Looking Back, Part 1: Bob Ross

Bob-RossSometimes, the only way forward is by looking backward.

It’s fair to say that I didn’t choose art, but that art chose me. Now, what on earth does that mean?

I have no recollection of ever wanting to be an artist. I remember clearly wanting to be a writer, a musician, a priest, a football player, a high-school English teacher, and a university-level theology professor. I do remember drawing a lot as a kid and having a certain knack for both drawing and painting. But I never thought, not even once, about being an artist.

That is, until I was forty-two years old! It happened when I re-discovered Bob Ross.

I used to watch Bob Ross when I was in college in the late 1990s. Back then, I worked at night at UPS and went to school during the day. And because I lived forty-five minutes from the University of Dallas — and because the UPS hub where I worked was only ten-minutes from UD — and because I was a poor college student who could barely afford gas and couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend out for dinner — I stayed at school all day, from 10 a.m. (my earliest class) until 10 p.m., when I left UD for UPS. My shift at UPS ended around 2 a.m., which meant that I typically fell into bed around 3 a.m., only to have the alarm clock wake me a few hours later, at 8:30. Because I worked the midnight shift, I worked Sunday night through Thursday night … which meant that after my last class on Friday (usually around 2 p.m.), I went home. And home meant a couch, a couple of ham-and-cheese sandwiches, a couple of Cokes, and a TV. And my favorite show to watch back then was The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.

Nearly every Friday afternoon, before I went out with my girlfriend (now wife), I watched Bob Ross. I remember thinking I’d like to try painting someday. Once, I  went to an art store to buy supplies — until I saw how much they cost!

One thing led to another. Life moved on. My Friday afternoon ritual changed. I stopped watching The Joy of Painting. I forgot about painting.

About twenty years later, in November 2016, I rediscovered Bob Ross. We had recently moved across the country, from Dallas to Myrtle Beach, and in an effort to save some money, we decided not to subscribe to a television service, but, rather, stream the shows we wanted. Because I wanted to watch Sienfeld, we got Hulu. And Bob Ross was on Hulu.

After a month of watching Ross — this would have been mid-December, now — I decided to try my hand at painting. In a far better financial position than I was in college, I bought a Bob Ross Master Paint Set along with some cheap Artist’s Loft canvases from Michael’s, and I rigged an up easel in my garage using a six-foot ladder and two heavy-duty spring-action clamps. That’s how my journey began.

In my next post, I’ll continue telling the story of how art found me.

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