Bubble Bob

Something happens to you when you watch Bob Ross for an ungodly amount of time. Like his perm, all lines are blurred, and you start thinking of blues as “phthalos” and baby deer as potential pets. You want all beings in nature to be happy and all clouds to have feelings. And the colors – he uses a base arsenal of 13 and goes all over from there. I’ve spent so much time with these colors that I had to map them all out.


There it is, a bubble chart of all these base colors Bob Ross uses in “Beauty is Everywhere,” a collection of 26 episodes from “The Joy of Painting.” Titanium white and midnight black are his pillars, used in every painting in the series. He leans on phthalo blue, dark sienna, van dyke brown, and alizarin crimson (which he pronounces like it’s a fancy lizard). These dark hues and subdued reds carry him into the yellows – ochre, cadmium, Indian, with a touch of sap green and bright red. Bob also likes to throw some Prussian blue in for some cobalt sass, and when he’s feeling especially frisky, phthalo green moodies up his forests. Bob’s got feelings, y’all. (Did he and John Denver ever meet? Maybe they have now.)

From these humble columns, he builds such scenes as you might see in a chiropractor’s office as “Wilderness Cabin,” “Frosty Winter Morn, and “Mountain Rhapsody.” (This is not a slight to either Bob Ross or chiropractors; both of them have the potential to realign my spiritual spine and I’m ok with that.) Bob loves such titles:


I don’t know why I wanted to make a word cloud of his paintings’ titles, but there it is. Again, this is my brain on Bob Ross. Bob really loves him some winter, blues, and wilderness, with secluded cabins thrown in. Much as he was known as a “master of relaxation,” a man who painted on television and spoke like a more artistic Mr. Rogers, I think there was part of him that wanted to climb inside his paintings and never come out. He had to paint those things three times for each show, so I don’t blame him. Plus the upkeep of that perm must have driven him to madness at some point.

Bob did love a little hut in the middle of nowhere, a mountain looming in the distance. His colors drew him back to those images repeatedly. He seems like he could have become a forest witch, employing squirrels to find him acorns to grind for flour and other natural elements to make pigments. He painted little spells on canvas, and I think he wanted to conjure up some more, alone in the wilderness except for baby deer and some mail owls. There was darkness in that soul, hence his most-used colors. Or perhaps I just know nothing about painting, which is definitely true. I just know the effect these images have on my gnarled brain, and it’s some sorcery.

In any case, the colors in these paintings clearly cause some spiraling, so be careful. But Bob knows what he’s doing with these tranquil mountain wintertime wilderness bliss cilffside lake pastel fantasies, so I’ll let him handle the brushes from now on.


Views on Hues: Bob Ross

How many people have written about watching Bob Ross paint? I don’t know why I’m asking that question because I don’t care about the answer. I’m joining up.


His dual-color brush move is a killer. One moment, you’re looking at his relaxed hand smoothing some beautiful forest green down a mountainside underneath some lavender-mauve clouds, and the next he flicks the brush in the other direction and a gorgeous emerald tone appears on the other side of the mountain. He is painting a dream with all the right colors, the ones you see in your mind but can never seem to recreate or even name to any satisfaction. But Bob knows how.

What I didn’t remember is that at the beginning of each episode, Bob runs the names of all the colors you’ll need for your own painting at the bottom of the screen. He thinks you can do this, too – that you can take these very same pigments and do what he does. But even a simple background – the basis for a cliffside, say – he’s made a shade of black that you will never recreate. There are many blended colors that make it a unique hue, and even with Bob spelling out its recipe, your cliffside black will not match his. But you can look at it all you want, and that is enough.

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