Six Things Bob Ross Taught Me About “The Joy Of Content Creation”

bobrossblogDuring the couple months I’ve been looking for a new full-time job, I’ve rediscovered how universally awful daytime television is.  I’ve stuck mainly with the Create Channel in the few moments here and there that I’ve watched TV, as most of those shows can at least stimulate my brain.

One day, I stumbled upon The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, and I was instantly hooked by the calm, soothing demeanor and the boundless creativity happening on those canvases.  In each half hour, Ross takes viewers through a complete painting from start to finish, using easy to learn techniques designed to get people instantly immersed in “the joy of painting.”

From that first episode, I wanted to run right out to Hobby Lobby and stock up on oil paint and brushes.  I’ve always had an artistic streak, and I’ve always thought that painting seems like a fun hobby to persue.  But equipped with the right materials and a few basic strokes that virtually anyone can master, it was all put within my reach.  I think the same “Bobisms” — as fans would call them — could be applied to achieving success when creating multimedia content for marketing.

Use the right tools

It’s pretty apparent, upon watching The Joy of Painting, that they’re trying to sell you not only on the techniques, but a ready-to-purchase set of tools that allow you to paint along every week.  Not only was Bob Ross a great painter, but a “brand” in his own right.  But it makes sense — using the right paint makes a difference, and using a fan brush allows you certain special strokes that a liner brush can’t do.

Likewise, you need the right tools to immerse yourself in multimedia content creation and to do it successfully.  Just as you wouldn’t have the same impact painting a forest with a cheap foam paintbrush from the dollar store, sometimes the more affordable or convenient tools just don’t allow you the freedom to put the right touches on your YouTube videos.  Think of a digital SLR camera as your “big ol’ two-inch brush” — a solid, versatile piece of equipment that trumps the smartphone cameras and flip cams of the world.  When you discover how much more freedom and flexibility you have with a proper editing program like Premiere Elements or Sony Movie Studio, you’ll never go back to Windows Movie Maker or iMovie again.

Practice, practice

Like any new pursuit, learning to make great multimedia content doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes practice.  The regular exercise of plain old “doing” is the best way to make better stuff.  Immerse yourself, take the time to learn new tips and tricks, and just go at it.

After you’ve made a few videos or recorded a few podcasts, go back and revisit your old ones.  Nothing builds confidence like seeing the progression over time.  I used to do a weekly podcast before it was a household word, and listening to my vocal presence from 2005 against radio spots I’ve produced more recently, it’s night and day.  Seeing that improvement drives you to do even better in the future.

Allow yourself to make “happy accidents”

It’s one of Bob Ross’ signature lines.  “We don’t make mistakes.  We make happy accidents.”  Don’t be afraid to make those little mistakes in your content creation.  Who cares if it’s a little rough around the edges?  While it’s important to make good quality content for the sake of maximizing the impact of your message, little imperfections lend a certain amount of “homegrown” quality to your stuff.

People will see you as being genuine and authentic when you allow yourself to be human.  So you momentarily lose your train of thought.  As long as it doesn’t go into the realm of distracting, leave it in.  I’ve seen a ton of videos where people chop up a speech to take out all the tiniest flubs.  Scrubbing it too clean can be more distracting than what you’re trying to hide, and it can appear too manufactured.  Chances are you’re not selling your services as a voiceover artist.  Go ahead.  Just do what you do.

Paint outside the lines

I recently watched a Joy of Painting episode titled “Evening Waterfall” that really stuck with me.  In it, Ross started with a black canvas, to which he applied masking tape around the outside before he started.  He proceeded to create a stunning night scene of a stream tumbling through the forest before running over a small waterfall at the bottom.  After he completed the painting, he removed the tape to reveal a clean black border around the whole creation.  He then proceeded to continue the waterfall beyond the nice neat border, running off the edge of the canvas.

Most people choose to “paint inside the lines.”  It feels natural and safe, so of course it could be our first inclination.  But sometimes the most interesting things happen when you allow yourself to paint outside the lines.  When you allow yourself to go beyond your original idea and really get creative, you’ll be surprised how much sense it makes.  Maybe it’ll be successful.  Maybe you’ll fail.  But it’s an experience, and it feeds you creatively more than you could ever imagine.  Maybe you’ll surprise yourself.  That’s your creative voice coming through.

The canvas allows you unlimited power

Having watched several dozen of these shows now, one thing stood out to me.  The only person who talks more about “unlimited power” than a Bond villian is Bob Ross.  It’s true, though.  Just like he says, “this is your world, you’re the creator.”  Think of a video frame or a microphone or a blank graphic file as your canvas.  What are you going to do with it?

There’s virtually boundless freedom available to you today to create the content that tells your story and demonstrates your authority of a subject.  Cameras have never been more powerful or affordable.  Software is updated and improved every year.  New tools and features are added all the time.  The means of publishing your content have never been more open and available.  It’s proven that the concepts spelled out in a good video or an eye-catching infographic are absorbed much more readily than simple text.  There’s no excuse to not create content.  Once you start and find your style or voice, it can be pretty dang addictive!

Believe that you can do it

The biggest thing that The Joy of Painting teaches is that you — yes, you — can do it.  People who can’t even draw a straight line can create wonderful worlds on a canvas if they believe in themselves and work at it.  The same goes for content creation.  Maybe the only videos you’ve ever shot are iPhone candids of your baby making raspberries with his morning oatmeal.  You’re already over the threshold.  Pressing record is the first step.  Once you’re over that threshold, you’re in.

Learn, practice, seek feedback and keep plugging away.  Believe that you can do it, ’cause you can do it.  Go make some happy little YouTube videos.

Where else do you pick up inspiration for your work?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

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