Bob Ross was not always surrounded by happy trees and lazy clouds. He spent 10 years in the U.S. Air Force where apparently he screamed enough for a lifetime because he vowed when he left the service that he would never yell again. Apparently Ross is a man that keeps his promises because I can’t imagine the afroed man from my youth who was always showing videos of the animals he rescued near his home as ever screaming. Ross is known for his PBS painting show, but what few people know is that he donated all of those shows free of charge to the PBS stations along with the paintings that he created on the show to help lend them support.
After doing the TV show for awhile Ross began a successful art instruction business where he sold books and painting supplies. The quick painting style that he is known for comes from his need to begin and complete a painting during his daily breaks while serving in the Air Force. I believe that Ross’s major contribution as an artist ironically wasn’t his paintings, but instead in inspiring others to take up the brush and begin painting themselves. Critics tend to judge Ross on the basis of his completed paintings, but seldom take into account his objective and reasoning for painting the way in which he did. Ross’s goal was not to bring great art to people by he himself creating a master piece, but for people to experience art for themselves by actually getting their hands dirty and getting involved.
Ross brought art to many people that never had exposure to art instruction before. Critics of his instructional methods sometimes call it a dead end in that you only learn to paint like Ross, and that this may curtail you finding your own artistic voice. I believe that this is equally true of any painting system or instruction whether it is from a university, book or video that offers a ‘way’ to learn how to paint. Ross succeeded in generating an interest in art from a huge group of people, and I believe the obligation lies with every student to decide the direction in which they need to grow. Ross offered a starting point in the arts for many that never would have known where to begin. I personaly don’t use Ross’s techniques – they just don’t fit in very well with the way that I paint, but I have to admire the passion that he had for art that inspired so many to pick up a brush.