Watch 13 Comedians Take “The Bob Ross Challenge” & Help Raise Money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The late Bob Ross, the almost laughably calm host of PBS’ popular how-to series, the Joy of Painting, was a boss of many things—business, branding, the 16th-century wet-on-wet ”Alla Prima” technique...

Also speed, as thirteen New York City comedians recently discovered firsthand.

Invited to participate in The Bob Ross Challenge, a web series-cum-fundraiser hatched by comedians Micah Sherman and Mark Stetson, they gamely plunged ahead, regardless of artistic talent or familiarity with the master.

Some like, Julia Duffy, are simply too young to have encountered Ross in his public television heyday.

(For the record, all 403 episodes of Ross' painting show are now viewable online for free.)

Others, like Aparna Nancherla, above, chanced upon reruns screened for ironic effect in dive bars...

Or, like Keisha Zollar, they’re in a romantic relationship with someone who uses The Joy of Painting to combat insomnia.

The majority seem to share a latch key kid’s fondness for the gentle Ross, whose show proved a chill pairing with afterschool snacks.

“We spent about $1000 on official Bob Ross supplies,” Sheman reports. From easel to the fan brush, everything was set up for the participating comedians’ success. Like Ross, who typically shot a season's worth of episodes over a single weekend, the first season's shoot transpired over a few days.

The ground rules were simple. Armed with an arsenal of officially sanctioned supplies, each comedian entered a studio where a Joy of Painting episode was screening, charged with recreating that canvas in real time. At the end of the episode, it was “brushes down” whether or not the canvas bore passing resemblance to Bob’s.

“Our original title was Bob Ross Fails, but people were actually succeeding,” Sherman confesses.

That said, there’s a definite edge. The participants may be trained in improv, but as performers, there's an imperative to get over, and, as stated, Ross moves fast. In the time it takes an average mortal to apply a sky wash, he’s likely fan brushed in a couple of happy little trees.

Tough nuts.

The rules of the game decree that the stopwatch abides.

As Ralf Jean-Pierre observes, it’s a race against time.

Though not everyone plays by the rules…

David Carl, above, creator of Trump Lear, declares (in character) that he not only defeated Bob Ross, but that “no one’s ever had a better tree than that” and that his clouds are “beautifully tremendous.”

Sherman and his co-creator Mark Stetson have conceived of The Bob Ross Challenge as a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Like Ross, Stetson’s father was prematurely claimed by lymphoma. Make a donation in their honor here.

Watch the first season of The Bob Ross Challenge here.

#BobRossIsABoss

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her recent trip to Mexico City is the inspiration for her latest short play at The Tank in New York City on August 23, Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How to Paint Like Kandinsky, Picasso, Warhol & More: A Video Series from the Tate

Learn How to Print like Warhol… in five minutes?

That sounds like fun! My Saturday’s pretty open…

Unfortunately, The Tate’s How To series is a bit of a misnomer. This is not the anyone-can-do-it approach of PBS legend Bob Ross and his Happy Little Trees

Yes, the short video demonstrations come with supply lists and step-by-step instructions, but without an existing fine arts background, you may feel more than a little bit daunted, pining for the sort of kid-friendly modifications that help second graders mimic famous artists with such aplomb.




Rather than relegate your freshly-purchased screens, roll of acetate, and economy-sized container of photo-emulsion to the same closet where your cross country skis, foreign language cassettes, and beer-making kit are currently spending eternity, we suggest that you not buy them at all.

Instead, appreciate the way these videos bridge “the gap between Art History and Art Creation,” in the words of one viewer.

So THAT’S how Warhol and untold thousands of other artists, including this segment’s guide Marianne Keating, make their prints! A lot of equipment! A lot of precise steps. Maybe some day you’ll take a stab at it.

’Til then… Keating picked former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley as her subject. Who would you choose?

Artist Sui Kim’s segment on Wassily Kandinsky’s approach to painting inspires a semi-abstract scene from her South Korean childhood, using the same color palette as Kandinsky’s Cossacks.

What would you paint?

Though before blithely slapping a second-grader rainbow on your vision and assuming you now know how to paint like Kandinsky (whether or not you know how to paint), check out the Tate’s description of the original:

Painted between 1910 and 1911, Cossacks is an expression of Kandinsky’s belief in the power of art “to awaken this capacity for experiencing the spiritual in material and in abstract phenomena.” The dynamic tension between abstract form and concrete content may be read as a manifestation of the wider conflict between the forces of political oppression – Kandinsky had been deeply moved by the strikes and upheavals in Odessa a few years earlier – and the hunger for spiritual rejuvenation consequent upon the rise of soulless modernity. Like his contemporaries Piet Mondrian and Henri Matisse, Kandinsky saw painting as an extension of religion, capable, as he wrote in his Reminiscences (1913), of revealing ‘new perspectives and true truths’ in ‘moments of sudden illumination, resembling a flash of lightning.’ The echo of the Ancient Greek writer Longinus’s notion of sublime speech, which similarly strikes like a bolt of lightning, is carried over into Kandinsky’s description of the spiritual mission of the modern artist. In his 1911 essay On the Spiritual in Art, he compares the life of the spirit to ‘a large, acute-angled triangle,’ at the apex of which stands the solitary artistic genius dispensing spiritual food to the multitudes below.

