Bob Ross - A Walk in the Woods (Season 1, Episode 1)
As we’re now at the difficult third album, and I consider Bob a superhero, I thought it’d be time for an origin story - today we review Season 1, episode 1 of The Joy of Painting.
As with most conception events, Bob describes his ‘wet on wet’ technique, there’s an uncomfortable feeling in the air, and he has to pause because of a loose hair. Construction noises assert themselves in the background, interrupting Bob and cementing the allegory of us being world-builders that would later become a foundation of the series. Bob is visibly annoyed by the room’s lack of focus, looking off camera towards the source of the noise, reminding the area that he has no chill for the unkind.
The year is 1983, and we can tell because Bob has his top two buttons undone, revealing a masculine gold medallion that every guy wore back then to say “I might have a secret crush on Michael Jackson, but damnit I’m still a man.“
As we introduce some happy little bushes to our world, Bob discusses his history as a traditional painter; oh boy, the weeks he would spend sketching out blocks and ideas that would take months to fill in, following his guides and avoiding the free-form processes that incubate creativity. Too many paint-by-numbers kit people have clouded our abilities to, as Bob stresses, to let our hearts be our guides. There are always going to be golden rules, like thin paint will stick to a thick paint, or that the devil lives in paintbrushes and only comes out when you beat it, but there are no paths.
Anyway, now we start painting a path. Old habits of guides and directions die hard.
Bob now points out that there are a lot of creatures living in these here bushes, and that it’s an early morning; no doubt a lesson that regardless of how important it is to set our own coordinates, if you’re going to negatively impact a bunch of living things in the process, it’s probably best to tread lightly on known turf.
Within all of this contradiction of philosophies, Bob exhibits an early iteration of one of ‘Joy of Painting’s major thematic threads; the nature of impermanence. No sky is too good to interrupt with a mountain, no mountain is too good to cover up with an almighty tree - no idea is too good enough to challenge with another.
It is worth noting at this point that A Walk in the Woods is by all measures, a terrible episode. There are people talking in the background, there are long pauses of dead air at times, Bob makes us really uncomfortable by uttering “mhmm.” just one too many times when building a tree. The charming part of this inherent scrappiness is Bob is aware of a starting point. He really does want you to follow along, but he doesn’t want us to get too far ahead of ourselves. In this sense then, this melange of 70’s wallpaper colours, a used airplane barf bag of a forest, is the perfect metaphor for Bob’s first episode; we can build all of own our worlds, but first we have to learn how to make the path.