Today would have been Bob Ross’s 70th birthday. Did you ever watch The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross on PBS? He was this gentle soul who loved painting and wanted to help everyone else love it too. Stick with me, this is absolutely about size acceptance.
I have very vague recollections of seeing this show as a kid, but I’ve never been much for visual arts (I got excused from high school art class for sucking) so I didn’t pay much attention.
I was at a friend’s house and the show was on. Before I could reach the remote to change the channel I was mesmerized. He gave me a whole lesson on life while he created a beautiful painting in less than 30 minutes.
The way that he approached the painting was so carefree. He didn’t say “now be very careful and think before you apply the paint”. He said “Just brush it on – there are no mistakes here, we just have happy accidents”.
He talked about how anyone could paint and, sitting there on my friend’s recliner playing Scrabble on my iPhone, I began to actually believe him. As he finished out the background I started to think that I wasn’t just an art class drop out, maybe this wasn’t completely impossible. I started to think that I could maybe do that…
Then he picked up some very dark paint with his knife and said that it was time to paint a mountain. I could feel the fear well up – I was wrong. I definitely could not do this. I was about to ruin the imaginary painting in my mind. There was going to be a big brown/black lump of failure on my imaginary canvas where a majestic mountain was supposed to be.
As he put it on he said “Be bold. Be fearless. This is your mountain. You can make it anyway you want. You are in control”. My fear and anxiety faded with his gentle assertions. I could do this…
I looked him up on Wikipedia and it said that when asked about his calm, laid back demeanor he said: “I got a letter from somebody here a while back, and they said, ‘Bob, everything in your world seems to be happy.’ That’s for sure. That’s why I paint. It’s because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news.”
I was also delighted to find that one of the criticisms against him was that “Ross tended to paint from his imagination, rather than from a careful study of nature. His trees, for instance, are not accurate depictions of real trees.” Of course anybody who does anything is going to collect critics, but what a fantastic thing of which to be accused!
I talk a lot about loving ourselves and our bodies and creating an authentic life which is not always the simplest path, especially for fat people who live in a culture steeped in weight bigotry and oppression. Letting go of all of the negative messages that we got, ignoring the ones that we are getting; discovering, growing and protecting our self-esteem; living honestly and authentically, loving ourselves; appreciating our bodies, loving someone else; these can all be scary things that I hope to support people doing – somehow through his 30 minute show on painting Bob Ross made it all seem possible.
I didn’t “meet” Bob Ross until after he passed away, but he is a hero of mine. How amazing would it be to live up to his legacy – that someone somewhere who thinks that liking themselves is impossible reads our work or hears us speak or sees us living authentic lives and thinks…”I could maybe do that…” that we could be the Bob Rosses of Size Acceptance. That our critics will accuse us of creating our lives from our imaginations, rather than a careful study of what is (aka what “everybody knows.”) I can think of few compliments or criticisms as great. So happy 70th Bob Ross, and thanks for the happy little trees, the happy little clouds, the happy little accidents, and the hope.
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14 thoughts on “Hell Yeah I’m Blogging about Bob Ross and Size Acceptance”
Just tangential: Bob Ross Remixed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLO7tCdBVrA&feature=plcp
(It really encapsulates what I (an apparently you, lol) love about Bob Ross)
That was awesome!! As one commentor said “hope you’re floating on a happy little cloud somewhere, Bob”.
I love Bob Ross. Always have. I sometimes joke that he was a government conspiracy to provide a mass sedative. Once, I was messing around and dialed 1-800-Bob-Ross, and you know who answered? Bob Ross, Inc. no kidding. I lived in Indiana for a while and knew someone who knew someone who had eaten dinner with him as a friend of his son’s. Yeah, they said it was just like that. I love Bob Ross for these reasons and so many more….Ragen, your perspective on it has given me one more reason.
You’re my Bob Ross, Regan. Because you let me know there was an alternative to self loathing and fat bashing! I’m not at 100% yet, but I am getting better. Thank you for that!
Oh, and whenever I have taught a creative endeavor, I always say “there are no mistakes in art because people are always so afraid. It’s supposed to be fun!
I was never into painting myself, so I never did watch Bob Ross. This makes me want to find some old eps and get to know him. Better late than never, after all.
Back in the day, I was more of a performer. I used to do a lot of acting. My favorite director I ever worked with had this to say about making mistakes: If you’re going to make a mistake, make it with confidence. Then everyone will think you did exactly what you were supposed to do.
Between happy accidents and confident mistakes, life is a lot more fun.
I remember him. And I thought the “whatever” approach was not helpful because I wanted *detailed and specific instructions.* I like your point of view much better, and it’s so nice to see a positive post here. I am not saying the blog is too negative, just that these notes of positivity are so important.
Happy Trees Happy Trees!!! One of my faves (I even still have my Bob Ross tee shirt!!!) Great post Ragen!
Hee hee! I have one, too!
HUGE Bob Ross fan ( My Fiance actually kinda looks like him even) We found this a while ago, and I shared it with dancer friends of mine and we ALL love it! SO I share it with you. It is one of the empowering songs I have ever heard Love it!
I can’t count the times when I wasn’t pleased with my efforts that I said, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents!” He was awesome.
I loved Bob Ross since I was a kid! I don’t think he had a mean bone in his body. My parents, my sister, and I were all fans of his show. I miss him.
I used to put his show on when I was doing homework in high school. Usually my parents forbid TV during homework time, but Bob Ross was deemed OK.
I watched his show occasionally as a kid. I remember tuning in one time and seeing him with a baby squirrel or chipmunk in his shirt pocket! I thought he was the awesomist person in the world after that. 🙂
The world needs more happy little trees and happy imaginations. After all – art isn’t merely a reflection of the world around us, and neither are we. 🙂