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Old 10-30-2019, 01:27 AM
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So Bob Ross. He's a good painter, but he sucks, right?


I remember catching Bob Ross on PBS when flipping channels back in the 90s, and being just mesmerized: by his hair, his voice, his application of Prussian Blue and Van Dyke Brown and Sap Green with a two-inch brush to make a happy little tree in front of some mountains atop a crystal lake.

The dude was a pot brownie in denim, and he made gorgeous landscapes somehow magically appear out of nowhere upon an 18x24 canvas, gently brushed with liquid white. Let me be clear: I have no artistic ability so I may be easily impressed. Also, I may have smoked my fair share of marijuana while channel surfing between the years of 1995 and 1999.

I've begun watching these shows with my son and daughter on Hulu, and I'm still as mesmerized by ol' Bob Ross and his fluffy 'fro and happy little clouds, but his art reminds me of something you'd see hanging on the wall of a Ramada in Jeff City Missouri or being sold along the back wall of a Goodwill in Fowlerville Michigan.

So, I've come to the conclusion that Bob Ross is: 1) Relaxing and inoffensive to listen to, 2) An interesting character, and 3) A technically good painter. But, he's basically a really shitty artist. He spits out these generic landscapes while lulling his viewers into a sense of wonder, making you say "Holy shit dude, that's a fucking pine tree. How did he do that?" And he did it all while wearing the same clothes for like 30 seasons. God bless him and his technique, but he basically sucked as someone who created ART, right?

Last edited by Happy Lendervedder; 10-30-2019 at 01:28 AM.
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Old 10-30-2019, 01:33 AM
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His art was really art. He's not a great master. But not too many people are.
Ehh. He was what he was. And ...he had a pet squirrel! That made him cool to me.
Pot brownie in denim is a perfect description.
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Old 10-30-2019, 02:15 AM
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I would argue the time formatting of the program didn't allow for more complicated compositions. A composition that you can crank out in half an hour can't be too overly detailed.

I would wonder what his personal projects look like, the paintings he worked on for days or even hours that weren't part of the show (he repainted each show's painting over a few hours to polish it more for photos for his instructional books).

As an artist, I marvel at his quickness. One thing enviable about him is how deliberate every stroke was, or if not, how easily he could turn it into something deliberate looking. Nothing was ever overwrought or over worked.
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Old 10-30-2019, 02:27 AM
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Here's a charming ten minute documentary on Ross, specifically touching on what became of his presumably valuable paintings after his death.

If you don't have time to watch it: in summary, he was a really nice guy, and the people in charge of his legacy seem to be really nice too.
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Old 10-30-2019, 04:11 AM
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Bob Ross is God, at least in some circumstances requiring randomised decision-making.
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Old 10-30-2019, 04:18 AM
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Bob Ross was a great artist in exactly the same way that Bill Nye is a great scientist.
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Old 10-30-2019, 04:19 AM
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he basically sucked as someone who created ART, right?
No.

Unless you're implying something by the all-caps ART other than the usual understanding. It wasn't sophisticated, but it very much was art. Nothing much off about the compositions or the perspective or the lighting or anything.

Even frigging Kinkade made art (or his ghost painters did), even if it looked like every cottage was burning on the inside.
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Old 10-30-2019, 04:43 AM
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I actually do see what you are saying. While his paintings are art, they aren't really challenging or putting forth new artistic ideas.

However, I would argue that's just due to the format of the show. It's not just that he's doing it in 30 minutes, as others said. It's also that the whole point is teaching art. And his whole idea is that anyone can create art if they want to. That is the message behind his art, which remains the same no matter what he paints.

