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Bob Ross: Joy of Painting for Beginners

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Painted by Dan Harmon using the Bob Ross methods.

Painted by Dan Harmon using the Bob Ross methods.

Bob Ross Shares His Joy of Painting

Somewhere between 10 and 100 years ago, I used to watch a TV show about oil painting. It featured a crazy, bushy-haired guy painting outdoor scenes with "happy little trees" and mountain scenes. Although not an artist by any means, I always thought I could do that and really wanted to try, but I never found the time or money.

Then, two years ago, my wonderful wife bought me a starter kit from the Bob Ross Joy of Painting series, the very man I had watched years ago. She also bought me an easel and some other supplies, and I, Dan Harmon, began to paint with oil. They were pretty awful, but over the months have improved considerably, to the point that I don't automatically look for the trash can when one is finished. I at least hang on to them for a few days to critique my own errors and have come to realize that oil painting is within my reach, even as a raw beginner.

My art studio area.

My art studio area.

Bob Ross Paint Supplies From Amazon

Beginners can start small, with a minimum of supplies, and still make some beautiful paintings.

Beginners can start small, with a minimum of supplies, and still make some beautiful paintings.

Bob Ross Method of Oil Painting

Bob Ross, in his genius, came up with a method of oil painting that is perfect for beginners in the field. Materials from brushes to paints are relatively inexpensive to get started, and right from the start, his "apprentices" begin making actual paintings, not just practice canvases that look like just what they are. While those of us that never progress beyond Bob's method of oil painting will never become famous for our artwork, the methods Bob Ross uses in his teaching series "The Joy of Painting" offers encouragement right from the start to newcomers to the field of oil painting.

Beginners can start small, with a minimum of supplies, and still make some beautiful paintings. As they find that they enjoy their new hobby, they can slowly expand with additional brushes, paints, and other tools, and they want to learn even more of the techniques Bob Ross offers.

I wanted to expand beyond what that first small kit offered.

I wanted to expand beyond what that first small kit offered.

Bob Ross Joy of Painting Series

Bob Ross offers his "Joy of Painting" series of instructional videos, books, and supplies to help the beginning painter, and this is where I started myself.

The gift kit I received contained just 2 or 3 brushes, a palette knife, and a dozen or so small tubes of oil paint, along with easy-to-understand instructions. It was enough to discover that I could do this and immensely enjoyed it. It was also enough to find out that the simple beginners kit was soon no longer enough; I wanted more brushes and a nice palette. I wanted to expand beyond what that first small kit offered.

Palettes can be a little expensive, but I found that I could make my own palette out of clear plastic quite easily. The Bob Ross Joy of Painting series has been very popular over the years, and although Bob is gone, his materials and instruction books, along with DVDs of his TV shows, are still available on the internet as well as in art stores in town. I have also had good luck finding materials on eBay. I enjoyed painting enough that I even set up a small studio area in my remodeled sunroom to give me a small area I could call my own to work in.

I now have all the paints and brushes recommended for his outdoor scenes. Wildlife and flower scenes are also included in some of the instructions, but I preferred mountain and wilderness scenes. There are now other painters and authors promoting his methodology in painting; some take a little different tack to the work, and some follow quite closely.

None of my work or much that I have seen by others using the Bob Ross oil paint techniques is truly top-notch art; one of my co-workers studied painting for many years under a Russian painter and makes fun of Bob Ross although he does appreciate that the Bob Ross method has encouraged me to start oil painting at the beginners level. He wants me to continue my studies on painting, but I have no real interest in becoming famous or even improving beyond what I can with my current methods of oil painting.

The instructional method used in the Joy of Painting series uses pictures painted by Bob Ross, and the student is supposed to copy them, adding their own personal touches as desired. I am to the point that I occasionally take my materials camping with me and work from the surrounding views. That is enough to keep me quite happy. I am not truly interested in spending the years of study necessary to become really good; I just want to make some paintings that I and others can enjoy.

The student is supposed to copy Bob Ross's paintings, adding their own personal touches as desired.

The student is supposed to copy Bob Ross's paintings, adding their own personal touches as desired.

I have learned the satisfaction of an artist with a finished product to show the world.

I have learned the satisfaction of an artist with a finished product to show the world.

