How Bob Ross Kept Me From Giving Up

Ever say “yes” to a project, then panic mid-project because you don’t think you can do it? That’s what happened to me with Lindsay’s giant Peter Pan canvas. This was a project that challenged me and grew me as an artist, and one which taught me that a little bit of persistence and hope can have a huge impact!

This project was a year in the making. Lindsay texted a Peter Pan quote for her son’s room in 2018, I drew up a sketch, she loved it… and then we had to table it. She was going through a huge move and I was still getting used to my new job. It was best to wait until we had both settled in a bit.

This summer, we were both ready. With my handy-dandy iPad and Procreate, I drew up this draft in one night:

I even did an alternative color, no problem:

When her son Jack picked the purple one, I was ready to start! And then… I realized… I did not know how to paint a night sky. I could do it without a hitch using my digital tools, but blending paint on canvas was a different matter. So I decided to try it out on little canvases I had lying around at home.

I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to replicate the color blocking/blending technique I did on Procreate, but without the “Gaussian blur” feature, I was lost. I started channeling my inner Bob Ross. I brought out my fan brush–because that’s what he used–and it wasn’t working. Then I remembered episodes of him using a dry brush to blend. More progress. Eventually, I got something that worked.

It was probably while I was in the middle of the first practice Canvas that I had my first round of feeling like I can’t do this. But something about channeling Bob Ross and hearing his soothing voice in the back of my head made me keep trying.

Draft 3 was close enough, and I figured the rest would come together on the large canvas. I can figure it out from here, I thought.

It took 3 coats of paint and even more second guessing to get the sky to be as vivid and as evenly blended as I envisioned. With each coat, I freaked out that I was ruining everything… and Bob Ross’s voice came back and told me to chill. With each coat, I was more and more impressed with myself for doing the thing.

I had to talk myself into stopping after the third coat!

The rest was cake. Compared to a night sky with so many colors blending into one another, the other parts–clouds, moon, mountains, and lettering–were no big deal at all. The worst was over.

Trusty T-Square to measure out the lines for lettering.
Always, always sketch with chalk!
After finishing the lettering, I sketched out the illustrations: moon, clouds, and mountains.
Washi tape to get a nice even line for the bottom of the clouds.
Those clouds took quite some time to get the same fade as my digital draft… ugh! I have learned my lesson about transferring digital magic to the canvas!
And finally, mountains.

I couldn’t have done this piece without Saint Bob. And now that I have done this piece, I feel a little more confident in my abilities as an artist. Guys, I did the thing! It actually looks like the draft I made on Procreate!

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