I Recommend Enjoying Something You’re Terrible at Doing

The photos above probably give it away: I went to a Bob Ross Paint-Along, and it was so much fun!

And… I’m terrible at painting. I mean, look at it…

Yet I enjoyed the attempt very much. I joined some student friends at the Ann Arbor Public Library to watch a half hour video of Bob Ross, who led us in the creation of a scenic view. Unfortunately, he never said the phrase, “happy little trees,” but we created them nevertheless.

Now don’t let Bob’s soothing voice fool you. He may be calming, but gracious, he moves fast!

My first mistake was that I put waaaaay too much water on my canvas at the beginning. Bob typically uses a clear, oil base across the canvas at the beginning. We were instructed to use brushstrokes of water instead. I was too generous with this, so once I started painting in earnest, my initial, happy little trees were remarkably waterlogged. They were more like a big blob of green, floating, meh, non-trees. And the rest “took shape” from there.

It’s possible that I painted in middle school art, though I don’t remember that. I never took an art class in high school or college. The last time I clearly remember painting was when I was using watercolors at preschool age. Does it show? As an adult, it’s also clear to me now that I’ve always had some sort of spacial reasoning deficit too (fun fact: I can’t do jigsaw puzzles… like literally cannot do them. It’s intriguing!) so these things do not set me up to paint well.

But I loved the experience.

And I just want to say that it can be wonderfully refreshing to simply play, thoroughly enjoying something you’re terrible at doing. I want to recommend this in whatever the equivalent may be for you.

Too often, we’re focused on results and outcomes for their own sake. We also get caught up in comparison and competition with others. But process matters. Play matters. Enjoyment for its own sake matters. And it can be especially fun to do it with others.

Do something terribly.

Enjoy it thoroughly.

Renee Roederer

4 thoughts on “I Recommend Enjoying Something You’re Terrible at Doing

  1. Renee, don’t be discouraged. If you put water on your canvas, you were getting ready to paint with either watercolor or acrylic paint, whereas Ross, as you mentioned, used oil paint. Of course, your results would not turn out to be like Ross’ paintings! You may have put too much water on your canvas, although in art we learn the most from our mistakes!

    Ross also spent years getting his style right, hunting down and learning to paint with Bill Alexander, Ross’ predecessor on TV. Check on his background on the internet or YouTube. It’s inspiring. After painting live for TV programs, Ross also took additional time repainting the same theme from scratch to put into his books on learning how to paint! I’m not criticising Ross, as I love watching him and love his work, even though my own art work by contrast is abstract.

    Like anything important, it takes prolonged practice, something like Ross developed, to paint. I took two drawing classes and four oil painting classes just to learn some of the basics of painting. It’s a little bit like learning a foreign language, which is only going to get you so far in one lesson. You go through all of that so you can begin to develope your own unique style in painting!

    You did get right the most important aspect of painting–having fun!



  2. I did a Bob Ross paint class at the Westland library earlier last fall. We were painting Mt. McKinley. My finished painting looks like Mt. St. Helen’s, with volcanic ash everywhere. LOL! I decided I did not like oil painting. His paint seems to stay where he puts it. My paint seemed to smoosh into the canvas and other colors.


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