Pretty complex stuff!

Perhaps Picasso is a more straightforward proposition.

Reckon you could rope a friend into modeling for a Cubist portrait a la Bust of a Woman (1909)? If so, which friend, and what might you do for them in return?

Other artists in the Tate’s How To series include J.M.W. Turner and sculptor Rachel Whiteread. Watch them all here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

David Lynch Teaches Typing: A New Interactive Comedy Game

Typing programs demand some patience on the part of the student, and David Lynch Teaches Typing is no exception.

You’ve got 90 seconds to get acclimated to the cruddy floppy disc-era graphics and the cacophonous voice of your instructor, a dead ringer for FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole, the hard-of-hearing character director David Lynch played on his seminal early 90s series, Twin Peaks.

Things perk up about a minute and a half in, when students are instructed to place their left ring fingers in an undulating bug to the left of their keyboards.

That second "in"? Not a typo (though you'll notice plenty of no doubt intentional boo-boos in the teacher's pre-programmed responses...)




The bug in question may well put you in mind of the mysterious baby in Lynch’s first feature length film, 1977’s Eraserhead.

On the other hand, it might not.

David Lynch Teaches Typing is actually a short interactive comedy game, and many of the millennial reviewers covering that beat have had to play catch-up in order to catch the many nods to the director’s work contained therein.

One of our favorites is the Apple-esque name of the program’s retro computer, and we'll wager that frequent Lynch collaborator, actor Kyle MacLachlan, would agree.

Another reference that has thus far eluded online gaming enthusiasts in their 20s is Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Take a peek below at what the virtual typing tutor’s graphics looked like around the time the original Twin Peaks aired to discover the creators of David Lynch Teaches Typing’s other inspiration.

David Lynch Teaches Typing is available for free download here. If you’re anxious that doing so might open you up to a technical bug of nightmarish proportions, stick with watching the play through at the top of the page.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her March 20 in New York City for the second edition of Necromancers of the Public Domain, a low budget variety show born of a 1920 manual for Girl Scout Camp Directors. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How to Get Over the Anxiety of Public Speaking?: Watch the Stanford Video, “Think Fast, Talk Smart,” Viewed Already 11 Million Times

How many of us fear public speaking more than death: four out of five, nine out of ten, 99 out of 100? We've all heard a variety of statistics, all of them suggesting the formidability — perceived or real — of the task of getting up and talking in front of other people. But perhaps you'll get an even clearer sense of that from the number 11,175,098: the total view count, as of this writing, racked up by "Think Fast, Talk Smart," an hour-long talk on public speaking techniques by communication coach and Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer Matt Abrahams.

The pedants among us, myself included, will have already taken note of that linguistic infelicity in the very title of the talk, but Abrahams himself wastes little time pointing it out himself. He also points out its value: you've got to catch the attention of your audience, and a deliberately made mistake (or even a non-deliberately made one) catches it as well as anything.




He goes on to elaborate on various other techniques we can use not just to get other people listening well, but to get ourselves talking well, the first priority being to get ourselves to stop tripping over our innate desire to talk perfectly.

Abrahams leads his audience through several short "games," instructing them to do things like explaining their weekends to one another by spelling out loud and selling one another Slinkys, with the underlying goal of breaking the habits that have so often impeded our ability to simply get up and speak. He also provides physical techniques, like doing push-ups or taking a walk around the block before giving a talk in order to get your mind more "present," and intellectual ones, like always adhering to a structure, no matter how simple and no matter how ordinary the situation. ("I practice these structures on my kids," he notes.)

Taking the wider view, we shouldn't look at speaking as a challenge, according to Abrahams, but as a chance to explain and influence. "A Q&A session is an opportunity for you," he says, and practicing what he preaches, he opens one up at the end of the talk, underscoring that we can improve our public speaking skills by doing as he says, but even more so by doing as he does. Some of those more than eleven million views surely come from people who have watched more than once, studying Abrahams' own use of language, both verbal and body. He also demonstrates a good deal of humor, though brevity, as Shakespeare wrote, being the soul of wit, you might consider chasing his talk with the four-minute Big Think video on the same subject just above.

