“We want happy paintings. Happy paintings. If you want sad things, watch the news.”
Our feeds are bombed with apocalyptically bad news. We’re at all-time levels of loneliness. Violence and sea levels are on the rise. Truly, this age is heavy on division and despair.
When we do manage to unplug for a bit, we notice things. People in the streets are being kind to each other. The bizarre weather fluctuations (fifty degrees in NYC this week, ahem) each bring their own silver lining. That pizza still exists. In short, we remember that it’s not all bad, all the time, out there.
But since we’ve functionally melded with our screened devices, unplugging is hard. Especially after a challenging day at the office.
So, how to unplug without the challenge of unplugging?
Bob Ross is the living opposite of 2019’s psycho-spiritual tenor. The denim clad, curly haired, hippy artist extraordinaire is basically, a professional amateur landscape painter. His peak years lasted from the early eighties to the early nineties on cable television, but his genius endures on Netflix. He conjures mountainscapes from his canvas in thirty minutes of apparently effortless creation. His monologues are exercises in capital-P Pleasantness. He refers to the viewers, his coworkers, his studio producers and his baby squirrels as his friends. He projects total calm and absolute confidence. He seems to embrace uncertainty and spontaneity in his paintings. He loves nature. Incredibly, he was also a drill sergeant for twenty years, discovered painting and committed himself to a friendliness-based lifestyle after being dishonorably discharged from the army, which gives us hope for humanity in general. His show The Joy of Painting and its Netflix rehash Happy Trees, are pure, calm awesomeness.
But most importantly, the way he scrapes and dabs and swishes his paints on the canvas is absolutely hypnotic. The sounds are, we recently realized, the original ASMR.
ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response and is generally found on YouTube. If you don’t know, the videos usually consist of attractive people staring down the barrel of the camera and scratching toast, or tapping their fingernails on a hardback, or making any number of pleasant sounding noises with a combination of hands and props. All while whispering charmingly into the camera. There’s something weird about the direct address in your standard ASMR. It feels kind of Black Mirror-ish.
The sounds are undeniably pleasant, but having some attractive human whisper sensually in your face is still on the weird side. It’s as though you’re getting a brain-massage, only your brain masseuse is standing there whispering ‘you’re getting a brain massage, you love this brain massage, this is your favorite brain massage.’
Bob Ross, on the other hand, still brings the hyper-pleasant and still inexplicably (to our mind) soothing acoustics of ASMR to the table, while not intimidating you with hotness and follower counts. Moreover, he’s literally making beautiful scenes of nature appear out of borderline-thin-air, not just scratching toast. He is a Zen goober.
Bob basically embodies the finest things in life: creation for the sake of creation. An appreciation of nature. Soothing sounds. Being nice. Etcetera. So, the next time you’re looking for some mental bubble-gum to chew on, ride the Bob Ross train deep into the land of happy trees. You’ll be happy you did.
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