Personal Experience With the Bob Ross Joy of Learning

The process has been a real eye-opener for me; I really can paint! No, it is not world-class, but I enjoy it, and friends and relatives seem to appreciate the work and have asked several times for me to make them one. I've even sold a few at yard sales for enough to keep me in paints and materials. I would certainly recommend the Joy of Learning series of training books and materials to anyone that would like to try painting but doesn't know how to even begin. I have never had a lesson or any training beyond books, but as I say, people seem to enjoy my work.

I have also learned the satisfaction of an artist with a finished product to show the world. By now, my own eye can always find fault with the best of the oil paintings that I can produce, but that's OK. Some of my work now is suitable to hang on my wall, and other people find them acceptable as well and that is immensely satisfying.

Some of my family members have tried their own hand at oil painting when visiting, taking their work home when they leave, and it pleases me that I have started someone else down the same path that I have taken and enjoyed so much. If you, my reader here, decide to give Bob Ross a try and learn the joy of painting yourself, please send me an email with a photo of your work; I would be very interested in it.

Learn the joy of painting yourself.

Learn the joy of painting yourself.

Questions & Answers

Question: I am interested in Bob Ross painting and supplies. Where can I get Bob Ross painting supplies?

Answer: The article has a couple of links to Bob Ross products on Amazon, and there are more as well. eBay often has a long list of them, and my local arts and crafts store carries a limited amount.

© 2010 Dan Harmon


Jill Dillon on December 16, 2017:

I to started with Bob Ross. He was so easy to watch and listen to. My paintings have come

along way since starting years ago. It is up to different artists what they like and their style.

Some paintings I really love and others I wouldn't hang them. Thanks for your input.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on September 27, 2017:

You might be surprised one day, Makina, and find that your work CAN compete! Whether it does or not, though, keep painting. Paint for yourself, for your enjoyment and pleasure, and others will enjoy your work as well.

makina mcconahay on September 27, 2017:

i love bob so much although im young i what the show on saturdays i want to be an artist people say that my art work is very good but knowing about bob i know that my work could never compete

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on October 17, 2015:

Thank you! Although still just a beginner.

Brad on October 16, 2015:

Bob would be proud of you, your paintings are so professional looking.

The scenes and the colors used in them are brilliant.


Samita Sharma from Chandigarh on October 11, 2013:

Wow! What a useful hub. So much helpful information laid out in an easy to read and understand way. Great job!

Ginny on September 02, 2013:

Thank you so much for sharing you experience. I miss the Bob Ross painting show. I bought my first starter kit years ago and began my journey in painting. I used Bob Ross for a short time then moved on to drawing and ended up with watercolors. I refer back to my Bob Ross books for inspiration. His paintings are so inspiring to me.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on May 23, 2013:

Yes, they are all mine, and I'm flattered that you suggest they were done by Bob Ross. I know (believe me, I KNOW) they are nowhere near his quality of work, but it's still nice to hear. Should you wish to learn oil painting I don't think there is a better way than by listening to and reading Bob Ross; he was a genius in teaching beginners to produce a decent painting in a reasonable amount of time.

Katee Shew from Canada on May 23, 2013:

This is so cool, I would love to paint like Bob Ross! Are you saying that the paintings in this Hub were done by you?!? They are AMAZING, at first when I saw them I assumed they were done by the great Bob Ross himself. Thank you for sharing this, and I am adding this equipment to my want list and bookmarking this hub for later reference.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on May 23, 2013:

I remember this guy! His shows were so great to watch - he had such a gentle manner, and truly enjoyed sharing his talent. And yes, I miss painting. One of my 'bucket list' goals is to get back to art. Voted up, shared and pinned!

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 16, 2013:

Thanks, Rod. Do give your inspiration a free rein and give it a try.

RodneyBlaec Rainey from Louisville, KY on February 13, 2013:

The winter scene just below the photo of your studio is absolutely breathtaking. Enjoyed the rest too. You have inspired me Sir. Thank You

Chen on October 19, 2012:

This is such a great tribute. I've always been a big fan of watching Bob Ross work on his shows, what a gentle soul, RIP. Beautiful paintings, love the Northern Lights.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on September 29, 2012:

Lots of people remember those shows; they were not only a great teaching class for beginning painters, but were just plain fun to watch. I wish I had more of the videos. I always like his "happy little trees" that were in every painting.

Bev G from Wales, UK on September 29, 2012:

What a lovely tribute to Bob Ross. My partner did exactly what you did, Wilderness. He also had all the Bob Ross tv shows recorded on VHS. We did used to laugh sometimes, when a picture looked just about perfect - we knew he was going to add a great big tree in the foreground, right at the end. Also loved it when he's say, when drying his brush, "We're just gonna beat the devil out of it!"

