My Artwork

My Artwork

Table of Contents

Early Influences
Rediscovering Bob Ross
Needing A Change
Getting Started
My Studio
My Paintings
My Views On The Critics
Looking Ahead
Help With A Painting

Early Influences

      I have always loved art. When I was little, I used to love to draw and color pictures in coloring books. In school, I loved the different art projects we used to do. At home, my grandma, before her arthritis got bad, used to make refrigerator magnets out of felt, stick-on magnets, and pipe cleaners, creating butterflies or bunches of grapes.

      In the mid-1980s, I first saw a man on TV named Bob Ross who would paint a beautiful painting in about 30 minutes every Saturday morning. I remember watching The Joy of Painting every chance I could and watching in amazement as a bare canvas was transformed into a beautiful landscape.

      I wanted to paint like Bob Ross, thinking that it would be a fun career. However, there were some issues. At the time, we didn't use oil paints in our art classes at school, and since this was before the internet, I did not have any way of finding out where I could go to learn how to paint using Mr. Ross' methods.

      As a result, my thoughts of taking up landscape painting faded as planning for college began to take shape. Once in college, I was not able to watch The Joy of Painting like I used to.

      In July 1995, I was working on campus for the summer between my junior and senior years when I heard that Bob Ross had passed away. I had not watched his show in some time, and I was deeply saddened to hear that I would not be seeing him paint again.

      During the fall semester of my senior year in college, I took a two-dimensional art class. Our instructor was quite impressed with my work, telling me that I had obviously watched and learned a lot from Bob Ross. During the spring semester, I took a three-dimensional art class, creating some ceramics (a shell-shaped dish, a vase, and two little rabbits) that I still have.

Rediscovering Bob Ross

      Over the several years after college, my life went into a bit of a rollercoaster ride, going through grad school, different jobs, and a few moves.

      By 2004, I was on my third job after grad school. I had been there about three years doing PC tech support when I began thinking about possibly going into business for myself selling custom-built PCs. I mentioned the idea to another coworker, and he was interested in joining me in my business venture.

      Over the next year and a half, we were making good progress in the planning and preparation of starting our business. However, in late 2005, things began taking a downward turn. My business partner began having personal issues to deal with and began taking time away from working on the business. In early 2006, he began dropping out of contact completely, only contacting me about once a month when he wanted to get the business going because he needed some extra money for car repairs or something. Then, when it came time to get together to work on the business again, he would break off contact and seem to disappear.

      After several months (as well as talks with some close friends), it became apparent that I needed to part ways with my business partner. After all, if he was doing this before the business started, he would be doing it after the business started. That Labor Day weekend, I made the difficult decision to e-mail him and tell him that he was no longer part of the company. I never heard from him again.

      Soon afterwards, my plans for the custom-PC business faded as I was focusing on my new job that I had started in April 2006.

      By early 2008, I had been at my fourth job after grad school for about two years. One night while going through the channel guide on my DVR, I saw that episodes of The Joy of Painting were being reaired as Best of The Joy of Painting on Create TV and my local PBS station. I immediately programmed the show into my DVR. Watching the show again was like meeting up with a good friend who I had not seen in years. After watching a few episodes, the thoughts of taking up landscape painting stirred up again. However, my first cat Chessie, who I'd adopted in April 2007, was dealing with hypotrophic obstructive cardiomyopia, a heart condition that normally occurs only in older cats. With his many trips to the vet and MedVet for his echocardiograms and medicines, there was no way that I could afford to get what I needed to begin painting. As a result, thoughts of painting and selling my work were again put off.

Needing A Change

      On Saturday, August 7, 2010, Chessie collapsed at the vet's office from his heart condition and had to be put to sleep. I'd adopted him when he was just four months old. His heart condition was found when he was about five months old. He was a little over three and a half years old when he passed on. Needless to say, I was extremely heartbroken. Chessie had been very close to both me and Casey Jones, my second cat.

      Shortly after Chessie's passing, I began putting together a memorial video for him to put up on YouTube along with all of the other videos I had made of him and Casey since they were kittens.