So, sure, I wouldn't characterize anything he painted on the program as "great art." It is more "something pretty that you can learn to make, too!" But I don't think it's valid to say he sucked at art because of that.
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Old 10-30-2019, 08:36 AM
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He knew all the cheesy shortcuts required to make a cheap motel painting. And as a former Master Sergeant in the US Air Force, I suspect pot brownies loomed kind of small in his life, but don't know that for a fact. His paintings are being stored at an office park a few blocks from my old high school in Herndon, VA, by someone I actually (vaguely) knew from there.
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Old 10-30-2019, 09:22 AM
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He knew all the cheesy shortcuts required to make a cheap motel painting. And as a former Master Sergeant in the US Air Force, I suspect pot brownies loomed kind of small in his life, but don't know that for a fact. His paintings are being stored at an office park a few blocks from my old high school in Herndon, VA, by someone I actually (vaguely) knew from there.
Didn't he once say the reason he spoke so softly was because he was so sick of yelling from his time in the Air Force?

And here's Bob beating the devil out of his brushes. The chuckle is especially amusing/disturbing.
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Old 10-30-2019, 09:29 AM
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As suggested above, he's not so much an "artist" as he is an "art teacher". Nobody would criticize an art teacher because their classroom demonstration of art technique wasn't also groundbreaking artistic expression.
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Old 10-30-2019, 09:48 AM
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...but his art reminds me of something you'd see hanging on the wall of a Ramada in Jeff City Missouri...
As a former resident of Jefferson City, Missouri, I find this to be a fair assessment.
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Old 10-30-2019, 09:49 AM
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Bob Ross was a great artist in exactly the same way that Bill Nye is a great scientist.
I think this sums it up nicely, and I see it as a compliment to both men.
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:06 AM
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Bob Ross was a great artist in exactly the same way that Bill Nye is a great scientist.
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I think this sums it up nicely, and I see it as a compliment to both men.
Bill Nye is an engineer, not a scientist.
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William Sanford Nye, popularly known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, is an American science communicator, television presenter, and mechanical engineer. He is best known as the host of the PBS and syndicated children's science show Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993–1998), the Netflix show Bill Nye Saves the World (2017–present), and for his many subsequent appearances in popular media as a science educator.
He's also a superhero.
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:08 AM
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Ross was an art teacher. He never claimed to be an artist and never made a living doing fine art. Before the show, he made his money from painting on souvenir gold-mining pans in Alaska and from selling art supplies.

His talent was for teaching and showing people how to create a passable amateur painting. That's not easy.

I personally preferred Bill Alexander -- the guy who taught Ross all he knew -- and, of course Jon Gnagy. I found Ross boring.
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:34 AM
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What is ART is a question that can and will be debated until the heat death of the universe, and there still won't be a definitive answer.

But between a Bob Ross painting, and something by Basquiat, I know which one I want in my house. The one with happy little trees. If there ever was a case where there is an unwarranted "haters gotta hate", it applies to Ross. The man, and his art, offend no one unless you want to be offended.
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:39 AM
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A quick Google search of Ross's paintings turns up a vast quantity of landscapes featuring trees, mountains, and waterfalls. A small minority of his paintings so searched are still-lifes of flowers, chiefly mums.

Is he known to have painted other subjects? People, animals, mechanical objects? Abstract work? Just curious if Ross had done private work that differed markedly from his public work.
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:43 AM
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A quick Google search of Ross's paintings turns up a vast quantity of landscapes featuring trees, mountains, and waterfalls. A small minority of his paintings so searched are still-lifes of flowers, chiefly mums.

Is he known to have painted other subjects?
He also did many seascapes...
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:44 AM
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Ross was an art teacher. He never claimed to be an artist and never made a living doing fine art. Before the show, he made his money from painting on souvenir gold-mining pans in Alaska and from selling art supplies.

His talent was for teaching and showing people how to create a passable amateur painting. That's not easy.

I personally preferred Bill Alexander -- the guy who taught Ross all he knew -- and, of course Jon Gnagy. I found Ross boring.
Yeah, Bill Alexander was the original. His wet-on-wet technique was the first one I learned when I was taking painting lessons in the 80s. A two inch brush, a four inch brush and a palette knife were about all you needed to do an Alexander-like painting.
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:44 AM
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If he had painted San Francisco trolley cars, would he have been a BARTIST?
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:47 AM
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I would argue the time formatting of the program didn't allow for more complicated compositions. A composition that you can crank out in half an hour can't be too overly detailed.

