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Jon Mark Beilue column - Posted May 26, 2017 noon
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Artwork by Andy Chase Cundiff

Soft voice, painted canvas equals total bliss

Bob Ross, where have you been all my life?

With his brillo hair, brush in hand, and his soft soothing voice, he is a calming gift at the end of a stressful day. He is visually what listening to a CD of ocean waves rolling in is to the ear.

Bob Ross, you say. Who’s Bob Ross? Well, allow me. He is a wee little man who had a show on PBS, out of WIPB studio in Muncie, Indiana, in the 1980s and early 1990s, “The Joy of Painting.”

For 30 minutes, he would show his audience how to paint a winter landscape, a mountain range on a spring afternoon, a babbling brook in the woods, and whisper everyone into total relaxation.

I remember catching a few minutes of it here and there back in the day more out of curiosity than anything. It was kind of fascinating, but then I whizzed on to ESPN or some murder mystery. Still, it was hard to forget Bob as the number of painters I’ve seen with six-inch permed hair is exactly one.

A few months ago, I was looking to see what Netflix was offering, and, lo and behold, under “New Releases,” was a picture of old Bob under two separate “Joy of Painting” selections – “Winter Chill” and “Beauty Everywhere.”

Hmmm. What the heck. Let’s give it a looksee.

“It’s a fantastic day here and I hope it is wherever you are. …”

Bob then proceeded to tell us the paint colors he would be using on the canvas: Titanic White, Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, Midnight Black, Phthalo Blue, Dark Sienna, Sap Green, and Prussian Blue.

The scene was “Mountain Rhapsody” and as he began to make a lovely little scene out of a blank canvas, I felt the tension leave my body. And the quiet talk as he explained what he was doing – oh my gosh – in a matter of minutes, my eyes were heavy and saliva started to form on the edges of my mouth.

It’s like trying to read in bed and staring at the same paragraph for about a minute. I started to fade.

“Juuust … like… so …”

“There we are. Just like that. ...”

“Now, let’s build us some clouds. …”

I know nothing about painting. My artistry consists of tracing a turkey from the outline of my hand and some occasional paint by numbers when I took pride in not painting outside the lines.

I admire people who can do things I can’t do – which is pretty much, you know, everything. Bob is an incredible talent. And this is quite a bit out of my normal circle of interests that I feel like a renaissance man.

But it’s Bob’s delicate whispers and the way he repeats a phrase that just drains the tension right out of me. It’s the best and cheapest stress reliever around.

“Take the least little Cad Yellow and it put it right there, but not much … not much.”

“We cover it up … cover it up.”

“When you do your painting, you decide … you decide.”

Bob has a wild side too – “that’s so much fun, let’s get crazy,” when he adds a few more clouds. He will also give into temptation when deciding upon adding another peak.

“Now, let’s get crazy. You know me ... you know me.”

There’s a two-part reward to the 27 minutes of “Joy of Painting” – watching Bob complete a masterpiece and seeing the method of all his strokes, and the cationic state of near-sleep his voice puts me in. It’s a battle to say awake long enough.

There’s 52 episodes in all, and I’m bound and determined to put my feet up and watch every blessed Bob Ross winter scene.

My wife doesn’t get it. She’ll come into the living room from the store or from down the hall and look at the TV. “Oh my gosh – again?” she said.

Again.

Bob, while in the Air Force in Alaska, was also a part-time bartender. It was then he discovered the show, “The Magic of Oil Painting,” by a German named Bill Alexander. He soon studied under Alexander, retired from the Air Force as a master sergeant, and began a lifetime of painting using the wet-on-wet technique.

Alas, Bob died of lymphoma on July 4, 1995 at age 52. But his soft voice and talented brush live on via Netflix, which began streaming his episodes a year ago.

“So from all of us here, I’d really like to wish all of you happy painting and God bless, my friend.”

Excuse … me … while … I … watch … the … rest … of … Bob … Ro –

by Jon Mark Beilue

Jon Mark Beilue is an award-winning columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at jon.beilue@amarillo.com or (806) 345-3318.
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