Before now, I had never seen an episode of The Joy of Painting. Through cultural osmosis, I knew who Bob Ross was as well as his general reputation as the “wholesome art guy” but I hadn’t had any firsthand experience with his work until last Friday.

As a part of one of my classes, I was assigned an episode of The Joy of Painting to watch and reflect on. The episode assigned to me was season 16, episode 2 (Nestled Cabin). However, rather than simply watch the episode, I decided to actively participate and follow along with Ross’s instruction. This is a choice that I am very happy to have made, as I feel that I had a more holistic experience engaging with his material. An added bonus was with a nice piece of art that I promptly posted on twitter.

The thing that struck me most while watching Ross was his earnestness. Earnestness is a quality that is difficult to identify when looking at the minute details of a piece of media, but you know it is present when you look at a piece of media and understand that it is something that its creator wanted to share with their audience. Movies like The Rocketeer or Shazam! aren’t groundbreaking or revolutionary, but you can tell by watching them that they were stories that the director wanted to tell.

The same can be said for The Joy of Painting, and can be observed in how Ross engages with his audience. Showing them a baby owl and later expressing his hope that they enjoyed seeing him, encouragement of them to deviate from the painting he is making, and his emphasis on the idea that perfection isn’t something that should be expected from their work. It’s incredibly apparent that Ross does not do these things because someone else told him to. They all tie in with his main goal for the program, which is to share the joy of painting with everyone.

This is the type of work that I would like to share with others. My painting is not particularly great, but I had a legitimate emotional reaction while I was making it, and that is what matters most.