I would wonder what his personal projects look like, the paintings he worked on for days or even hours that weren't part of the show
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However, I would argue that's just due to the format of the show. It's not just that he's doing it in 30 minutes, as others said. It's also that the whole point is teaching art.
Agreed. It isn't fair to call him a "shitty artist" because that implies he was bad at what he was trying to do.
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:54 AM
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Just as long as it matches the sofa, okay, Bob?
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:58 AM
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What is ART is a question that can and will be debated until the heat death of the universe, and there still won't be a definitive answer.
One definition of ART that I find helpful—though it's certainly not the only possible definition, or even the only one I'd ever use—is that a Work Of Art gives the world something that it wouldn't have if that particular work didn't exist. A painting (or novel or song or movie or whatever) may be well-crafted and entertaining, but if it doesn't offer people something that they couldn't get from dozens of other works instead, it's not Art in this particular sense.

I'm not familiar enough with Ross's work to know whether any of it qualifies as Art under this definition. Maybe not. But that wouldn't mean that he "sucks," just that that wasn't what he was trying to do.
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Old 10-30-2019, 12:04 PM
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I always concidered his stuff "craft" more than art. Art is inspired--anyone can learn to do crafts.
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Old 10-30-2019, 12:18 PM
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Even frigging Kinkade made art (or his ghost painters did), even if it looked like every cottage was burning on the inside.
Some years ago at the Tucson Gem and Mineral show my brother and I came upon a really bad copy of a Kincade painting.* After looking at it a moment, I commented, "Kinkade may be a hack but at least he's a talented hack."

*There is more than just gems and minerals there.
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Old 10-30-2019, 12:21 PM
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*There is more than just gems and minerals there.
Like bad Kincaid knock-offs? You're not really selling it, there
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Old 10-30-2019, 12:35 PM
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I always concidered his stuff "craft" more than art. Art is inspired--anyone can learn to do crafts.
To me it's the other way around - anything can be defined as "art" if you ask the right critic, but actual technical skills take work.
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Old 10-30-2019, 12:39 PM
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One definition of ART that I find helpful—though it's certainly not the only possible definition, or even the only one I'd ever use—is that a Work Of Art gives the world something that it wouldn't have if that particular work didn't exist. A painting (or novel or song or movie or whatever) may be well-crafted and entertaining, but if it doesn't offer people something that they couldn't get from dozens of other works instead, it's not Art in this particular sense.
I don't see how this is at all helpful; it sounds clever, but 'something it wouldn't have' is ill-defined and sweeping enough you can use the definition to declare that everything is art or to disqualify anything you don't like from being art. It's only really good for sneering at something someone else likes but you don't, not for conveying real information. I mean, you're never going to get literally exactly the same thing from this particular work, even if it's similar to other works, so everything is art if you use the definition that way. OTOH, you can just say that any particular work is 'something they could get from dozens of other works instead' even for particularly interesting or thought provoking art - I mean, I can see lots of pics of chicks smiling, so the Mona Lisa isn't art, I can see lots of naked guys standing around so marble statues aren't art, there are dozens of paintings of angels, saints, and demons so no religious works count as art.
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Old 10-30-2019, 01:04 PM
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Art is an expression of the artist's intentions. They may not be noble intentions. The intentions may not always be profound. The work may not be polished or pretty. But if it convey's the artist's meaning, then it's art.

