Happy Little Accidents

Happy Little Accidents March 4, 2015

(Jonathan Ryan posting for Jen Schlameuss-Perry.)

These days, when I think of the things that were formative to me in my youth, I get a little sentimental. Maybe because I’m old, or because it’s Lent, or because I’m making major changes in my life, but I’m feeling very reflective. I owe a great deal of gratitude to my family, my faith, the people I’ve met and spent lots of time with, various good and crappy circumstances…and TV. TV was a big influence in my young (who am I kidding…and my adult) life. I continue to make many references to the shows I watched when I was a kid in my teaching, writing and parenting.

One of the shows that made a significant impact is one that most people my age have been affected by—Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting.  I came across a video remix a few days ago that reminded me of the lessons I learned from this show and how much I loved watching it.

If you are not familiar with Mr. Ross (or are in the mood for a bit of nostalgia), here is the Bob Ross Remix put out by PBS:

Anyone who was alive in the 70’ s and 80’s remembers his enormous, cocoon-like afro, tight jeans and interesting shirts and can quote Bob Ross: “there are no mistakes; just happy little accidents,” “we’re going to build a happy little tree” or a “happy little cloud” or “a river is going to live right here.” We have all made parody of it, and poked a little fun. But, the affect of his calming voice and sincere disposition is undeniable.

While art has been a part of me since forever, I’ve always struggled with doubts in my ability. But, Bob Ross told me I could paint. He believed I could, so I thought, maybe he’s right. My first oil painting equipment was a Bob Ross set and it came with paint, brushes, that slidey knife—and a lesson on VHS. It was awesome. I painted. And, I wasn’t terrible at it. I started to draw and paint all the time. I didn’t stop at paper or canvas, either. I painted on my bedroom walls, on wood, on whatever I thought needed sprucing up. My parents were surprisingly indulgent of my graffiti (thanks, guys!).

There was something sacramental in Bob Ross’s philosophy. He encouraged us to be co-creators; something that people often forget that they are. Mr. Ross invited us to see beauty and make more of it. He reminded us to not get hung up on mistakes—oil is a very forgiving medium. We don’t become crushed by our failings, but allow them become part of the texture of our world. It makes me think of how God uses all things for good, and never lets sin go unchallenged—bringing beauty and healing out of suffering. Faith, like painting, is in your heart and requires only that you practice.

In his quiet way, he charged us to live boldly; to step out in faith and put our feelings on canvas—to live our giftedness. We need Bob Ross’s in our lives. We need the calm, encouraging voices who teach by modeling, build people up, and help others to live creatively. And, to do these things with joy.

Jen Schlameuss-Perry is a massive fan of sci-fi, cartoons and superheroes and loves to write about them in light of her Catholic tradition.  She currently works for a Catholic Church and practices martial arts, cares for her family and pets and writes in her spare time.  Check out some of Jen’s other stuff on her Facebook page or her website.

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