      While making the video, I saw how happy his life had been, despite it being so short. It got me to thinking about my life and how rather than being able to enjoy it, I was always slaving away at doing tech support during the day, coming home, doing dinner, and then going to bed to start it all over again the next day. My life had gotten into a rut. That was when I began going through what I can only describe as a mid-life crisis. I needed a change as I was getting burned out from always doing tech support and the frustrations of dealing with the same issues over and over at work. I thought about the PC business from before, but there was no way that I could build PCs and provide tech support for customers by myself. Also, I didn't have the space for working on PCs as well as storing parts, completed PCs, etc.

      One night while drying dishes, I was watching one of the episodes of Best of The Joy of Painting when it hit me. I had always thought about taking up painting, but I had never seriously looked into it.

      I began visiting and going over the prices of painting supplies that I would need. I also planned to have things rolling on a new career or change by Labor Day 2011.

      Another thing I did was to look closely at my current tech support career path as well as a career path in painting. I wanted to basically get all of the pros and cons of both together to weigh the two paths together and see which would be the better one to follow. Typically, for each pro on one career path, there was a con on the other. Needless to say, a career path in painting won.

Current Career Path Painting Career Path
Pros Cons Pros Cons
  1. Steady income
  2. Taxes taken out
  3. No startup costs
  4. No restocking of supplies
  5. No website to maintain
  6. Already trained
  1. Drive to work
  2. Fixed schedule
  3. Always watching time
  4. Winter/bad weather driving
  5. Stress from work
  6. No real control
  7. Health issues from stress
  8. Less time for exercise, cats, trains, etc.
  9. Work always scrutinized
  10. Wear and tear on Jeep
  11. High gas prices
  12. Irregular sleep patterns
  13. No music or TV while working
  14. Certification training
  15. Dress code
  16. Irregular meals
  17. Timecards
  18. Limited bathroom breaks
  19. On phone most of day
  20. Document everything I do
  21. Alarm in morning
  22. Ringing phones all day
  23. Finding a parking space
  24. Laptop not allowed
  25. Bathroom privacy issues
  26. Rude/noisy callers
  27. No personal items (including family or pet photos) allowed
  28. No cellphone allowed
  1. No drive
  2. Flexible schedule
  3. Can stay at home in bad weather
  4. Relaxing work
  5. No health issues from stress
  6. More time for exercise, cats, trains, etc.
  7. Not always criticized
  8. No wear and tear on Jeep
  9. Save money on gas
  10. Regular sleep patterns
  11. Can have music or TV on while working
  12. Train myself at my cost
  13. No dress code
  14. Regular meals
  15. No timecards
  16. Unlimited bathroom breaks
  17. Off phone most of day
  18. No documenting work
  19. No alarm in morning
  20. No ringing phones all day
  21. Already parked
  22. Can use my laptop and PC when I want
  23. No bathroom privacy issues
  24. No rude/noisy callers
  25. Can personalize my workspace however I want
  26. Cellphone allowed
  1. Changing income
  2. Taxes not taken out
  3. Startup costs
  4. Restocking of supplies
  5. Website to maintain
  6. Needing practice
Total Pros: 6 Total Cons: 28 Total Pros: 26 Total Cons: 6
Score = -22 Score = 20

Getting Started

      When I first started making plans for my new career, I was initially looking into the business side of things. I realized that since I had never used oil paints before that I should look into getting art supplies first so that I could get some experience.

      In January 2011, I bought a digital camera, which began saving me money that I would normally have been spending on film and processing for my 35mm camera. I then began getting painting supplies that I needed to begin painting as well as the three-hour workshop DVD that Bob Ross had made so that I could learn more about his techniques.

      By April 8th, my 6-pack of new canvases arrived, and I was ready to start painting...or so I thought.

