Painting Happy Little Clouds and Trees with TUSC

Participants show off their paintings at TUSC's Bob Ross Paint Night on February 7, 2019. Photo by Sarah Cockins.

On February 7, the Trent University Sociology Collective hosted their second Bob Ross De-Stress Paint Night. For those who don’t know who Bob Ross is, he was an artist and painting instructor who hosted the popular television program, The Joy of Painting. The show premiered in 1983 on PBS, and lasted until it was cancelled in 1994.

Bob Ross (b. 1942, Orlando, Florida) was and still is famous for his wet-on-wet painting technique and his gentle, calming, therapeutic voice. Ross served in the U.S. Air Force, during which he took his first painting classes while stationed in Alaska. This experience inspired the scenic landscapes in many of his paintings. If none of this sounds familiar, you might recognize Bob Ross by his iconic perm.

“There are no mistakes, just happy accidents,” Bob Ross famously said.

In each 30-minute episode, Ross would paint breathtaking landscapes using oil paints and step-by-step methods, often incorporating many happy little trees. Ross encouraged viewers to take chances with their own paintings, and emphasised that anything is possible with enough practice and passion.

“I started painting as a hobby when I was little. I didn’t know I had any talent. I believe talent is just a pursued interest. Anybody can do what I do,” said Bob Ross.

Bob Ross has had a lasting legacy and still retains a cult following. He remains one of the most well-known American painters. Ross is not only beloved by fellow artists; he was and still is known for his easy going personality and soothing voice. Ross was also remarkably humble and nurturing, fostering baby animals that he would often feature on The Joy of Painting.

“It’s so important to do something every day that will make you happy,” Bob Ross said.

The first Bob Ross Paint Night was held on November 27, 2018. Approximately 35 students attended this Paint Night. Tickets purchased in advance were $10, while at the door they cost $15. The ticket cost covered snacks, refreshments, and the cost of paint, brushes, and a canvas. Each participant received a palette with various colours of acrylic paint, a handful of brushes, and a canvas. The event began at 8:15 p.m., and went until 10 p.m. Participants were encouraged to follow along with a Bob Ross video tutorial, slowed down and occasionally paused so everyone could catch up. The chosen scene to paint was based on the tutorial titled “Tranquil Dawn,” from season 21, episode 2 of The Joy of Painting.

The Sociology Collective received feedback from the first event in November suggesting that the space was too small, the projector screen was difficult to see, and that having two separate sessions of painting was polarizing. Thus, the venue was changed to the Student Centre, with larger desks that all faced a large projection screen in the room. The Sociology Collective also purchased better quality brushes and larger canvases, and included the cost of refreshments in the ticket rather than having them sold separately.

Currently, the date for the next Paint Night is still under consideration. At the time of this publication, the projected date is March 21. However, it may be changed to March 20 to better accommodate students in the Sociology department.