Happy Little Trees: The Bob Ross Guide To Getting Your Creative Groove On

The North Side of Hook Mountain, Sanford Gifford, 1867, public domain

The North Side of Hook Mountain, Sanford Gifford, 1867, public domain

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

I ran into Bob Ross about 1990, while mothering three kiddos under the age of five. We spent a lot of time on Sesame Street, at The Electric Company and under the Reading Rainbow. In the midst of all our PBS intake, Bob Ross’s show “The Joy of Painting” was a happy little respite. I wasn’t a painter, but I loved watching the show. Bob’s soothing voice and lush enthusiasm for painting calmed my harried soul. I never did any painting, but I created masterpieces vicariously through Bob and his happy little trees.

Fast forward twenty-plus years when I ran into Bob again, on of all things, a YouTube video. Have you seen this?

It’s a lovely video that auto-tunes scenes from “The Joy of Painting”. But it’s actually more than that. It’s like a creative manifesto set to music:

I believe every day’s a good day when you paint

I believe it will bring a lot of good thoughts to your heart

There are no limits here

Start out by believing here (in your mind)

All you have to do is practice

This is your world

You’re the creator

Find freedom on this canvas

Believe that you can do it, cause you can do it


Let it flow

Think like water

We don’t make mistakes just happy accidents

You can do anything that you want to do, total power


You can apply what Bob says to writing or any creative pursuit.

Believe every day’s a good day when you write. All you have to do is practice. There are no limits. Relax. Let the words flow. The story is your world, you’re the creator. Find freedom on the page. Believe that you can do it, cause you can do it.

Go create worlds. Pursue your passion like Bob Ross did. You can do it.

Question: Do you have a creative manifesto? What phrases or mantras would you include? Share in the comments.

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14 replies »

  1. Do you ever read the cartoon “Big Nate”? Nate’s hero as an artist is “Rusty Sienna,” who looks exactly like Bob. I’ve never seen a full show of Bob’s, but PBS used to have Bill Alexander, “The Happy Painter,” another wet-on-wet artist, who was a lot of fun to watch (a little hard to understand; he had a heavy German accent).


  2. Last week we went by a Christmas tree lot with a sign that said Happy Little Trees. It made me want to stop and buy one even though I break out in hives if I so much as touch a real tree. Bob Ross was a gem.


  3. Thanks so much for posting this! I always felt so self-accepting after watching Bob Ross, and like life didn’t have to be such a struggle. I love how you applied his words to writing as well!


  4. I am NOT an artist but Bob Ross made me believe I could be. He was patient and in love with creating. So often our craft becomes love/hate, but Bob reminds us to embrace “mistakes”. My two favorites are “Find freedom on this canvas” and “Think like water”. Thanks so much for sharing this. I needed it.


  5. A very inspiring post. I am going to take those words and add them to my Inspirational Quote document. It always gives me a boost on days I think I am too tired to write.


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