Creating My Studio
Over the course of January and early February 2011, I began a major reorganization and cleaning of my basement, cleaning up clutter, bagging trash, reorganizing things stored under the basement stairs, moving my workbench for my model railroad, and clearing an area for my new studio. By February 25th, all the trash was bagged and ready to be removed. The trash was removed, and the floor was thoroughly vacuumed. I had a set of shelves that I had not used since I moved from Ashland in 1999. I decided that they would be perfect for storing paints and materials on. I then set up the Bob Ross 2-in-1 easel and added the clip-on light so that I would have plenty of light to work. This is the exact same type of easel that Bob Ross used in the later series of his show.
By March 20th, I had purchased the brush cleaning supplies and basecoats. I also had some other supplies (paper towels, disposable foam brushes, etc.) that I organized with everything. A week later, I had one of each of the brushes and palette knives that Bob Ross used on his show as well as the same type of palette. I then got a large tube of each color of the landscape oil paints. With my first canvas in the easel, I was ready to paint...or so I thought.
One thing I did with my palette was labeling each location for each color of paint. I made labels out of one of the supplies catalogs that I received with my orders and taped them to the underside of the palette in the same order that Bob Ross had his on the show. Here is the loaded palette before starting a painting. After a few paintings and practice paintings, I got a second set of brushes and palette knives. I then went to Hobby Lobby and purchased a plastic container with a lid to store my brushes and knives in.
Here is my studio with one of my finished paintings in the easel. While at Hobby Lobby getting the container for my brushes and palette knives, I also bought a travel easel. This allows me to set paintings off to the side if they need more drying time so that I can then use my main easel for the next painting. I can then set it on my workbench or washer if the workbench is in use. In October 2011, I put an old green sheet up behind the easel. My family and some friends had wanted to see me paint. Wanting to shoot a video of me painting for on YouTube, I put the sheet up to give the video a more professional look without any clutter or basement wall behind me.

      With my studio set up and new canvases in, I was anxious to start painting. The canvases were in on April 8th, but I was going up to my parents' house the next day. Knowing I couldn't take a wet painting with me, I figured I would whip up something and take pictures with my digital camera to show them.

      After dinner that evening, I decided to try a painting, even though it was 10PM, and I was getting up at 8AM the next morning for the drive to my parents' house. I got everything laid out, loaded the palette with paint, applied the liquid white to the canvas, and started to paint. While the sky and water went fine, I began to run into problems on the mountain. The paint wanted to smear and slide rather than stick and break like it did for Bob Ross on TV and in the workshop DVD. I started to get frustrated, but I looked at the time and decided to just stop and evaluate the situation rather than trying to continue and get more frustrated.

      That's when I realized where I had made my mistake. Rather than applying a thin even coat of the liquid white on the canvas, I had painted it on the canvas like I was painting a wall. While it did not turned out the way I had wanted it to, I did learn from the experience. As Bob Ross always said, if you learn from your mistakes, it is not a failure.

      Sometime afterwards, I purchased a 10-pack of one-hour instructional DVDs that Bob Ross had made around 1986 or so. In each video, he covers not just the painting but all of the materials as well as prepping the canvas. I also began saving episodes of Best of The Joy of Painting off my DVR.

      On May 1st, I made another attempt at a full painting. It started out going better, but I again ran into issues with the mountain. I took a break from it, came back, and then, deeming the mountain finished, I quickly finished the rest of the painting. While not as good as I would have liked, it was my first full landscape.

      That's when I decided to contact a local certified
Bob Ross instructor. On May 22nd, she came to my home, and while she painted at my workbench, I painted at my easel. The painting turned out even better than the one from three weeks prior. While I had some struggles with the mountain, she said I was doing everything right and just needed to practice.

      Over the course of the summer, I did a canvas of practice mountains as well as some more paintings. In mid-July, I took my work along with me to my family's reunion that we have every year to show off my work. Everybody was quite impressed.

      By October, I finally was able to get my mountains to come out right. Needless to say, it was a big confidence boost, and for Christmas I framed and wrapped two of my paintings to give to my parents and my brother and his family for Christmas.

