Today would have been Bob Ross’s 70th birthday. Did you ever watch The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross on PBS? He was this gentle soul who loved painting and wanted to help everyone else love it too. Stick with me, this is absolutely about size acceptance.
I have very vague recollections of seeing this show as a kid, but I’ve never been much for visual arts (I got excused from high school art class for sucking) so I didn’t pay much attention.
I was at a friend’s house and the show was on. Before I could reach the remote to change the channel I was mesmerized. He gave me a whole lesson on life while he created a beautiful painting in less than 30 minutes.
The way that he approached the painting was so carefree. He didn’t say “now be very careful and think before you apply the paint”. He said “Just brush it on – there are no mistakes here, we just have happy accidents”.
He talked about how anyone could paint and, sitting there on my friend’s recliner playing Scrabble on my iPhone, I began to actually believe him. As he finished out the background I started to think that I wasn’t just an art class drop out, maybe this wasn’t completely impossible. I started to think that I could maybe do that…
Then he picked up some very dark paint with his knife and said that it was time to paint a mountain. I could feel the fear well up – I was wrong. I definitely could not do this. I was about to ruin the imaginary painting in my mind. There was going to be a big brown/black lump of failure on my imaginary canvas where a majestic mountain was supposed to be.
As he put it on he said “Be bold. Be fearless. This is your mountain. You can make it anyway you want. You are in control”. My fear and anxiety faded with his gentle assertions. I could do this…
I looked him up on Wikipedia and it said that when asked about his calm, laid back demeanor he said: “I got a letter from somebody here a while back, and they said, ‘Bob, everything in your world seems to be happy.’ That’s for sure. That’s why I paint. It’s because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news.”
I was also delighted to find that one of the criticisms against him was that “Ross tended to paint from his imagination, rather than from a careful study of nature. His trees, for instance, are not accurate depictions of real trees.” Of course anybody who does anything is going to collect critics, but what a fantastic thing of which to be accused!
I talk a lot about loving ourselves and our bodies and creating an authentic life which is not always the simplest path, especially for fat people who live in a culture steeped in weight bigotry and oppression. Letting go of all of the negative messages that we got, ignoring the ones that we are getting; discovering, growing and protecting our self-esteem; living honestly and authentically, loving ourselves; appreciating our bodies, loving someone else; these can all be scary things that I hope to support people doing – somehow through his 30 minute show on painting Bob Ross made it all seem possible.
I didn’t “meet” Bob Ross until after he passed away, but he is a hero of mine. How amazing would it be to live up to his legacy - that someone somewhere who thinks that liking themselves is impossible reads our work or hears us speak or sees us living authentic lives and thinks…”I could maybe do that…” that we could be the Bob Rosses of Size Acceptance. That our critics will accuse us of creating our lives from our imaginations, rather than a careful study of what is (aka what “everybody knows.”) I can think of few compliments or criticisms as great. So happy 70th Bob Ross, and thanks for the happy little trees, the happy little clouds, the happy little accidents, and the hope.
Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price – Nov 13 and 15
Normally I get between 100 and 200 e-mails a day. During the holiday season that climbs to 200-300 from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season and into the new year. Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.
Like the blog? Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):
The Book: Fat: The Owner’s Manual The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order
The Dance Class DVDs: Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint: Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)! Click here for the details
Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses
I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.