Abrahams regularly teaches courses on Public Speaking at Stanford Continuing Studies. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, give his classes a look. Also see his books, Speaking Up without Freaking Out: 50 Techniques for Confident and Compelling Presenting.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How to Write Like an Architect: Short Primers on Writing with the Neat, Clean Lines of a Designer

We have another national crisis on our hands.

Our children are not only ill-equipped to read maps and tell time with analog clocks, their handwriting is in serious decline.

Forget cursive, which went the way of the dodo earlier in the millennium. Youngsters who are dab hands on the keyboard may have little impulse—or opportunity—to practice their printing.

Does it matter?

It sure as shootin’ might be during a zombie invasion, given the attendant breakdown of digital communication and the electricity that powered it.




But even in less dire times, legible penmanship is a good skill to master.

As Virginia Berninger, professor emeritus and principal investigator of the University of Washington’s Interdisciplinary Learning Disabilities Center, told The New York Times, “Handwriting — forming letters — engages the mind, and that can help children pay attention to written language.”

Hand lettering is also a complex neurological process, a workout involving various cognitive, motor, and neuromuscular functions.

There’s also a school of thought that teachers who still accept handwritten assignments unconsciously award the highest grades to pupils with the neatest penmanship, which is easier on tired eyes. Something to keep in mind for those gearing up to take the handwritten essay portions of the SAT and ACT.

Let's remember that letters are really just shapes.

The Finns and French have long-established uniformity with regard to handwriting. In the absence of classroom instruction, Americans have the freedom to peruse various penmanship styles, identify their favorite, and work hard to attain it.

(This writer is proof that penmanship can become part of the DNA through practice, having set out to duplicate my mother’s delightful, eccentric-to-the-point-of-illegibile hand at around the age of 8. I added a few personal quirks along the way. The result is I'm frequently bamboozled into serving as scribe for whatever group I happen to find myself in, and my children can claim they couldn't read the important handwritten instructions hurriedly left for them on Post-Its.)

Historically, the most legible American penmanship belongs to architects.

Their precisely rendered all caps suggest meticulousness, accountability, steadiness of character...

And almost anyone can achieve it, regardless of whether those are qualities they personally possess.

All it takes is determination, time, and—as taught by Doug Patt in his How to Architect series, above—more tools than can be simultaneously operated with two hands:

an Ames lettering guide

a parallel rule or t-square

a small plastic triangle customized with bits of tape

a .5mm Pentel drafting pencil

If this sounds needlessly laborious, keep in mind that such specialty equipment may appeal to reluctant hand writers with an interest in engineering, robotics, or scientific experimentation.

(Be prepared for some frustration if this is the student’s first time at the rodeo with these instruments. As any veteran comic book artist can attest, few are born knowing how to use an Ames lettering guide.)

It should be noted that Patt’s alphabet deviates a bit from traditional standards in the field.

His preference for breathing some life into his letters by not closing their loops, squashing traditionally circular forms into ellipses, and using “dynamic angles” to render crosspieces on a slant would likely not have passed muster with architecture professors of an earlier age, my second grade teacher, or the font designers responsible for the computer-generated “hand lettering” gracing the bulk of recent architectural renderings.

He's likely the only expert suggesting you make your Ks and Rs reminiscent of actor Ralph Macchio in the 1984 film, The Karate Kid.

There’s little chance you'll find yourself grooving to Patt’s videos for anything other than their intended purpose. Whereas the late Bob Ross’ Joy of Painting series has legions of fans who tune in solely for the meditative benefits they derive from his mellow demeanor, Patt’s rapid fire instructional style is that of the busy master, deftly executing moves the fledgling student can only but fumble through.

But if the Karate Kid taught us anything, it’s that practice and grit lead to excellence. If the above demonstration whips by too quickly, Patt expands on the shaping of each letter in 30-second video tutorials available as part of a $19 online course.

Those looking for architectural lower case, or techniques for controlling the thickness of their lines can find them in the episode devoted to lettering with a .7mm Pentel mechanical drafting pencil.

Explore further secrets of the architects on Patt’s How to Architect channel or 2012 book, also called How to Architect.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Every Episode of Bob Ross’ The Joy Of Painting Free Online: 403 Episodes Spanning 31 Seasons

Whether your New Year’s resolution involves taking up painting, managing stress, cultivating a more positive outlook, or building a business empire, the late television artist Bob Ross can help you stick it out.

Like Fred Rogers’ Mr Rogers' Neighborhood, Ross’ long-running PBS show, The Joy of Painting, did not disappear from view following its creator’s demise. For over twenty years, new fans have continued to seek out the half-hour long instructional videos, along with its mesmerizingly mellow, easily spoofed host.

Now all 403 episodes have been made available for free on Ross’ official Youtube channel. That covers all 31 seasons.