My Paintings
This was my first attempt at a landscape painting. By applying too much of the liquid white on the canvas, the highlight color on the mountain wanted to smear instead of stick and break. When I went to do the shadow highlight color, it started to stick, and then the entire shadow began to slide with the palette knife. Another sign of too much liquid white was that it took seven weeks for this canvas to dry completely.
This is my first full landscape. Unfortunately, I'd spent so much time working on the mountain that I rushed the rest of the painting. As a result, the trees and everything else wasn't well done. I did this painting with a Bob Ross instructor. It's based off the painting that Bob Ross did called "Distant Mountains" (Series 14, Episode 1). When doing this painting, I only looked at the one that Mr. Ross did when the instructor showed me what we would be painting. After that, I only followed her instructions and painted what I saw in my mind rather than trying to copy Mr. Ross' painting. In mid-June, I decided to do like Bob Ross did on the workshop DVD and do a canvas of nothing but mountains to practice.
On the weekend of July 9th and 10th, I tried my hand at painting another Bob Ross painting called "Golden Rays of Sunlight" (Series 28, Episode 4). This was my first time working with the three colors of gessos, and it went fairly well. One thing I would do differently is to wait for each layer of the trees to dry before starting the next. When I put the gray gesso over the wet black and then the white gesso over the wet black and gray, the darker colors began bleeding into the white. For my first time working with the gessos, it didn't turn out too bad. I really like how the sun turned out.
I did end up hanging my first painting up in my office over my PC. It looks better than a bare wall. The painting that I did with the Bob Ross instructor was framed and hung on the wall near my kitchen. While I thought it was a decent job before, the frame really seemed to improve it.
At the family reunion on Sunday, July 17th, 2011, I took along some of my work for others in the family to see. I received a lot of positive feedback, and the art-teacher husband of one of my cousins told me that I "have a gift". I then went ahead and framed my first painting, which improved its appearance. I also framed and hung my third painting in my office.
My next painting was done on the weekend of August 20th. It is based on Bob Ross' painting "Wilderness Day" (Series 31, Episode 13). The day before I painted it, I had applied the black gesso with a disposable foam brush and then used a natural sponge for the trees. Once that was dry, I then drybrushed on the gray gesso on the mountain, using less for the shadows and more for the brighter highlights. In doing this painting, I used a little too much paint thinner when thinning the paint. As a result, it did not turn out quite like I wanted it to, but I did learn from the experience.
On Labor Day, I then decided to try "Babbling Brook" (Series 30, Episode 1). Since I did not have contact paper to do the oval border like Bob Ross did, I decided to just do a full canvas painting. The day before I had used a natural sponge to apply the gray and black gessos. This painting turned out much better than the "Wilderness Day" since the highlights were done in the same way. This painting really boosted my energy levels that day, too. It was the last day of a 10-day vacation for me, and I had woken up feeling a bit depressed. While painting, I had the scores from Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back playing, and by the time I finished, I was literally full of energy.
On October 16th, I did some more practice mountains, finally finding the right combination of the basecolor on the canvas and the right-sized roll of paint on the palette knife for the highlights. I painted my next painting on October 23rd. It is based on "Fisherman's Trail" (Series 28, Episode 1). For my first time trying the woodgrain effect, I do not think it turned out too badly. If anything, I probably would use less thinner on the brush when doing the woodgrain the next time. When doing this painting, I recorded a video (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) for my friends and family to watch since my family has wanted to see me paint. I purchased a frame for my version of "Babbling Brook" to give it to my parents for Christmas. I also purchased a frame for "Fisherman's Trail" to give it to my brother and his family for Christmas.
In giving paintings to my family for Christmas, it gave me the opportunity to practice packing paintings for shipping once I start selling them. I first laid the framed painting face down on kraft paper. The kraft paper was then carefully wrapped around the painting. This keeps the packing material from pressing against the painting. I then reused the bubblewrap that the frame was packaged in. I then reused the original shipping box that the frame came in. By reusing the bubblewrap and box, I am not wasting perfectly good shipping supplies and saving having to buy new.
Since Santa was to deliver, wrapping paper and a bow were needed. On Monday, January 16, 2012, with the holidays over, I got back to painting by doing some practice trees. At Christmas, my parents loved their new painting. My brother and his family loved their new painting, too.
The artist and two of his paintings. This is my first painting that I did completely on my own. I had a general idea in my head of what I wanted to paint and just began adding more and more as I went along. Granted, the cabin could have turned out better, but it was my first time painting a cabin. This painting is also part of a test I wanted to do of painting the same painting but changing the seasons each time I painted it. Since I've never done a fall seen, I thought it would be a fun one to start with. My painting and the freshly cleaned brushes and tools that I used.
The happy artist and his creation. Part two of my test of repainting a painting. This time, I did the painting setting it in winter. It could have gone better, but it was a good learning experience. My studio with my latest two paintings. My parents' painting hung proudly in their home.
This is the third version of the previous two paintings, set this time in the spring. Here, I have two canvases prepped with Black Gesso in what will be my first attempt at painting an actual location. In this case, it's the abandoned Moonville Tunnel near Athens, Ohio. I made some templates of the tunnel portal out of cardboard. These are traced onto the contact paper that I'll use to mask off the inside of the tunnel in the paintings. The colors didn't come out exactly right, and not all of the details are included. But, this was my first attempt at painting Moonville. It didn't turn out too badly. It's looking east into the tunnel as the early morning sun shines through the trees on the other side of the hill. If you look closely towards the far end of the tunnel, you'll see the shadow of the ghost of the brakeman who supposedly haunts the tunnel.
While working on the painting, I had two photos of the tunnel from my May 2012 trip there to work from. My second attempt at painting the Moonville Tunnel, this time setting the scene around midday or early afternoon. Side-by-side comparison of the two Moonville paintings. Another Moonville-inspired painting. This time, it's looking out of the tunnel and using the tunnel walls and ceiling as a kind of border for the painting.
Another Moonville-inspired painting. Like the previous one, this is looking out of the west portal of the tunnel. But the canvas is rotated to landscape instead of portrait, and it is now a fall evening with the sun setting behind the hills in the distance. Side-by-side comparison of the two paintings looking out the Moonville tunnel. First attempt at painting the east portal of Moonville Tunnel. This time, I tried doing an oval and then extending the trail out of the painting. While doing this painting, I also made a video on YouTube of how I painted it. View of my studio with my latest two paintings.
The Rainbow Bridge. Based on a picture I took of Parker Covered Bridge. It's dedicated to Chessie and all of the other cats, birds, and dogs who have graced my life. Overview of my studio after finishing my latest painting. Overview of my palette, brushes, and palette knives after my painting. This is the brush beater rack, and you can see how it contains the spray from cleaning my brushes.
The happy painter. The new painting hangs proudly in my living room.

