by Dewayne Bingham, Assistant Photo Editor—
The passionate and soothing voice of famed artist Bob Ross has inspired seasoned painters and amateurs worldwide since the first episode of his television show The Joy of Painting aired in 1983. Perhaps more than anything, his teaching encouraged audiences to slow down, connect with their creations, and embrace the “happy little accidents” made along the way.
Over two decades after his death, Ross’s legacy of arts education lives on through the Certified Ross Instructors (CRIs) who teach students young and old how to craft the very same masterpieces he brought to life in The Joy of Painting, with the same paints and materials.
Many CRIs feel called to spread a love of painting that is accessible even for those without a formal education in the arts. For others, like Ooltewah resident Mickey Cline, it goes further than that.
Cline, who has been painting for over 15 years and became a CRI in September 2015, teaches classes that allow for students to develop their own creative visions by learning from Ross’s techniques. Her classroom is a nurturing space that also provides healing through art—something our communities could certainly use more of during a global pandemic.
“This method of painting—as Bob [Ross] said—it’s not fine art, it’s not traditional art, it’s art for the common people. Anybody can learn how to do this,” Cline said. “If you’re willing to take the time to learn the techniques and put in the hours of practice, that’s what it takes.”
In recent years, Cline has taught an average of four classes per month. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s only held around five in-person classes in 2020. In lieu of her traditional setting, Cline has utilized Facebook Live to stream her lessons to viewers across the country.
The majority of Cline’s in-person classes this year have been held privately for small groups, one being Pikeville resident Patsy Angel and her family, who have been painting with Cline for a number of years.
For Angel, who has been fighting Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and undergoing chemotherapy on and off for three years, being closer to home with only her children, grandchildren, cousins and church family has minimized the health risk posed by COVID-19 and allowed for a greater level of bonding with her loved ones.
“We’re already a pretty strong family unit, but with [the classes], we’re having more fun and we enjoy it,” Angel said. “It gives us a chance to get together…families don’t get together anymore.”
Angel shared that, despite the physical and mental fatigue of chemotherapy, the worries surrounding COVID-19 and recently losing her mother, painting with her family has been therapeutic.
“Anytime you can get out and you feel like you’re doing something that’s normal, quote unquote, you forget about what might be happening otherwise,” she said. “It’s kind of an escape, although I don’t dwell on things.”
Especially in times of high stress, finding creative outlets for self-expression and decompression is essential. And while it might be several months before students are able to fill her classroom again, Cline suggested that anyone can achieve, learn and heal by painting right where they are, with what they have at their disposal.
“You’re limited by your imagination and your willingness to try something,” she said.