It’s said that 90% of the regular viewers tuning in to watch Ross crank out his signature “wet-on-wet” landscapes never took up a brush, despite his belief that, with a bit of encouragement, anyone can paint.

Perhaps they preferred sad clowns or big-eyed children to scenic landscapes of the sort that would not have looked out of place in a 1970's motel.... Or perhaps Ross, himself, was the big draw.

Like Mister Rogers, Ross spoke softly, using direct address to create an impression of intimacy between himself and the viewer. Twenty years in the military had soured him on barked-out, rigid instructions. Instead, Ross reassured less experienced painters that the 16th-century ”Alla Prima” technique he brought to the masses could never result in mistakes, only “happy accidents.” He was patient and kind and he didn't take his own abilities too seriously, though he seemed like he would certainly have taken pleasure in yours.

Ross' Land of Make Believe was a character-free natural world, in which many of the same elements appear over and over.  According to Five Thirty Eight culture editor Walt Hickey’s statistical analysis, trees reigned supreme. The real life landscapes he observed as first sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Clinic at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska became his lifelong subject, and by extension, that of untold numbers of home viewers.

His devotees may be content just seeing "happy little trees” and "pretty little mountains” bloom on canvas, but in an interview with NPR, Ross’ business partner, Annette Kowalski, suggests that he would not have been.

The gentle, forest-and-cloud-loving host was also an ambitious and highly focused businessman, who used TV as the medium for his success. Every folksy comment was rehearsed before filming and he stuck with the permed hairdo he loathed, rather than scrapping what had become a highly visual brand identifier.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Watch all 31 seasons of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting here, or right here on this page. Official Bob Ross painting kits are widely available online, or source your own using a cobbled together supply list.

Season Three

Season Four

Season Five

Season Six

We will continuing adding seasons to this list as they become available.

Season Seven

Season Eight

Season Nine

Season Ten

Season 11

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

Season 16

Season 17

Season 18

Season 19

Season 20

Season 21

Season 22

Season 23

Season 24

Season 25

Season 26

Season 27

Season 28

Season 29

Season 30

Season 31

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her resolution is to spend less time online, but you can still follow her @AyunHalliday.

How to Draw in the Style of Japanese Manga: A Series of Free & Wildly Popular Video Tutorials from Artist Mark Crilley

In Japan, the word manga refers broadly to the art form we know in English as comics. But as used in the West, it refers to a comic art style with distinctive aesthetic and storytelling conventions of its own, originating from but now no longer limited to Japan. Just as the past century or so has seen the emergence of Western masters of such things thoroughly Japanese as sushi, judo, and even tea ceremony, the past few decades brought us the work of the Western mangaka, or manga artist. Mark Crilley stands as one of the best-known practitioners of that short tradition, thanks not only to his art but to his efforts to teach fans how to draw in the style of Japanese manga themselves as well.

Apart from comic-book series like Akiko, Miki Falls, and Brody's Ghost, the Detroit-born Crilley has also published a trilogy of Mastering Manga instructional books. In an interview with Wired, he frames his own manga-mastering process as a project similar to language-learning: "When I went to Taiwan to teach English after graduating from college, I threw myself into learning Chinese with a real 'tunnel vision' kind of dedication. As a result I became conversational in Mandarin within about a year. More recently I decided to teach myself how to draw in a manga-influenced style and thus focused exclusively on that for many months."

Crilley first took to Youtube to promote his then-new manga series, but he "soon found that people were watching my videos as drawing lessons. As more people watched I got hooked on passing on drawing tips to the next generation, and so I continued producing more and more instructional videos."




More youngsters seem to have an interest in drawing in the style of Japanese comics and animation than ever (at least if my friends' kids are generationally representative), and Crilley finds that they "appreciate having an art teacher who takes manga seriously, and doesn’t dismiss it as an inferior art form. I’m sure plenty of art teachers are all, 'Stop drawing those saucer-eyed characters! Draw this still life instead!'"

Not to say that Crilley doesn't appreciate realism: he's put out a whole book on the subject, and some of his instructional videos cover how to draw lifelike eyes (a tutorial that has drawn 27 million views and counting), leopards, mushrooms, and much else besides. But for the aspiring mangaka of any nationality, his Youtube channel offers a wealth of lessons on how to draw everything from faces to clothes to figures in motion to big eyes in the manga aesthetic. But as he surely knows — having cited in the Wired interview a wide range of influences from Star Wars to Mad magazine to Monty Python's Flying Circus — if you want to truly find your own style, you can't limit yourself to any one source of inspiration. Acquire the skills, of course, but then take them to new places.

You can see a playlist of 256 how-to-draw videos by Crilley here. Or a series of smaller drawing playlists here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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