Happy little painter
She’s found her inner artist through the teachings of America’s favorite TV painter.
Tanya Purdy poses with some of the Bob Ross paintings she created as she poses at the Chelsea Art Center on East Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. Her paintings are titled, “Fisherman’s Trail,” left, and an untitled painting of a snowy mountain scene, right. Purdy is a Certified Ross Instructor (CRI) and teaches classes on how to paint in the Bob Ross style. Purdy is also a tattoo artist. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.
Tanya Purdy doesn’t mind telling you she “can’t draw.” But she can paint—and she believes anyone can, with a little Bob Ross-style encouragement. Purdy is a Certified Ross Instructor, meaning she is trained to teach the unique style made famous in the iconic PBS series “The Joy of Painting” by the late Bob Ross, who believed “there’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us.”
“I’ve always wanted to do something artistic, but I didn’t have the talent for it,” said Purdy, who works at an Ocala tattoo parlor as a body piercer. “I’ve been working around tattoo artists, and I always wanted to draw or paint with them, but I couldn’t—I wasn’t good at it. And the thing I like about the Bob Ross technique is anybody can do it.”
Just a few years ago, Purdy took her first class at the Bob Ross Art Workshop & Gallery, opened by Ross in 1993 in New Smyrna Beach. She enjoyed it so much she registered for the three-week instructor course in March 2022. After that, she couldn’t get enough of the wet-on-wet technique that allows her to paint the “happy little trees” and “almighty mountains” that have made people smile since “The Joy of Painting” aired from 1983-1994.
“I locked myself in my ‘she shed’ and practiced for hours,” Purdy said. “I would practice clouds and scrape them off … practice mountains, a whole canvas of mountains, and scrape them off … practice trees and scrape them off. I practiced for months. I paint along with Bob on my TV, and I’ll pause it, play it, pause it and play it.”
In November 2022, Purdy taught her first class and realized that what was even more fun than painting along with Ross was empowering others to find that joy in painting, too.
“I love teaching people,” she said. “I love when you teach somebody and you show them something and it clicks and they ‘get it.’ That’s what really makes me enjoy painting—what drives me to practice so I can be a better teacher for my students.”
Purdy said her favorite students are people who have never painted before. Like Ross, she tells her students, “I believe in you.”
“People look at their painting and say, ‘I can’t believe I did that!’ They didn’t think that they could make a painting and leave class with a finished painting,” she said. “And it’s their masterpiece and they can be proud of it. Everybody walks away at the end of the class and they’ve got huge smiles on their faces. My classes are very supportive for anybody. It’s a very safe place to let your hair down and have fun.”
Purdy, who is originally from Connecticut and moved to Ocala in 1998, remembers watching Ross on television as a child, and believes people responded to his soft voice and encouraging manner.
“A lot of my students grew up watching Bob,” she said. “It’s got good memories, so that’s what draws them to my classes. It was Bob’s dream to have people paint just like him, and I can actually keep Bob’s dream alive.”
In every three-hour class, Purdy walks her students through replicating one of Ross’ colorful oil landscapes, step by step. She teaches the important skills of how to load paint onto the brush and how to hold the brush and angle it to create trees, clouds and mountains.
“Each painting may be different, but you’re using the same technique,” she explained. “You’re using the brush in the same way to get different results. So the technique never changes, but your paintings always do. You can make whatever you want as long as you know how he makes a tree, how you make the little smiley faces by pushing up on the fan brush, how to make the happy little evergreen trees. By holding the brushes in certain ways, as long as you get that part down, you could paint anything.”
Purdy will teach two “Paint Like Bob Ross” classes in Ocala in January: “Mountain Oval” at Chelsea Art Center on Jan. 10, and “Purple Haze” at the Silver Springs Shores Community Center on Jan. 25. For more information about the artist and her upcoming classes, visit happylittlepainter.com.