out on canvas the way it’s in my head. Mayne I’ll try again soon!

    • Thank you for the kind comment, Nonna! I highly suggest watching the Bob Ross videos. I admit I was a bit disheartened too at first but the second go around made me feel better, though of course Bob’s was so much more glorious! I guess it is true what they say, that practice makes perfect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *