When I learned about the #SomeDayinFeb project on the fantastic Danica LeBlanc‘s Twitter feed a couple of weeks ago, I thought “Wow, what a great idea! I am very good at frittering my time away and not getting to the things on my ‘Nice To Do’ list. I should write about this and put it out there, because I know exactly what I’m going to do for that project!”
And then I didn’t write anything about it. Because — as has been stated above — I am very good at frittering my time away.
The last few…months, really, I’ve felt like I’ve been stagnating. Just scraping by, getting the barest minimum accomplished, and sometimes not even that. There are a number of reasons for that, few of which are interesting or unique. And they’re not even reasonable, like “I would love to learn to waterski but I have three kids and two jobs and a mountain of debt and also I live in a desert in space where there is no water and also it’s the fifteenth century and the internal combustion engine hasn’t been invented so there are no motorboats.”
(Your definition of “reasonable” may be different than mine.)
Which brings us to my #SomeDayinFeb project. I’m going to do an oil painting.
One of my biggest sources of comfort and inspiration is the American painter and television personality Bob Ross. The man who hosted The Joy of Painting on PBS, who painted almighty mountains and happy little clouds and friendly trees in half an hour or less. When I think of his paintings, they’re rarely brilliant works of art — though there are some that I think might fit that description — but his show wasn’t about showing off how good he was at painting. It was about teaching, getting people inspired, and yes, probably to sell some of his Bob Ross Art Supplies too. I’m a pretty big cynic, but even I don’t think that Bob Ross did over three hundred and fifty painting shows just to make a happy buck. He always said “Everyone can paint.” And I honestly think he believed it.
I’ve been watching Bob Ross videos semi-religiously for about ten years. I discovered his show one Saturday afternoon while visiting a friend, and couldn’t believe this was a television show. For my friend, who had grown up with PBS, it was old hat, but for me it was a revelation. Here was someone who had dedicated his life to art, making beautiful things and helping people find that spark of joy and creativity in their life. When he said things like “We don’t make mistakes, we make happy accidents,” or “Just like life, we need the dark in order for the light to show,” I didn’t actually believe it, but it was comforting to hear him say it. He shared his love of nature through his paintings and by bringing rescued animals on his show to raise awareness about animal rehabilitation. And even when the paintings turned out a little lackluster, I was in awe. It was something I could never do, but I could be happy just watching him create. I never dreamed that I would make a painting myself. I just wanted to watch from the sidelines.
Then just over a year ago, my brother and his fiancée gave me a gift of a mess of canvasses and a Bob Ross Joy of Painting DVD set. “This way you can make your own,” they said, smiling at me. And a hole opened up in my stomach. “Don’t you know,” I wanted to tell them, “that I’m not supposed to do this? I’m only supposed to sit and watch!!” But I accepted their gift as graciously as I could, then put it on the shelf and didn’t do anything with it for twelve months. Occasionally I thought about it, but I kept pushing those thoughts out of my mind, crushing them down, tricking myself that I could forget about them. I can’t make a painting. I can’t do this. I can’t.
Then a few months ago I was watching The Joy of Painting, an episode I’d seen probably a dozen times if not more. Bob Ross looked right into the camera and said “The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it.” That line hit me like a lightning bolt. I realized in that moment that even if I don’t think that I can do it, Bob Ross does. And he’s a lot smarter than I am.
So I got an easel. And some paints. And I set aside some time today to see what I can do with them. I’m terrified of what’s going to happen. I’m fairly sure it’s going to be an absolute mess, a waste of time and money and effort. I’m also worried that when I fail at this, it’s going to ruin The Joy of Painting for me forever, and I won’t be able to watch an episode again without remembering the art atrocity that I’m about to commit.
I’m still going to try, though. Because Bob Ross believes in me. Even if I don’t.