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on September 28, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Christy. I love painting with oils and it is only because of Bob Ross and his TV shows that I can enjoy that pastime.

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on September 28, 2012:

My dad loved watching his shows. Thanks for a great flashback of my dad and good memories of Bob Ross.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on September 27, 2012:

@ Levertis Steele: If you though my modest efforts were paintings done by Bob I can think of no higher praise. Although you might change your mind if you could see the original rather than a photo.

I, too, loved his show and watched every time I could, and I have purchased some of the DVD's from that how.

Thank you for the comment; it makes my work here worthwhile when someone enjoys it.

Levertis Steele from Southern Clime on September 27, 2012:

I, too, followed Bob Ross in the 80's and loved his teaching and work. It is not every artist that I can sit and watch almost unmoving from start to finish.

I bought art supplies when I felt that I was ready to follow his lead. I had already tried my hand at painting when I was in high school. I, too, began to paint landscapes that I was not ashamed to show family and a few friends. I think I have about 3 or 4 that I managed to save.

Your work is great, but I really thought that it was Bob Ross's. I certainly see his influence. I remember the way he trailed a canvas, with a brush of dark paint, from near top to somewhere toward the bottom to begin a "happy" tree. I learned how to apply light to objects just watching him put it on trees or the right places on a mountainside. I loved the way he “pushed” foliage into the canvas with his brush, and I do remember how he expressed the importance of a light source. He did this without the presence of the actual source. Previous to the lessons I viewed, I just had to have a sun with needle beams or a yellow moon that cast no light of its own. I had no idea how to cast it on objects. I did not continue the painting, but I loved it while it lasted. I am not an artist but I do admire fine work.

After Bob's death, I watched re-runs, but I missed his fresh teachings.

Thanks for sharing fond memories of a great artist!

Janis Goad on September 27, 2012:

I love stories like this. I think the urge to create is part of the human spirit, and we all come to life with abilities to sing, make music, dance, paint, and create poems. Often the urge is schooled out of us, or we get pre-occupied with business and economic survival, which may or may not direct our creativity into other channels. We fear failure, and learn to respect others' judgements more than our inner spark.

My grandfather and aunt started to paint late in life, and developed a talent that had lain dormant until retirement. Now my aunt's paintings hang in my home, and bring great joy to me, especially now that she has passed on.


Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on September 27, 2012:

I've always wanted to try painting but have always hesitated because I can not draw for the life of me.

I too remember Bob Ross and loved to watch him.

Your paintings are beautiful and thanks for sharing your artistic talent.

Judi Brown from UK on September 27, 2012:

I go through phases of drawing and painting, but never have the time to follow projects through. Maybe what I need is a few pointers from Bob Ross to set me on the right path - certainly seems to have worked for you.

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on September 27, 2012:

I think that what you do to enjoy your 'artist self' through this approachable Bob Ross method is perfect. This is what we do in life isn't it? We say, I'd like to try this and then we try (Your wife made the perfect gift!) and then we have these wonderful results (well, we get results that sometimes feel wonderful). Some of those paintings are really cute wilderness. Well done! You never cease to surprise us! Bless.

I'm going to put this on FB and vote about up there.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on July 26, 2012:

It has been a lasting gift indeed, and one very much appreciated. I still use it years after receiving it.

Still a beginning oil painter and still using Bob Ross's teachings, I enjoy it more every painting I make.

summerberrie on July 26, 2012:

Great paintings and what a wonderful gift from your wife! I loved painting with oil in college because I like painting wet on wet and oils didn't dry as quick as acrylic- I like the thick, gooey "Van Gogh" look of oils, too. Oh, place one of those pictures of yours as a lead photo and I'll come back and pin it! :)

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on April 20, 2012:

Yes, I too watched him on TV, always thinking "I can do that!". Well, now I DO do that and enjoy it immensely.

Karen Lackey from Ohio on April 19, 2012:

I loved Bob Ross. I remembered when I was home from school sick as a kid and the only thing on in the middle of the was the Joy of Painting! Great hub and trip down memory lane!

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on November 08, 2011:

That's all I ever wanted - to make something I liked. I don't need to be a master artist, and I don't paint for the recognition. I paint because I enjoy it and it gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Shasta Matova from USA on November 08, 2011:

I've only oil painted once in my life, but I really enjoyed it. I too wouldn't try to be a master, but just truly appreciate the joy of painting. I like your paintings you showed us in this hub.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on September 09, 2011:

I would certainly encourage you to give it try if you are interested in painting at all. It is great for the beginner that doesn't want or can't afford formal training.

