Bob Ross--relativist?

I have been enjoying watching the Bob Ross “Joy of Painting” videos on Youtube as I learn to paint (albeit on a iPad). Bob is very calming and enjoyable to listen to, but one thing that jumped out at me recently was this quote “Do whatever makes you happy. As long as no one gets hurt, do whatever you want.” Isn’t that the exact definition of relativism? He occasionally mentions God, as in “God was having a good day when he made Alaska.” Do you think he meant to promote this terrible philosophy or did he mean it in a more harmless way? Anyway, please say a prayer for his repose.

I’m sure he meant to do what makes you happy when painting the scenes and not copy him exactly. It wasn’t meant to be general life advice, but specific to painting nature scenes.

Relativism isn’t “do whatever makes you happy, so long as nobody gets hurt”. But that’s another matter.

I think in this case, Bob was trying to encourage the viewer to explore, and not feel ashamed or embarrassed about what they create. That’s why he says in painting, it’s your world, and you get to choose what’s in it. You don’t make mistakes, you have happy accidents, etc. I know when I’m creating, I look at my work and think “this is garbage, nobody will like this”. I think he’s encouraging his student to forget what others might think of the painting - just paint and paint what you enjoy.

I agree with Rhubarb. Bob Ross’ job was to make his audience feel comfortable with painting and get over their lack of confidence or fear that they were “doing it wrong”. The things he said, like his demeanor, were meant to have this calming effect with respect to painting and making art.

Besides, if you are doing something that makes you happy and “no one” including yourself, others, or Jesus, is getting hurt, then how is that bad?

I hope you have seen this

Like cooking?

One other thing to remember by way of an interesting factoid is that Bob Ross was a DI in the Air Force (in other words, a part of his job description was to yell at and borderline verbally abuse new recruits to break them down so that they could be built into airmen). He hated that part of his job, and swore that he would never act like that again upon leaving the Air Force. That’s why he started “The Joy of Painting.” In that context, the “do what makes you happy” remark is probably more his complete rejection of “what the hell do you think you are doing, maggot? Get down and give me 50 and let’s see if you can do THAT without being a complete screw-up!”

As a side-note, Bob Ross was a national treasure. And is wholly underappreciated.

When you start finding ‘bad things’ in Bob Ross’s painting running byplay, then maybe you are looking just a little too hard…

Bob Ross was wonderful and we still watch him, especially when we just need some soothing background noise to help calm the kids. His “do what makes you happy” comments always referred to painting.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit