Friday, June 17, 2011

On The Shoulders Of Giants

As plein air painters, being exposed to crowds and having contact with the public as we paint, we are all asked questions about what we do and how we do it. But I have noticed there are certain questions that are asked repeatedly:
Whatcha' doin'?
How long you been doin' that?
Do you know Bob Ross?
The first two I understand. They're pertinent. But the last?
When asked the third question I always respond with this "yeah, I know who he is" that is laced with a tone that says,"I can't believe you asked me that. I am a serious artist." And I am asked this question over and over and over. I have thought about putting a counter on my blog and keeping up with how many times I am asked, "do you know Bob Ross?"
But I had an incident recently that has caused me to re-think my response to the question.
I had a slow leak on an outside faucet and called a plumbing company to come and fix it. When the plumber shows up, he walked in and saw my easel and painting set up and didn't ask "where's the leak?" or "what's the problem?' Nope. The very first thing out of his mouth,"Do you know Bob Ross?"
I started to respond with my patented smug "yeah" but then I noticed here is a guy standing in my studio and we have started an artistic dialog thanks to Bob Ross. He goes on to tell me that he has a mother and cousin who paint consistently due to the Bob Ross t.v. show exposure. And that is usually how the stories go when people talk about Bob Ross. "I have a cousin..." or "I have a mother-law..." or a neighbor or a retired executive or bored housewife or, or, or...  There are thousands and thousands of people out there who Bob Ross made believe they could be artists and he got them up off the couch and in front of the easel and got them started. Thousands. I have them show up for my classes and workshops. And I bet almost all the other artists I know, at some point, have had Bob Ross started students. Bob Ross exposed people to art that may never had the opportunity or resources to begin an artistic life. He got them started. And some may argue the artistic merit of his style and methods but you have to admit, he has had a huge impact on art in this country. People don't come up to me and ask,"hey, you know that John Singer Sargent guy?" I've never been asked. But how many people out there got to John Singer Sargent via Bob Ross?  How many has he started on that quest and journey and constant lifelong pursuit for the betterment of their craft?  I guarantee  more than anybody else you can think of.
So the next time I am asked, "do you know Bob Ross?"
"You mean that artistic titan that has had such an impact on the arts? You mean that creative powerhouse with that quite soft hypnotising demeanor? The guy with the afro?"
"Oh hell yeah I know him."
Just don't ask me about Thomas Kinkade. I'm still working on that one.


Reece Hancock said...

I find myself on some Saturday mornings watching Bob Ross with my three year-old daughter. She loves it. For her, Sargent will come later. Kinkade, never. Great post.

Erik van Elven said...

I agree, great post. I'm not a fan of his painting style as well but his positive attitude is inspiring.
And he had an awesome hairdo.

rateyourart said...

I saw him in a interview many years ago in which he explained his goal, “to turn on as many people to art as he could” that I can live with.

The problem is that he also convinced a huge number of people with little art education or appreciation that art/painting was a hobby, easy to do, of little intrinsic value and executed in a naïve manner by strange people.

greggart said...

I agree with the post above. He's great as far as exposing people to a life geared toward creativity.

However, to make consistent quality art it takes years of study.....not just picking up a brush and adding "a happy cloud" here or there or giving a tree a "litte friend".

Kevin Menck said...

Yep. Gonna have a hard time arguing with the last two comments. I like to think though that after the Bob Ross beginning most are able to advance and put in the work to experience art on a much different level.

René PleinAir said...

But what about Rien Poortvliet?!


Kevin Menck said...

Alright. I gotta' know. Who the hell is Rien Porttvliet?

Erik van Elven said...

Rien Poortvliet:

Dutch painter, painted primarily wildlife and dutch landscapes. Became famous through his books on gnomes.

Love his work.

Christopher Greco said...

What a great post! I get the same questions all the time. I find Bob Ross genuine and earnest, while Kincade leaves me wanting to take a shower. I always wonder why with the popularity of these "art" shows on PBS, do they rarely if ever put on any other more serious art shows?

Janet Paden said...

I think that "some may argue the artistic merit of his style and methods" was thought of Van Gogh in his day. May we never get too "Good" to acknowledge the accomplishments of our fellow artists, no matter their technique or skill level. Some of the most wonderful art I have seen is hanging on my frig with a magnet!

Claire Beadon Carnell said...

Bob Ross, and his predecessor Bill Alexander got a lot of people painting who were terrified to even lift a paintbrush. Even though I have never been attracted to the art either one of them created, I am glad that they opened the door for so many.

taaron parsons said...

best. post. ever.

Anonymous said...

Just came across this blog today and I absolutely love this piece on Bob Ross. Couldn’t be more accurate. I would never have dreamed I could paint if it weren’t for him, I’d always assumed ppl were “Born” with the ability. I painted along with his tv show reruns and he taught me some foundational stuff that I was able to build upon. 7 years later and my work has been displayed in several galleries, I received numerous commissions, and my work hangs in several businesses in my city. Sargent is like a God to me, but I will always love Bob Ross for giving me the greatest gift of my life and helping me find my true passion in life. Thank you for writing this about him.