During a period of quarantine this year, my husband made a discovery that would change the course of my winter: Our “free tv” channels that came with our smart-tv included a channel that was Bob Ross, 24/7. After watching an entire day of it we decided we should give it a go.

    I'm a hopeless cheapskate. I figured maybe we could take the cheap route since who knew if we would ever do more than one painting. While I did spring for the Bob Ross oil paints, everything else was sub-par: Cheap brushes, canvases, plastic knives, and tiny pallets.

    It was quickly clear that things just weren't working right. Other than standard early wet-on-wet mistakes (too much liquid white, cake batter mountains, not enough paint on the brush, killing all the dark, wavy water) I ran out of space on my palette twice, the plastic knives had weird rolled edges, and I could tell my other tools were lacking something as well. The dried painting was on what now seems to be a loose, wobbly, warped canvas. My painting was definitely not good- but I had still had a ton of fun trying it. Now I wanted to try again but with better tools for the job.


    I took the plunge and bought the Bob Ross brushes and knives. I made sure to get double stretched and quality primed canvas. I bought the giant pallet. Now I had paid for the cheap and expensive things instead of just getting the right stuff to begin with. I thought, “I better paint something good now, to justify the price we just dropped on this stuff!”

  The difference was immediate. I still needed to gain skills over time, but I could tell that what I was doing was working towards the goal I had instead of fighting equipment that was never going to work for what I wanted to accomplish. The sky blended. The knives had a good edge. Mountains were achievable (but still pretty soupy)! I had room for all the paint I needed to keep the brush loaded. My second painting was a masterpiece- at least compared to the first- and I truly believe it was the tools and not just the “experience” from the first one. It ignited my excitement to do another, and another!


    I'm now ten paintings in. I've learned a lot about painting but one big lesson I learned is having the right tools made me more successful. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using non-Bob Ross brand paint, tools, what you have or what is readily available to you so you can make art (and be proud to use what you can afford!)- but in general if you have the means: use quality paints and brushes so you are busy making happy little clouds instead of fighting soggy little mountains!


So, where CAN you cut costs?

    Like I said- I'm cheap. So here is where you can afford to hold on to your cash.

    You can watch EVERY BOB ROSS EPISODE FOR FREE ON YOU YOUTUBE - even the 3 hour workshop that will help you hone in your skies, mountains, trees, and water! Speaking of YouYube, it seems that there are a ton of other painting how-to's and tutorials even beyond the world of Bob!

    You can use WEEKLY coupons for places like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, or AC Moore to get "one item" up to 40% off- which is a great way to collect some canvases or tools!

    RECYCLE! Have a painting that didn't go so great and you are considering tossing? Don't waste it! Use free sky areas to paint some trees or mountains or whatever you are trying to improve in your next painting! Heck, if its still pretty wet you can scrape off the whole shebang and go crazy playing! It's all fun and no pressure- and you don't feel like you wasted a canvas as much when you NAIL that big ol' tree in your next painting! While we are on the recycle theme....

    Don't waste leftover paint! Sometimes I have squeezed out a sizable clump of a color that I end up barely using. Sometimes I've mixed just the perfect color- but have a large amount left over. You can scrape extra paint off your palette with a knife and save it in a jar or smaller airtight container (I hear even putting it in the fridge can help). If you have a whole palette full of paint left you can cover it in plastic wrap over night and use it the next day! Heck, if you have time left and a spare canvas, you can go ahead and challenge yourself to paint a whole new painting with the extra paint!

    Take care of your brushes- whether they are cheap or expensive. Clean and reshape them after every use, and if you don't want to splurge on the brush conditioner you can let them stand in vegetable oil between uses. Taking care of your brushes allows you to get way more use out of them, which will save you money in the long run!

    Trying cheaper oil paints CAN be fun! I have played with several brands of oil paints that have really neat hues of yellow as I search for the perfect fall leaf colors. If you keep in mind that other brands might not be pre-set for the Bob Ross style of painting (his colors are made thicker or thinner based on where he most commonly uses them in his paintings) you can thicken or thin the colors on your own to work for what you need them for. You can add thinner or oil to paint that is too thick, and you can place paint that is too thin on a piece of cardboard for a while to let it soak some of the oils out.

    I am in no way an expert painter, but I am an expert at pinching my pennies so I can spend the money where it matters. So don't learn the hard way- Spend on the important stuff when you can, and save everywhere else!

      I can't believe what started as a quarantine binge watch turned into me making paintings I could have never imagined being able to accomplish! I hope everyone is able to find the same feeling after painting that makes you think you might just float off like a... HappyLittleCloud!