You would have to be very young or have lived a very sheltered life to not know who Bob Ross was. Even if you’ve never seen his painting show (live or a rerun) the good-natured parodies are still occasionally aired.
I grew up expecting to make a career for myself in art – mostly fine drawing, but some painting, though my last actual class in oil painting was waaaaay back in high school. I’ve continued to work in art as a passionate hobby (see my blog for reviews of other art books) but working in oil paints is something I’ve never quite learned well and would like to know better. And here comes Painting With Bob Ross: Learn to Paint in Oil Step by Step! Perfect timing!
The problem with trying to learn an art form – any art form – simply by a book is that no matter how many ‘steps’ you include something is missing. And too often (at least for me) you can look at the pictures of the different steps and think “wait…how did they get all that?!”
I don’t have the background in oil paints that I’d like and I’ll admit that I was lost really early on in this book. One of the earlier chapters is “Basic Painting Techniques”. I know the materials and a general concept of oil painting (and how it’s different from watercolors and acrylics [which I’ve used]) but I didn’t understand the concept of ‘loading two colors’ or how to use a paint knife (I’ve never used one). Without seeing this in action I really couldn’t quite understand it. And unfortunately, if you don’t understand this basic technique, the rest of the book is near;y pointless since it is used in every painting featured here. And no matter how well you explain it (“Pull your paint mixture out very flat on your palette, hold the knife straight up and “cut” across the mixture to load the long edge of the blade with a small roll of paint. Holding the knife straight up will force the small roll of paint to the very edge of the blade. “) it really does need to be seen.
Something I also hadn’t really noticed before until I read through this book was how many of the paintings look alike. This is formulaic painting. This is fine as the results can be beautiful to look at and cathartic to paint.
The book recommends not just certain types of paints or brushes, but specific brands as well. I always find this highly suspicious. It feels like advertising and that the book is there to sell paints or thinners or brushes – not to help people paint. Now if there was mention of why the specific items (blends better, doesn’t leave bristle hairs, etc), then perhaps I’d feel better about it.
Even though this is labeled as a ‘learn to paint’ book, I don’t feel quite prepared enough to read the book and put my own brush or knife to canvas (and I had some canvasses ready). However, I still would like to try some of these techniques, but I think I need to get a little more basic learning before I’m ready for it.
Looking for a good book? Painting with Bob Ross by Walter Foster Creative Team is a nice looking book but the reader will need a little more skill than being ready to “Learn to paint” to take advantage of the lessons in this book.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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Painting with Bob Ross: Learn to paint in oil step by step!
author: Walter Foster Creative Team
publisher: Walter Foster Publishing
paperback, 128 pages