Monday, August 22, 2011

Of Bob Ross and Thomas Kinkade


"Pottery Cove Garden" 9x12 - contact Michael

Sometimes two names crop up in workshops: Bob Ross and Thomas Kinkade. I think both of these fellows, one deceased and the other very much alive, deserve praise. Many "serious" painters may disagree with me, mostly because Bob Ross created a way of painting that shortcuts and, in the minds of these serious painters, seems to devalue the hard work they had to do to get where they are today; and because Thomas Kinkade figured out that romantic stone cottages with candlelit windows would sell far, far better than more authentic landscapes.

But I praise Ross and Kinkade because they help people work toward their dreams.

Bob Ross made it possible for many to paint who weren't able to get a proper art education or to find the time or money to take expensive painting workshops . He designed a whole system, from brushes to paints to easels, and had a TV series, all of which enables a rank beginner to express herself in a realistic way. To be sure, many of his landscapes were imaginary and contrived, but any beginner who could learn his approach was on the road to becoming a fulfilled painter. Many of these students, and today they are legion, no doubt aspire to be future Monets, and thanks to Bob Ross, they are able to work toward a satisfying means of expression. Those who do get out in the world of art soon realize that Bob Ross is not an end but a means, and these will continue to grow as painters.

Thomas Kinkade, whom people are surprised to hear is an excellent plein air painter, presents in his studio work warm, inviting images that anyone with an inkling to pick up a brush would want to emulate. Kinkade wasn't around when I was growing up and aspiring to be a painter, but other artists who sold similar images to the mass market were. I remember a print, big as a couch, that hung in my parents' living room. It showed a bucolic scene complete with an old covered bridge, stencilled with an advertisement for Red Man Tobacco, and two barefoot kids fishing. (My parents still have the print today.) I loved that image, and I painted my share of dilapidated rural structures because of it. If Kinkade had been around, I'm sure I would have painted stone cottages. What drew me wasn't the painting itself - after all, I was looking at a flat print with no visible "mark making" from a brush - but the sentimental image.

It would be good for students who start with Bob Ross and Thomas Kinkade to continue to read about art, to view it constantly, and to look widely at the world of representational painting.  They should thank Bob and Tom for opening the door; but then walk on through to the next garden.

9 comments:

John Harmon said...

Finally you post a message that I find very interesting .Although I do not subscribe to either Bob Ross or Thomas Kincades methods or subject matter I still admire each and try to watch as many of Bob's PBS TV segments as I can and wander thru an Art "Place" and study Kinkades offerings many times.Another Artist is Jerry Yarnell.His PBS TV series is an inspiration to many and I enjoy his advice as I do yours also. I thank you and others who take the time to pass on your perspectives and advice on how, for us of the mass's, to better our Art efforts no matter how humble.JH

Dave Casey said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you on the Bob Ross front. I picked up a brush and started painting because of his shows and fell in love with oil painting. I've moved on past his technique and I am trying new and different techniques and have new teachers in my life. But, there are those days when I put an 18x24 canvas up on the easel and squeeze out a few blobs of Bob Ross paint and start slapping paint all over the canvas and within an hour, I have a finished painting that I am proud of.

As you said, Bob Ross was a means, not the end. Some are quite satisfied to learn his method and stick with it for the rest of their lives and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And others, such as myself, use his method as a spring board to bigger and better things.

It always amazes me how much vitriol is aimed at Bob by "serious" artists, but I've come to realize that it is due mostly to jealousy. They don't like his getting all this attention when they feel they are so much better.

Long live Bob! ;)

daniela.. said...

I love this post, Michael, there is more hype and confusion around art than Zen, so, mostly I meet people who think they are stupid because they don't "know anything about art". Like yourself, these artists you mention have the clarity within themselves to convey to others, that this is all possible, available and exciting. Only ever had one art teacher in college who didn't play art snob, he was talented, approachable, popular and not altogethor popular with the other teachers. My beginning growing up was my brothers Walter Foster books. I have great regard for anyone who can inspire and set free, other people.

Doug Runyan said...

Good points, Michael. Ross and Kincade are not only inspirational to beginning painters but they also are often the introduction of non-painters to the world of art. Non-artists often become collectors!

Marian Fortunati said...

Interesting...
Mostly I hear artists making fun of both, but in a way I imagine there's a bit of jealousy over their mass appeal and success.
You make some good points.... We can all learn from the good things that each did. I also think Daniela is right about the hype.

Jo Castillo said...

I agree with you 100%. For those of us that grew up without art classes in school watching Bob Ross and Bill Alexnder was so inspiring. They helped us to get started painting and opened the door to possibilities. I still watch their tapes to fall asleep at night. :) Oh, Jerry Yarnell and Helen Van Wyk, too.

almajo said...

Both Bob and thomas can inspire us to paint, but I have to say Before Bob Ross there was the original happy painter Willam Alexander i watched him and even took a workshop with him. just one show taught me how to do mountains. Bob Ross was a student of his,but its all good they get us started and we go from there.almajo
www.almajofinearts.com

Ed Terpening said...

I once gave a talk on " thought leadership" that included Bob Ross. Like Julia Child did for cooking, he took the mystery out of painting, and made it approachable. Many owe a debt to him for that. Thanks for reminding us of his place in art history.

Bill Guffey said...

I always liked Bob. Kincade on the other hand has put many people into bankruptcy. Many legal issues surrounding him, along with ethical ones. He could draw though. I have a book by Kincade and James Gurney on sketching published before either had made it big. Wonderful book.