How To Host Your Own Bob Ross Painting Party

Love Bob Ross and want to host your own Bob Ross Painting Party? Read on for tips on how to host an awesome painting party! 

Bob Ross is so chill

For those of you that grew up watching public television in the 80’s and the 90’s, the dulcet tones of Bob Ross painting one of his famous landscape scenes in about 30 minutes, was a hypnotic and calming experience – one that you can re-create now on Netflix with “Beauty is Everywhere,” and “Chill with Bob Ross.”

Out of nostalgia,  I watched a few episodes. Then a few more. As I watched, I thought to myself, “he makes it looks so easy.” His words echoed in my mind “anyone can do this…”

Well, I’m anyone, and I’m going to do this.

It’s ok if you’re a beginner

Ok, where to start? The last time I painted something was probably in middle school. I’m sure it was some sort of tempura paint based project in some compulsory arts and crafts class. I didn’t know the first thing about painting, so to the interwebs!

What I discovered in my research and during the subsequent party:

  1. Bob Ross uses oil paints. Hmm…I guess I’ll be returning the couple of acrylics I accidentally bought from Michaels.
  2. The colors that Bob mentions in his programs are available from art supply retailers under many different brands. I bought from Michaels, a local art store, and Blick Art Materials online. A couple of colors I also found on Amazon.
  3. Oil paints are tiered by quality. If you’re a newbie that just wants to have fun painting along with Bob, just buy the series 1 paints. The higher series of paints are higher quality, and more expensive. Prices seem to vary for different colors and a teensy tube (37ml) of Windsor & Newton series 1 paint will run you $6-10 depending on the color. Because I expected this foray into the painting world to be a fun, but fleeting experience, it was at this point that I decided to make this a party, so I wouldn’t be left with $100 worth of paint hardening under my bed.
  4. Brand matters. I found that the Blick, Georgian and Windsor & Newton oil paints worked well. The Mont Marte oil paints were advertised as “buttery,” which translated to oily and goopy and took more effort to blend.
  5. Make sure you have enough paint for your party. I used a ton of titanium white, due to the liquid white. So, I bought a 225ml tube of titanium white instead of the 37ml or 60ml tubes that seem to be common sizes for oil paints.
  6. You’re supposed to whitewash canvas beforehand. It’s the “liquid white” Bob keeps referring to that magically is already on his canvas as part of his prep work. You can purchase Bob Ross brand liquid white, or make your own by mixing titanium white with a bit of art grade linseed oil. Black Gesso is also commonly referred to in Bob’s programs and can be obtained at an art materials store. If your project requires black gesso as part of the prep, give the liquid white enough time to dry so that you don’t end up with “I didn’t wait long enough pigeon crap gray” color on your canvas.
  7. Make sure you have enough clean space on your palette to mix paint. You don’t need the giant palette that Bob uses that could double as a shield, but you will need ample space on a palette or palette paper to mix all those colors you bought into every increasing combinations of colors.
  8. You have to use a solvent to clean brushes. Not water. Found this out during the party. D’oh. You need to use paint thinner, turpentine, or mineral spirits, and liquid soap after for cleanup.

Pick your painting and get a list of the colors you need

I chose “Valley View,” a refreshing landscape view of the mountains with a copse of “happy little trees” and a water feature in the foreground.  Find out what paints you need to create your masterpiece by either watching beginning of the program where the colors are listed, or google it.

Valley View

Buy your materials

  • Oil paints
  • Liquid white, or titanium white oil paint + art grade linseed oil for the whitewash
  • Black gesso
  • Canvas – 16″ x 20″
  • Palette or palette paper
  • Assorted brushes – for Valley View:
    • 1″ brushes
    • 2″ brushes
    • Fan brush
    • Liner brush
  • Angled palette knife
  • Paint cleaning solvent
  • Liquid soap
  • Dropcloths or newspaper
  • Easel
  • Rags or paper towels
  • Disposable rain poncho
  • Bob Ross afro wigs- for fun!

Set up and the day of your painting party

Prep the area with dropcloths or newspaper. I know Bob doesn’t get a drop of paint on himself, but you probably will.

Seating and Screening. You need to be able to watch the episode you chose from wherever people are sitting/standing. Don’t forget you will need enough space to not be in each other’s way while painting along with Bob. For our party of about a dozen people, we ran two screens of the Valley View episode.

Tip – If you use multiple screens, run then from the same instance of Netfix or YouTube. It’s a pain when people start asking for a pause in the program to catch up and the multiple screens get out of synch.

Before you start painting, each person should set up their work area with their palette, colors, brushes, rags, etc. The paints should be kept in an area that is easy to get to. Don’t forget to do the canvas prep before you start painting! 

Canvas Prep. Wash a thin coat of liquid white across the canvas with a 2″ brush or sponge applicator and let mostly dry. If your painting calls for black gesso prep also, let the liquid white totally dry and add the black gesso over it.

Plan to pause, as the group will probably have varying degrees of ability to keep up with Bob. You know how Bob likes to say “anyone can do this…”? He should revise that to “anyone can do this if they can pause the program 23 times”. It’s difficult to keep Bob’s trademark ‘chill’ when you’re desperately smearing blobs of paint across a dismal canvas that looks nothing like what Bob’s got going on, while chanting between gritted teeth “this is supposed to be fun.”

Cleanup is a chore, but if you used disposables, it’s easy! For the brushes that you are planning to keep, use the solvent of you choice to wash off and blot off most of the paint from the bristles with a rag, paper towel, or newspaper. Make sure you ventilate the area if you are using a strong solvent. Wash the remainder of the paint off with liquid soap, rinse well, blot, and let dry thoroughly.

We had a blast painting with Bob, and although I don’t think any of ours turned out as nice as Bob’s, he likes to say that everyone’s painting is supposed to be unique and different.

All of our interpretations of Valley View

A few weeks later, I did take one of the leftover canvases and followed along with Bob by myself:

Take 2 of Valley View

I think the mountain and the water turned out pretty dope, but my “happy little trees” have some serious perspective issues. At least they have friends, because according to Bob, all trees need a friend. Thanks, Bob!