Secret Bushes, Little Squirrels and Happy Accidents 04.20

Posted April 27, 2012 in

Bob Ross, who died back in 1995 of lymphoma, has been immortalized through his epic landscape art lessons. “We don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents,” he memorably said to his frustrated but determined viewers. Eleven talented Salt Lake artists embraced his legacy, purchased a slew of Bob Ross paint supplies, and assembled to watch two videos from Ross’s “Joy of Painting” series. The subsequent 22 works of art were then exhibited on 314 W. Broadway (the office) as part of Gallery Stroll on Friday. At the opening, patrons could purchase a $5 raffle ticket for a chance to win one of the paintings; all proceeds were donated to lymphoma research.

The 22 pieces were surprisingly varied. Interpretations of the same landscape lesson by established local artists such as Sri Whipple, Steven Larson, Trent Call and Jason Jones certainly contained similarities, but it was the disparities that made them interesting. Call, who first proposed the idea for the show, agreed, saying, “I think as a whole they look awesome. Individually they’re not too exciting.” Variation appeared in altered mountain silhouettes, happy little trees that shifted around from painting to painting, and individual style of brushstrokes.

Despite success for all of the participating artists, the process was not as easy as one would expect, as demonstrated by a video showcased at the opening of the 11 artists attempting the lessons. They donned aprons and were equipped with easels and palettes in order to follow the soothing instructions of Ross on a giant screen. The Ross video was continually paused as artists corrected and perfected their individual pieces.

Jones found it difficult to manipulate the Bob Ross tools and mimic the afro-ed instructor’s somewhat aggressive style of applying paint. Unlike Jones, Ross would work with stiff, raw oils, undiluted by any additional medium--another challenging obstacle for the Salt Lake artist. However, despite these minor setbacks, Jones seemed delighted with the experience and entertained by Ross’s unique language. “I liked how frequently he used the word happy,” Jones said.

Like Jones, Call struggled during the experience as well. “My bushes failed miserably,” he said. Failed bushes, however, should not raise serious alarm, as Ross cheerfully demonstrated “bushectomies” on his own painting when a shrub was not up to par. “Cabinectomies” were sometimes performed on his canvas as well.

Overall, the exhibit, like a Ross video lesson, maintained an encouraging, didactic atmosphere. Artists explained their newly acquired painting techniques, while also venting their frustrations. Art creation was stripped of its pretentions, and presented as an undertaking available to everyone, including those without experience or BFAs. Certainly everyone can slash a tree onto his bright white canvas and “make friends with it” as Ross would say, and then sign his name, in thick Cadmium red, for all to see.

For more information on the show, check out