My Views On The Critics

      When I was looking into taking up landscape painting, I noticed online that there was some criticism of Bob Ross and his painting techniques. Among the criticisms I have heard are:

  • Paintings come out looking like Bob Ross' paintings.
  • His methods do not teach how to paint real scenes or original ideas.
  • His paintings are not realistic (his trees were cited as an example).
  • He painted simple, "cookie-cutter" paintings that lacked detail.
  • He was just smearing paint and relying on "happy accidents."
  • One critic said that to become an artist, one needs to take classes and learn how to draw and mix colors.
  • Another critic said that no serious artist uses the wet-on-wet technique.

      First of all, the wet-on-wet technique has been in use for centuries. Dutch painters used the technique in the 1300s as did French Impressionists in the mid-1800s through early 1900s.

      Also, Bob Ross hardly painted what can be called "simple" or "cookie-cutter" paintings. On his show, he was limited to only having thirty minutes to finish a painting. As a result, he was not able to add a lot of detail to some of the paintings. If you look at his paintings in the companion books that he made for each series, the paintings have a lot more detail than what he painted on the show. In multiple episodes of The Joy of Painting, Mr. Ross told the viewer that they had unlimited time to add all kinds of detail to their paintings. His paintings could hardly be called "cookie-cutter" paintings. While some had similar themes, they were not all the same. As Bob Ross said on the show, he was primarily trying to teach the viewer different techniques to paint. For his evergreens, for example, I have seen him use the 2-inch brush, the 1-inch brush, the fan brush, the oval brush, the round brush, and even a palette knife.