Bob Ross' intention, on his show, was giving thirty-minute painting lessons, not creating art. But in as much as his message was often, "Man I just love painting happy little trees!", he managed to convey that just fine.
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Old 10-30-2019, 01:24 PM
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I mean, I can see lots of pics of chicks smiling, so the Mona Lisa isn't art
But that's just it: there's something about the Mona Lisa that sets it apart from all those other pics of chicks smiling. If there weren't, we wouldn't still care about it after all these years.
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Old 10-30-2019, 01:59 PM
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Bob Ross was a very good hack painter who made an enjoyable art instruction show.
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Old 10-30-2019, 02:13 PM
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In addition to the comments above about being an "art teacher," one of the recurring themes of the show was that anyone can paint. It was targeted towards people who wanted a hobby in general, or who wanted to paint specifically, but were intimidated by the learning curve. Bob Ross had refined a set of techniques and a color pallet that allowed people to go to the art store, shopping list in hand, and follow along at home without feeling overwhelmed and intimidated. Think of him less as an artist and more as the greatest instructor of a Wednesday night "wine and paint" happy hour ever.
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Old 10-30-2019, 02:26 PM
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But that's just it: there's something about the Mona Lisa that sets it apart from all those other pics of chicks smiling. If there weren't, we wouldn't still care about it after all these years.
The fact that it was stolen in sensational circumstances helped a lot. Newspapers printed images of it and the world started taking notice of it.

Before, it was just another painting in the Louvre, as this example shows (by Samuel F. B. Morse, known nowadays for his code). Look to the right of the doorway at the bottom. Hardly conspicuous, and none of the painters portrayed is paying any attention to it.
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Last edited by RealityChuck; 10-30-2019 at 02:27 PM.
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Old 10-30-2019, 03:34 PM
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But that's just it: there's something about the Mona Lisa that sets it apart from all those other pics of chicks smiling. If there weren't, we wouldn't still care about it after all these years.
You're proving my point; you can say the same thing about ANY work. I mean, there's something about Bob Ross's painting that set them apart from all of the other landscapes in the word. If there weren't, we wouldn't still care about them all these years after he died. Simply discussing whether an item is art or not is enough to qualify it as art under that definition.
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Old 10-30-2019, 03:35 PM
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Bill Nye is an engineer, not a scientist.

He's also a superhero.
Webster's definition of "scientist" simply states that it is someone who possesses expert knowledge in the natural or physical sciences.

Being a scientist doesn't mean you have a degree.
Being a mechanical engineer means you've studied Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus, and that you use the scientific method to test hypothesis with regards to mechanical devices, oftentimes needing to have deep knowledge of the physical properties of all of the substances used in the products you are testing (ie how much force can we place upon thi metal rod before it bends? breaks?) Anyone telling you a mechanical engineer is not a scientist is woefully misinformed.
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Old 10-30-2019, 03:38 PM
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Are you talking about this guy?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DaVnriHhPc
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Old 10-30-2019, 03:55 PM
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I always concidered his stuff "craft" more than art. Art is inspired--anyone can learn to do crafts.
The art-craft distinction isn't real.

It's a not particularly useful, highly subjective, elitist artifact of (mostly) modern Western culture, and more specifically the academy system and the related social constructs that Dano called "the artworld" .
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Old 10-30-2019, 05:32 PM
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Bob Ross is an excellent artist. But his artworks aren't paintings. His artworks are TV episodes of painting. Even if the paintings he produced were absolute garbage (they're not), the show would still do a very good job of conveying the emotions he wished it to convey. He's calm and peaceful, and when you watch his shows, you become more calm and peaceful. That's art at its best.
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Old 10-30-2019, 06:36 PM
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The fact that it was stolen in sensational circumstances helped a lot. Newspapers printed images of it and the world started taking notice of it.

Before, it was just another painting in the Louvre, as this example shows (by Samuel F. B. Morse, known nowadays for his code). Look to the right of the doorway at the bottom. Hardly conspicuous, and none of the painters portrayed is paying any attention to it.
Wow, while looking at the Gallery of the Louvre link, my eye just naturally goes back to the very nice, simple painting of that lady smiling at the bottom. None of the other paintings "do" anything for me; they seem so generic, but that portrait "has it going on" if you know what I mean. Perhaps I'm just conditioned to search for it, but it really jumps out.

Two things as far as Bob Ross goes. 1) Part of his legacy is his short life, dying at age 52 of lymphoma. If he was (today) 77 and still painting, we'd probably consider him merely an old eccentric.

