Painting on Demand

Young artist paints orange autumn trees on canvas

Bob Ross was recently featured in a piece on CBS Sunday Morning. Ross hosted The Joy of Painting, a PBS television series that ran from 1983-1994 for 403 episodes. How did a show about learning to paint become so successful?

Interestingly enough, 90% of Ross’ audience didn’t paint along with him. They tuned in to see Ross-- his soothing voice and the bucolic landscapes he completed in each 30-minute segment. But even though Ross made the process appear effortless, it wasn’t. Prior to taping, Ross painted an initial piece and referenced it off-camera as he painted during the show. He also rehearsed for days to be able to complete one painting per episode.

Speakers can emulate Ross’ system. Every presentation you do should feel spontaneous and effortless, yet accomplishing this takes rehearsal. Like Ross, be so familiar with your outline that you have to glance at it only occasionally to stay on track. Audiences will enjoy your “spontaneous” talks. Ross was put down by art critics who considered him too mainstream and not a serious painter. But Ross completed over thirty thousand paintings; some of which are in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. His bio film is on Netflix. May we all be so fortunate.

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