      Mr. Ross was also not just smearing paint or relying on "happy accidents" even though he was working fast due to the thirty-minute window he had to paint in. For each show, except the second series, he had a reference painting off screen that he was going by to do the painting for the show. As he often said when doing his paintings, speed comes with practice, and the only reason he was going fast was because of the short time that he had. He had each painting that he did on the show planned out well beforehand.

      With regards to his paintings not looking "realistic," I did not realize that art had to be 100% realistic. The critic who used that against Mr. Ross must have had a field day with Picasso. When I was a kid, I didn't think Mr. Ross' trees looked realistic until I started really looking and seeing trees and noticing the layers and other details that he talked about when painting. Just because somebody's painting does not look 100% realistic does not mean that it is not art.

      Bob Ross talked a lot about going out and seeing nature and "hunting with a camera". He also talked a lot about how viewers could come up with ideas of their own and encouraged people to use their imagination and see the world around them. If a person is simply using Mr. Ross' ideas and not trying to come up with ideas of their own, I would say that is the fault of the student and not the teacher. As far as my going by his paintings for the few paintings that I have done, I am still a beginner, and I have been going by his paintings since I know that they have worked for him. It has allowed me to learn how the paints mix for different colors as well as how to use the various brushes. In doing his paintings, I have solely gone by notes that I have taken from the shows and his books. When painting, rather than looking at his finished paintings and "copying" them, I have painted what I see in my mind. I do have some original ideas that I am wanting to try once I further develop my skills.

      Through his show and his books, Bob Ross introduced a lot of people to the world of art. He showed how art was for everybody and that there was no one way or "right" way to do beautiful artwork. While he certainly did not say for people not to study or take art courses, he showed how you did not have to go through all of that to learn or appreciate art. He also taught a lot on his show what does get taught in art classes (color, depth perception, perspective, etc.). For example, in his paintings, he always talked about how things farther away were lighter in color than objects closer to the observer. Through his teachings, Bob Ross taught people to see the world and not just look at it.

      What is interesting in reading the criticism of Bob Ross and his work is how I have not seen anything negative about William Alexander, who taught Mr. Ross and also had his own art show on PBS. Both taught the wet-on-wet painting technique, and both painted a painting in about thirty minutes on TV. However, the critics seem to only focus on Bob Ross and ignore Mr. Alexander.

      Of course, I am sure that there have been other artists in the past who have received negative criticism of their work at the time and are now considered to be among the greatest artists of all time.

Looking Ahead

      Since I am off to a good start at my new career, which was my goal for 2011, I am now planning on working on the business side of selling my work and getting my own website for that started sometime in 2012. I have come up with three ways that customers can order a painting from me.

      The first is to order a painting that I have completed. If the original has already been sold, I would then hand paint a replica of it. Since it is impossible to hand paint an exact duplicate of a painting, the customer would still be getting an original painting.

      The idea for the second way to order actually came from watching Bob Ross paint and how he used to hear from people saying that they wouldn't have put a large tree in the painting or something like that. His response was always, "It's your painting. You do what you want." After hearing that, I came up with the idea that for a small customization fee, a customer could select a painting that I have already painted but choose to have it altered. They could request to have a bunch of trees removed or moved. They could request a different season (fall instead of summer, summer instead of winter, etc.). They could request to have a border or something similar added. As a result, the customer would get their own custom oil painting.

      The third way that a customer would order a painting from me would be to contact me with ideas for a painting. I would then sketch up an idea for the painting and run it through my scanner to allow the customer to see. Once the customer likes what I have come up with, I would then paint the completely custom painting for the customer. Of course, with the added planning time, a completely customized painting would be a higher price than the two options above.

      For more information on purchasing my paintings, please go to

Help With A Painting

      Even though it is not my painting, I am hoping that somebody might be able to help me find out where it came from. It has been in my parents' living room as long as I can remember. It appears to be an oil painting based on the texture of the colors on the canvas. The name signed on the signature is "J. H. BRUNO". I have tried searching online for the artist with no luck.

      If anybody has any information on this painting or the artist, please let me know.

Kevin L. Wagner

Back to my homepage.

Copyright © 2017,