It’s not that I never spent time in front of a television. I did.
More than is medically and psychologically advisable. I’m sure.
But I don’t remember much about the Power Rangers, Barney, or even Sesame Street. I remember the characters of course, but no particular favorite moments… nothing that really stuck.
Instead, I gravitated towards personalities like Raffi, Mr. Rogers, and Bob Ross. That’s right… The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross on PBS, Bob Ross.
Now volumes could be (and have been) written about Fred Rogers, and I don’t know where I’d begin to dig up material on Raffi. However, upon being referred to Brother Ross’s new iPhone app (yes, really), I got to thinking about him and what it is about him that has had such a lasting impact on me.
Though Bob Ross did not set out to be in children’s television, nor did he have any idea a young Jesse Baker was glued to the television screen at nearly every given opportunity to watch him paint, he had a certain quality that was mesmerizing to me, even as a child.
Upon recent reflection, I realized that those men that stick with me as being somehow valuable to my youth have something central in common: they are men, but they weren’t afraid to practice sensitivity, creativity, and kindness. They had no interest in being “macho” (as the 90s would’ve put it).
When I watched these shows, I didn’t know that I wouldn’t grow up to be a very intimidating fella, topping out at 5’8 with a healthy fear of any and all conflict, but I suppose I didn’t have to. What I did know is that there was something unique and welcoming about a man who would glance over his shoulder from time to time to let me know it’s ok to make mistakes.
“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”
Ross constantly reassured his viewers that there is no mistake we could make in our oil and canvas world that couldn’t be redeemed.
As a matter-of-fact, I learned in later years that the technique he mastered and adapted is based on the thought that painting should be accessible to everyone, not just the formally trained. It was not his goal that he alone create something beautiful. It was his goal that we all would.
There’s something captivating about that invitation.
Ross was always there as our trusted guide, showing us his world through a fan brush and a painting knife rolled with titanium white and burnt sienna… but he would often seem more interested in the world you were creating than his own.
It was only through our following Ross into his world that we would truly be able to find a sense of our own.
Ross did not seek to bring attention to himself. He didn’t claim to be Rembrandt or even Thomas Kinkade (though, let’s be honest, Kinkade is a chump by comparison). All he really wanted to do was inspire others to find their artistic voice.
I hope to take a page from Ross’s example in my own life.
It would be a beautiful thing to look back years from now to see that I inspired someone to find their voice. I would love to know that I had guided someone to create something, all-the-while gently reminding them that it’s ok to make mistakes, because we’re all going to. It would be a legacy to know I extended an invitation to discover something greater, something beautiful, something beyond myself.
May we all paint with such vivid colors. May our brushstrokes be filled with purpose. May we never cease to give thanks for the Painter who guides us, comforts us, and invites us to see a new world.
Happy painting, and God bless, my friend.