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The Joy of Sketching: An Homage to Bob Ross

By Charles Purdy

What do Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Bob Ross—beloved painter, educator, and host of the TV series The Joy of Painting—have in common? As a recent educational homage demonstrates, quite a lot!

With his soothing delivery and the obvious joy he took in his creative process, Bob Ross made painting look easy and, perhaps even more important, fun. In the 11 years that his PBS show The Joy of Painting aired in the United States (as well as in Europe, Canada, Japan, and Latin America), he inspired countless painters at every level and became a true American icon.

That’s just one reason Ross came to mind when we were thinking of ways to show people the almost limitless possibilities of Adobe Photoshop Sketch, a free mobile app whose natural-feeling drawing tools allow artists of all kinds to create expressive works of art. (You can watch all four Bob Ross–inspired Photoshop Sketch tutorial videos at the bottom of this page. And as a special treat, we are sharing some of the custom brushes and color palettes used in the tutorial. Download them from this CC Library.)

AN ARTIST LOVED BY ALL

Like many of us, Kerensa Hogan, the Adobe Creative Cloud product marketing manager who dreamed up this mashup (after a conversation with her boss, director of product marketing Jane Brady), grew up with Bob Ross. “I thought Bob Ross’s style and what he represented made him a wonderful fit with Sketch,” she says. “I spent many of my childhood mornings with him at my grandmother’s house in the summer. She started my day out with a piece of sliced buttered toast, a glass of orange juice, and Bob Ross on PBS.”

Joan Kowalski, the media director for Bob Ross Inc., says she hears these types of stories all the time: “When people ask me where I work, here’s how it always goes: I say, ‘You’ve seen him before. He’s that quiet guy on TV painting happy clouds, mountains, and trees in half an hour….’ And then, whomever I’m talking to, they finish the real story of Bob Ross for me.”

So when Adobe approached Kowalski with the idea of combining a Bob Ross tribute with a Photoshop Sketch how-to, she was thrilled. “Bob’s wish was to inspire as many as people as possible to be creative and to share their creativity with others—Adobe’s Joy of Sketching series clearly has the same goal.”

An image of Chad Cameron filming the
An image of Chad Cameron getting into makeup before filming the

HAPPY LITTLE CREATIVE CLOUD

Enter artist and teacher Chad CameronJoy of Sketching’s “Faux Bob Ross.” Hogan went to Cameron with the idea, and he liked it right away. “Of course I know Bob Ross from growing up,” he says. “I teach for a living, and although I don’t work in Ross’s style, I definitely think of him as a kindred spirit. At the broadest level, he exposed a lot of people—including me—to painting. Whether you were trained or not, it was fascinating to watch him put a painting together.”

The technique Ross used to create his paintings is called wet-on-wet oil painting, or alla prima; in wet-on-wet painting, oil paints are applied wet and mixed on the canvas (Ross credited the painter Bill Alexander with introducing him to the technique). Wet-on-wet is very well suited to Ross’s “no mistakes, just happy accidents” mantra, because it allows for plenty of blending and layering. It also allows painters to work quickly.

Blending, layering, and experimenting—these are all parts of the Photoshop Sketch experience, too. Cameron explains, “I think one thing about working on a tablet is that it’s a lot less intimidating, and you can just play. At the same time, Sketch is sensitive and powerful enough to give you some really cool painterly effects…. Another thing—Bob Ross loved the great outdoors, and Sketch really lets you take your creativity anywhere you want to go.”

To re-create the Ross effect, we brought Cameron into the Adobe video studio in San Francisco, helped him get his hair into an appropriately Ross-esque style, and set him up with an Apple iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil. In these four short videos, he introduces some of Sketch’s important features and shows you how to create a mountainous masterpiece. Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

In the first video, “Faux Bob Ross” gets out his Apple iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, introduces Sketch, and explains how to get started. In the second, he shows how to choose brushes and colors, and he begins work on the background elements of his creation.

In the third video, he creates a mighty pine tree, using custom brushes he created with Adobe Capture (get those custom brushes for yourself in this CC Library). The fourth video shows some of his finishing touches, as well as a simple trick for going back to any stage of a Sketch project. Don’t miss the beautiful completed painting!