If I can strike a spark of enthusiasm in someone else to give painting a try my time writing this hub has been worth it.

Barbara Anne Helberg from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA on September 09, 2011:

@wilderness...Your lessons have paid off! Thanks for sharing this Hub and your beautiful work. I always enjoyed Bob Ross and his "happy little trees", too. Maybe I'll try it yet!

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on February 27, 2011:

Thank you! It gives me considerable satisfaction and enjoyment to paint - it's not likely I will quit in the future.

Sierra Mackenzie on February 24, 2011:

I love your paintings. You are very talented and it is wonderful to know that you developed this talent yourself. Keep up the good work.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on January 29, 2011:

Thank you! I get a lot of enjoyment from my painting, though I'm not very good at all.

Magdelene from Okotoks on January 29, 2011:

I too like Bob Ross and I think the work you have done is awesome.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on January 28, 2011:

While I certainly thank you for the compliment, I never feel that way - never satisfied with any painting.

I enjoy it, however, and will always be happy that I tried this style of painting. Without it I would never had done anything in the arts.

karl from Birmingham UK on January 28, 2011:

Michaelangelo "A man paints with his brains and not with his hands."

It seems you have a lot of brain power wilderness judging from your excellent paintings.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on January 05, 2011:

I am a huge fan - without him I would never have discovered the joys of painting.

anderson_weli on January 05, 2011:

I am another fan of Bob Ross

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on November 21, 2010:

Like you, I am not an artist, but Bob Ross made it possible for me to enjoy painting and art anyway. And I also can't seem to "get" some of the work, but there is certainly enough that I can do to keep me happy. I've begun to paint from nature as well, using his techniques - I often take my easel along when going camping or such.

Janeal Mulaney on November 21, 2010:

I am another fan of Bob Ross, and although I was terrible in art class in high school. I love watching how easy Bob made painting look on his shows. So at the age of forty I walked in and spent one of my pay checks on my art supplies, I did by some of his books,and I even tried some of his methods on how to paint. Some of them work for me while others didn't or don't not a light enough touch I guess. I love painting though and if you would like to look at some of my painting I also have some on my hub pages. I would love to hear your feed back by the way you painting on here are really great. Thanks for the hub.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on June 28, 2010:

Thanks for the comment. Yes, Bob Ross seems to have left his mark on the world and is well remembered. He has helped many people, including myself, to learn to enjoy art and painting.

Elayne from Rocky Mountains on June 27, 2010:

I also loved watching Bob Ross. It seemed he was a magician. I actually got my art degree after thirty years of trying and love oil painting, watercolor, pastels and photography as well as graphic design. I am happiest when I am creating and feel at peace. Thanks for a great hub.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on June 14, 2010:

He really was inspiring - convincing people they could paint and enjoy themselves without years and years of training.

And yes, I shall keep painting.

Csjun89 on June 14, 2010:

Wow it is amazing to see the impact Bob Ross has, he is a rather inspiring painter isn't he? May you be encouraged to paint more!

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on June 11, 2010:

He really was kind of unforgettable, at that. I don't understand why people make fun of him or his methods; anything that will encourage art in someone is worth while.

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on June 11, 2010:

I got completely hooked reading your first sentence. I thought, "Oh, yeah. I remember that guy...what was his name?" I'd forgotten his name, but not his presence.

I loved watching Bob Ross. He was kind of mesmerizing, once I got past the oddness of the "happy little" everythings. You did a great job describing him, including how others make fun of him. I never took that step to get one of his kits and start, but I'm glad you did and that it's been such a good experience.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on June 11, 2010:

Thanks folks, for the comments. Yes, it is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Cags - if you can draw (I can't, at all) you might consider painting someday.

Website Examiner on June 11, 2010:

This is a charming and engaging hub on a topic I know very little about. Lovely graphics, too!

Raymond D Choiniere from USA on June 11, 2010:

Hey wilderness, you did a great job on the hub. I've never been into painting. I guess it's an acquired taste. I like drawing, but not so much dealing with paint. LOL! Thank you for taking part in the instant hub challenge. :)

travelespresso from Somewhere in this exciting world. on June 11, 2010:

Nice work. Painting is so hard - even the simple effects are difficult - at least to me. Good for you. I imagine it can be incredibly relaxing.