2) Go to ebay and search "Bob Ross signed original" (not in the Bob Ross style). Any guesses on how much they range for? I was surprised they were

SPOILER:
$13,000 to $20,000
Compare them to the ones done in the "Bob Ross style" or technique; most of those look pretty bad. I'd say he had a style to be appreciated.
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Old 10-30-2019, 07:35 PM
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I think this sums it up nicely, and I see it as a compliment to both men.
It was meant as such.
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Old 10-30-2019, 08:52 PM
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Read Walter Pater on the Mona Lisa. One of the most famous pieces of 19th century art criticism. It was revered BEFORE it got stole.

https://madeleineemeraldthiele.wordp...dos-mona-lisa/
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Old 10-30-2019, 09:12 PM
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.....And he did it all while wearing the same clothes for like 30 seasons.
It's worth noting that this was at least partly a calculated move on his part. He very clearly wanted to present a comfortable, relaxed image and his casual clothing added to that presentation. He also wanted relatively simple clothing that wouldn't clash or detract from what was appearing on the canvas. Perhaps most importantly though, he wanted to keep the appearance of the show relatively timeless. Clothing colors and styles go in and out of fashion but faded denims and a simple shirt always look good.
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Old 10-30-2019, 09:34 PM
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A bunch of Gils in here today.
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Old 10-30-2019, 10:09 PM
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Read Walter Pater on the Mona Lisa. One of the most famous pieces of 19th century art criticism. It was revered BEFORE it got stole.

https://madeleineemeraldthiele.wordp...dos-mona-lisa/
I'm sure art critics were aware of it, but the general public didn't until the image was plastered all over the world's newspapers when it was stolen. Note how references to it doubled at the time it was stolen in 1911. Wikipedia says it was "not widely known outside the art world and "By 1911, the painting was still not popular among the lay-public."

JohnGalt of course your eye is drawn to it: it's now the most recognizable painting in the world. And you're not actually seeing the painting; you're seeing Morse's version of it. More important is the attitude of the painters in the painting. None are painting it, a sign they don't see it as anything special.
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Old 10-30-2019, 11:10 PM
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So I've been thinking about this thread all day. It's worth noting I'm an artist for a living (murals mostly).

While it's true most contemporary artists HATED Ross and didn't consider him or his productions "art" or "an artist," a lot of them resented his success. Bill Alexander, his mentor, also resented his success, but happily appeared on the show. He's been quoted as saying "[Bob] does wet on wet? I INVENTED wet on wet" (no he did not). He goes on to say "it's not just that he betrayed me; it's that he thinks he does it better." Can you imagine someone thinking Bob Ross had a big ego? This only come after the success of the Joy of Painting, which Bob did for free.

Bob did that show FOR FREE!! He made his money through Bob Ross Inc which capitalized on the show's success by selling "how to" instructional books. To that end, he did each painting from each show 3 times: Once as a rough reference that was stationed off camera during the show for him to refer to and copy. Then he did the live painting during the show. Then after the show he did a 2 hour demo of the painting, more polished, with a photographer clicking a pic every few steps to compile into his books.

He was known to shoot a whole series season in a few short days, clearing his schedule to teach classes (which is how he made his actual living). Imagine 13 episodes of paintings in 2 days. That's 39 paintings in two days, counting the repaints.

Some people here ask if he painted other things, like people. His son is quoted as saying he never wanted to paint people. That he believed the nuance of expression in one's face was too complicated to capture (at least not in a half hour). He was known to omit any presence of humanity from his paintings--"no chimneys on the cabins because that indicated a person was in there."

I believe he achieved exactly what he aspired to do: teach art to everyone. Sure he used chintzy craft-painting methods, but look at what he could accomplish in 30 minutes. I can't do it and I have a college degree in it.

I saw it mentioned online that he was NOT a landscape artist, he was NOTHING. "Just compare him to an old master's landscape. LOOK AT THIS PAINTING BY CHURCH." That's fine--that's an AMAZING painting.

