Series / The Joy of Painting

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Let's build some happy little trees.

"I'd like to wish you happy painting, and God bless, my friends."

The Joy of Painting was a half-hour art instruction show that ran from 1983 to 1994. Hosted by Bob Ross, noted for his legendarily cheery manner and soft, friendly voice, the show aimed to teach people painting techniques in the amount of time given. Ross worked in oil paints and taught a method called "wet-on-wet painting", where the canvas would be coated with wet white paint and other colors would be laid over it, allowing for a variety of blending techniques. The show was very minimalist, using only a black background and two camera positions. Due to his time spent being stationed in Alaska in the Air Force, all of Ross' paintings were of nature, mostly forests or mountain valleys.


This show provides happy little examples of:

  • Auto-Tune/Voice Clip Song: "Happy Little Clouds." Commissioned by PBS themselves, from the guy who does Symphony Of Science.
  • Awesome Art: Humorously invoked by Ross, noting that several art schools pooh-poohed his work but later grudgingly acknowledged that they were getting a lot more applications from people who'd been inspired by him.
  • Catch Phrase: To name a few...
    • "From all of us here, I want to wish you happy painting and God bless, my friends."
    • "Happy little ___", usually trees, clouds, or sky. While only said on the occasion, this stuck with viewers, especially "happy little trees". The official Bob Ross website even sells a shirt that says "happy trees".
    • About once a season, at least, he'll explain how he told his son to get in tune with his painting ability: "Just pretend you are a whisper floating across a mountain."
    • When cleaning his brush, "Just beat the devil out of it" along with a good-natured giggle.
    • He would often remind the viewers of a central rule to his technique: "A thin paint will stick to a thick paint."
    • "There..."
    • "This is your world." When encouraging viewers to improvise rather than copy his painting.
    • "Everyone needs a friend." When adding a second tree/cloud/animal to his paintings.
    • "No pressure." and "Two hairs and some air." referring to his technique of painting with a paint knife by just barely letting the knife touch the canvas.
    • "Let's have some fun." / "Let's get crazy."
    • "Now then..." Anytime he transitioned from cleaning his brush to loading it up or doing something with the canvas (or any combination thereof) multiple times per episode. You'd be hard-pressed to find one where he doesn't say it.
  • Chroma Key: Intros to the show (usually not on the repackaged 'Best of the Joy of Painting') has 'The Little Painter Guy' (Bob) painting a scene with a giant brush (broom) in front of a chroma key.
  • Creator Thumbprint:
    • Two things that Ross often mentioned were that most of his landscapes were influenced by his time spent in Alaska, and that his favorite part of painting was the end step of cleaning the brush: whacking it against the leg of the easel.
    • Drawing trees together since "everybody needs a friend".
    • Many paintings have some sort of water in them, using several layers of paint to form the waves and colour layers.
    • And nearly literally, when he signed his paintings (naturally).
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: He described himself as such while he was in the Air Force, which became his major motivation for leaving. He retired at the rank of Master Sergeant.
  • Drink Order: Iced tea, which he regularly encouraged viewers to have prepared alongside their art supplies, or even to have while just watching the show. He attributed his love of iced tea to his upbringing in the South.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first season had a number of differences from later seasons. Ross had a fuller beard and wore large glasses, which made him look older than he was. Also, the show had background music and occasional cut edits. This was a pretty big difference from the real time and music-less version most people remember.
  • Fingore: Ross lost his left index finger in an accident when he was young. The missing digit is noticeable if viewers focus on his palette.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Ross was a really nice guy. This can't be stressed enough. He left his position in the Air Force because he didn't want to become "mean". He sometimes brought small animals on the show, as he usually took in injured ones he found.
    • Ross wasn't too far off from the image in the linked trope page, as he once told of how he would release the animals he helped out into the wilds around his home in Floria, but they would stick around anyway, always coming back to his house. He said he would often leave food out for them.
  • Funny Afro: When he started out on his show after retiring from the USAF, he had his hair permed to save money on haircuts. He later disliked the result, but by that time his big poofy hair had become part of his iconic image, and so he kept it through the entire run of the show.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: "Make love to the canvas..."
  • The Joy of X: A deliberate choice of titles; Ross made a point to emphasize having fun with painting.
  • Mood Whiplash: Bob Ross is always pleasantly content, and always talks in a soothingly content tone. Even when he starts talking about the poor animals he and the animal lady have saved from near-death, about how a friend who runs a zoo that is free to the public has a terminal illness, and about how there are dark and bad times to contrast the bright and good times. And how he's still waiting on the good times himself.
  • Mr. Imagination: Averted. Ross' loosely-controlled imagination spawned such lovely paintings.
  • Nice Guy/Perpetual Smiler: Both on and off camera, Bob was always said to be a very amiable person. More than one person has drawn a comparison between him and fellow PBS star Fred Rogers.
  • Once a Season:
    • Every series would start with him welcoming us to another series of 13 episodes, and would finish with thanking us for watching it.
    • At some point in the middle of the series, he would show us how to paint the image in the animated opening for the series. He would always stress that it wouldn't be an exact copy, as he never perfectly duplicated a painting.
    • "Every series has to have a crazy painting. Maybe this will be that one."
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word:
    • A "cabinectomy" is when a paint knife is used to cut off the bottom of a painted cabin, giving the image of the cabin having a foundation in the ground.
    • "My son, Steve says, 'Just smoosh it in there'. Nobody knows what it means, but they seem to understand."
  • The Power of Creation: Though he had Alaska as an inspiration, Bob did not paint from life, but rather created his own landscapes. He expounded on the fact that there are no limits to what you can make, and "[the painting] is your world," creating the impression he was generating whole realities with his brush.
  • Scenery Porn: He draws from scenery in Alaska for his paintings, which makes most of his landscapes look absolutely stunning.
  • Someone Completely Different: Sometimes Ross allowed other artists onto the show, including Audrey Goldwin, Joyce Hortner, and, several times, his own son. Even more irregular was one guest artist drew a person rather than a landscape.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Magic of Oil Painting, another PBS painting instructional show hosted by Bob Ross' mentor, Bill Alexander.
  • Station Ident: He did one for MTV, "...the land of happy little trees."
  • The Treachery of Images: Averted. Ross was well aware about how his paintings were of his own creation, but reveled in the creative freedom this allowed both him and and the people who watched his show.
  • Throw It In: "There's no 'mistakes' in painting, just happy accidents."
  • True Art Is Angsty: Invoked only to be defied by Ross, who said, "We want happy paintings. Happy paintings. If you want sad things, watch the news." The show is called "The Joy of Painting," after all; what did you expect?


Aaand we'll finish off our trope page with... a happy little joke. And that'll just be our little secret. :)


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/TheJoyOfPainting