Have you always wanted to learn to paint but you weren’t sure where to start? If so, why not delve into 31 seasons of the late Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting, which is now freely available to watch on YouTube. The original series ran from 1983 to 1994, but thankfully didn’t disappear after the television artist’s death. Due high demand from fans, Ross lives on through the magic of video. In each half-hour episode, Ross teaches various techniques for landscape oil painting, allowing viewers to follow along with gentle encouragement and the reminder, “you can do it.”
Ross gave comfort to beginner painters, assuring them that the 16th-century alla prima or “wet-on-wet” technique he demonstrated onscreen could never result in mistakes, only “happy accidents.” In one particular episode he claimed, “In painting, you have unlimited power. You have the ability to move mountains. You can bend rivers. But when I get home, the only thing I have power over is the garbage.” However, despite his reassurance and encouragement, many viewers tuned in just to watch “happy little trees” and “pretty little mountains” appear on canvas, and listen to the softly spoken host’s mesmerizing voice and funny anecdotes, without ever picking up a paintbrush.
Each imaginary landscape begins as simple paint strokes, and evolves into colorful scenes of forests, mountains, cloudy skies, or the ocean in a matter of minutes. While painting, Ross mentions stories of his own life, including his military career and the time he spent in Alaska, as well as his love of animals. For each episode’s painting, Ross created three versions. The first was painted in advance of filming and used as an off-camera reference for him to complete the second copy while recording. Afterwards, the artist painted a third, more detailed version for use in his instructional books. All three versions were then donated to various PBS stations.