...but show me what that painting looked like 30 minutes after the canvas was blank. Think it'd look as good as a finished Bob Ross? Of course it wouldn't.

All this debate about "what is art" and "is it innovative" was put to bed by Warhol. Soup is art. Just soup. Not to mention conspicuous consumerism brought on by post-modernism, art worth a million bucks such as this stupid red square. I defy anyone to bullshit their way into aggrandizing a solid red square and pretending it means something worth a million bucks. No one sane would see a blood red painting and consider it worth millions without some backlogged lineage that somecrazyhow makes it worth a million bucks.

People are too hard on Bob. He didn't parade around under the guise of something grander than he was the way Thomas Kinkade did, who did little more than sign a painting done by a series of minions. He also didn't die in disgrace from alcohol poisoning the way Kinkade did.
  #46  
Old 10-31-2019, 12:26 AM
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I've found the replies in this thread very interesting and informative. Thanks to you all for your input so far! I've been chewing on them for quite a good part of the day. I look forward to additional thoughts.

My 8-year-old daughter and I both love watching his show, btw. I find his show to be even more of a work of art than his paintings. The show itself provokes emotions in viewers, and awe, and it's got many unique elements that are recognizable across our culture. I can't say the same for his paintings, even as they're technically beautiful. My daughter watches Joy of Painting with her mouth open most of the time. I think the act of him painting, watching the scene unfold and listening to his patter, is what is the most interesting part of it all.
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Old 10-31-2019, 03:40 AM
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Originally Posted by AncientHumanoid View Post
If he had painted San Francisco trolley cars, would he have been a BARTIST?
In the first place the BART system doesn't include the trolley cars.

Now that I've got the killjoy business out of the way:

No, he would have been Thomas Kinkade...
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Old 10-31-2019, 04:06 AM
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Like bad Kincaid knock-offs? You're not really selling it, there
point of order:

Robert Kincaid was the hunky National Geographic photographer from the novel (and subsequent musical) The Bridges of Madison County.

Thomas Kinkade was Painter Spice the soi-disant Painter of Light.TM
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Old 10-31-2019, 04:23 AM
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To me it's the other way around - anything can be defined as "art" if you ask the right critic, but actual technical skills take work.
There's a scene in Vonnegut's Bluebeard* in which the dissatisfied wife of Abstract Expressionist Rabo Karabekian taunts her husband that he (along with the Abstract Expressionist friends he hangs out with) doesn't actually have the technical skills to create representational art, and that's why he falls back on such things as solid patches of color, with a contrasting-colored circle in the corner and calls it art. Karabekian's response is to take a piece of charcoal and create portraits of their two sons on a slab of unpainted drywall in the kitchen.

Awestruck, Mrs. Karabekian asks why he doesn't do that all the time. His answer is that "it's just too fucking easy."

A few pages later, she has decamped with both of their sons AND their portraits, which she removed from the drywall in the kitchen, using a hacksaw.



*It's still in print, and has my full endorsement as a novel worth reading.
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Old 10-31-2019, 04:37 AM
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There's a scene in Vonnegut's Bluebeard* in which the dissatisfied wife of Abstract Expressionist Rabo Karabekian taunts her husband that he (along with the Abstract Expressionist friends he hangs out with) doesn't actually have the technical skills to create representational art, and that's why he falls back on such things as solid patches of color, with a contrasting-colored circle in the corner and calls it art. Karabekian's response is to take a piece of charcoal and create portraits of their two sons on a slab of unpainted drywall in the kitchen.

Awestruck, Mrs. Karabekian asks why he doesn't do that all the time. His answer is that "it's just too fucking easy."
I would never denigrate Expressionist art - even a laymen like myself can see that that shit ain't simple (also, I have a fondness for Miro). At the risk of sliding into cliche, I was referring to the more conceptual trends popularized over the past half-century or so.

Last edited by Alessan; 10-31-2019 at 04:38 AM.
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