Black Canvas – Season 1, Ep 3 – “Ebony Sunset”

This post was a bit delayed, but the painting is done. This one was full of challenges. This was also the first time I nearly gave up on this project.

This weeks painting was: Ebony Sunset. A classic Bob Ross painting that apparently groups regularly do in Bob Ross style painting classes.

A black canvas painting by Bob Ross

“Ebony Sunset” by Bob Ross, from The Joy of Painting, Season 1, Episode 3. Image from thetvdb.com.

Today, we’ll be working with black canvas. Bob Ross DOES give you instructions about what exactly he’s talking about as far as this goes – but only does so once you’re already well into the episode. I got advice from my Art Supply Friend (thanks, Friend!) who got me to just buy a black prepared canvas – which was about the same price as a regular prepared canvas.

It’s safe to say now that if you are attempting this same project (especially as a beginner painter – like me) that you should always watch the entire episode before you begin to paint. Although oil paint does not dry quickly, it would be a shame to begin working only to realize half-way through that you need different equipment.

This week’s painting was on a black canvas, and instead of covering the canvas in Liquid White – we were covering it with Alizarin (A Lizard In) Crimson. To make this suitable for the canvas, rather than covering it with straight Crimson, I blended it with the walnut oil – as I have been doing to make my Liquid White.

The painting was actually going very very well. I was amazed at the depth of colour and how bright everything could look on such a dark background.

And then it happened.

My Almighty Easel, was truly NOT Almighty. The front legs pushed back and caused the canvas to slip off the frame. I caught it just before it hit the floor…with my hand… in the paint…right on the part I was most happy with.

I kind of broke down then. All of my frustrations and my feelings of inadequacy in my painting and my inability to do visual art came out and I just…kind of lost it.

My very supportive partner helped me clean up the mess and convinced me that this was an opportunity to challenge myself and fix the painting.

And I kept plugging away.

Overall, it turned out not too bad. I wasn’t able to fix everything. I also decided that while Bob wants there to be a happy little path with a friendly rock – I do not. Too much paint on the canvas and the challenge of making the palette knife work for me was more than I could take on. So, since it’s my world, I turned it into more of a grassland.

Finished Product:

A worse version of Bob Ross's painting

My attempt at “Ebony Sunset”

Amount of Time: 3 hours?

Special Equipment: Black Canvas; Liquid Alizarin Crimson

Overall Verdict: I get the whole black canvas concept much better now. It really does have a depth to it that the white ones haven’t had yet. It’s a bit hard to photograph, and Bob mentions that in every light it will look a bit different – and he’s completely right. I guess in all it’s not too bad, considering I had my hand in the middle of the painting earlier on.

What I like the most: Sun tipped grassy knolls. Good ol’ fanbrush – it was invaluable for those!

I took a week off from painting, but look forward to next week’s “Winter Mist”, which already has me feeling intimidated!

Season 1 – Ep 1 – “A Walk in the Woods”

I had already watched the first episode, and so I had some idea of what I would be attempting to create:

Bob Ross's painting

Bob Ross’s end result from The Joy of Painting, Season 1, Episode 1 “A Walk in the Woods”. Photo from: theTVDB.com

I set up my work station in my living room, in some sort of attempt to be able to view the TV, have proper ventilation, and not make a giant mess of everything. I put some scraps of a newspaper down on the floor as protection from drips – While I was able to keep things pretty clean (only one stain on the couch!) I think I’ll have to find a drop cloth in the future. I put a dollop of each paint on my palette (a disposable/tear-away kind) and I made sure I had poured some of the paint thinner into a yogurt container to use for brush cleaning.

I also made sure to mix up a batch of “Magic White” in advance – guesstimating what a 50/50 mixture of Walnut Oil and Titanium White would look like in a (different) yogurt container.

I hit play on the video, and followed along with Bob as he covered the canvas in “Magic White”.

Okay, so far so good.

Almost at the same time, he got a hair on his canvass – so did I! But he had a much easier time getting it off than I did. I ended up having to pause the video, remove the hair, and rewind a bit.

The rest is a bit of a blur, but the rest of the experience went a little like this:

First, we put in a light source. Great. Now make a sky using some Prussian Blue and a little Phthalo Green – Oh crap. I mixed up which paint was which. My sky is much more green than blue. Well…it still looks okay. I’ll keep going.

Almighty trees! I got this one! They hide in your brush. Just a little bit of Blue and a lot of Crimson…SHIT. I got it backwards. Now my trees are all blue with a hint of red. They look a little like they are on fire. … Oh well, can’t stop now. Maybe I can fix it later.

Bob. Why. Why do you have actual leaves while mine appear to be some kind of blobby mess? “You don’t want to be a Mud Mixer.” Great. Now you tell me. Too late now. No going back, just keep going with it.

How does he do it with the paint thinner?! My brush is filthy – and so is my container of thinner.

Palette knife: How on earth is this supposed to put paint on the canvass?! It just seems to take it off! @%$#! Whyyyyy…oh! I got it! Hey look! That looks like a tree!

Oops, that highlight didn’t make it on to the branch.

Man, he’s fast! Pause video while I catch up.

Press play, okay. now it’s time to make a path. Stupid palette knife!! @$&#! … and because I’m a Mud Mixer, I can’t get the bushes to look like they extend over the path…. okay…. well…

MORE palette knife work? Okay. Bring it. – actually, my land looks pretty good – in places.

Okay, Self. Water. You know this is going to be hard. Let’s do it.

That was incredibly easy. And it looks amazing. Water is my new favourite thing. Well, except for that weird wave thing I made in the middle of the “pool” – that just looks…weird. But I don’t want to try to fix it, because I’m pleased with everything else!

Pause. I need to get a new palette. Mine is so messy, I can’t keep the colours straight and we still have work to do.

Play. Okay, more Land. More bushes. More leaves. Another tree? Again. I messed up the colours again. How is that even possible?

Now to just sign it….wait. What? A script brush? – Oops. Didn’t get anything like that. I’ll just….leave it unsigned for now.

And…. I’m done! Hey, that’s not too bad!

The End Result:

My painting

My attempt at Bob Ross’s painting from The Joy of Painting – Season 1, Episode 1 “A Walk in the Woods.”

What I learned:

Bob Ross paints FAST, but I am fortunate enough to be able to pause and re-start the episodes as I paint along. I wonder what people used to do when it was actually on air? Maybe next time I should try just doing it in the 1/2 hour that the show runs.

The palette knife is currently my enemy. But I think with time, it could be my best friend.

Water is a LOT easier than I thought it would be.

My painting doesn’t really look like his. Maybe that’s a good thing. I mean, his whole thing is that this painting is a part of your own imagination, and you can play and have fun and make it be anything you want it to be – he just gives you a starting point.

Most importantly, I actually CAN do this. Sure, it’s not the best painting in the world, but considering my complete lack of skill, practice, or innate artistic abilities, I’m actually very pleased with the outcome. And it was pretty fun. Sure I got worried and irritated at points, but never too much – and I think some of that had to do with the constant “You Can Do It” attitude Bob Ross sported, along with his soothing voice.

In the end, I feel proud and like I accomplished something – which I did. I have a new painting for my wall, and a new hobby.