When happy little trees aren’t so happy…

Bob Ross lied to me, y’all.

You remember Bob. He had a show called The Joy of Painting. I watched it a lot when I was a kid.

“Really Amy?” you ask.

Yes, really. I enjoyed watching him make all works of art. One week he would paint a big tree next to a babbling brook. Another week he might paint a series of trees against a backdrop of a grassy meadow. Another week he might paint a tree covered in flowers. And if he was feeling really funky, he might shake things up and paint a volcano…which would be in the shape of a tree.

The man loved trees. No matter what he was painting, he wanted to put a tree in it. If he were ever commissioned to paint something that wasn’t in nature, like a presidential portrait, he would want to put a tree in it somehow. (Is it wrong that I want to see this happen? Because I do.)

And they weren’t just any trees. They were HAPPY trees. “Let’s put a happy little tree in there,” he’d say as he added a festive tree hairpiece to The Donald’s mane. (He never really painted Donald Trump with a tree on his head. But as previously stated, I kinda want to see that.)

“Amy, seriously, where are you going with this?” you ask.

I’m getting to the point. Promise.

Anyhoo, so one of my favorite people recently got married. She wanted to have a bachelorette party before The Big Day. Said friend isn’t really into the whole bar scene, so she wanted to do something different. “Something different” meant going to a painting studio.

My inner child was really excited about this idea. At last I could emulate my man Bob and experience The Joy of Painting. The bride chose a particular picture for all of us to paint. It was an ice cream cone. When I arrived, I learned that we would have an instructor to talk us through the process of mixing colors, what area to paint first, how to add Depth, etc.

“I can handle this,” I thought as I eagerly rolled up my sleeves.

“You couldn’t handle it, could you?” you ask.

That is correct, dear readers. The instructor told us to start painting one of the background panels. All I had to do was pick a color. ONE COLOR. And paint it. Easy. It should have been easy, but then I had flashbacks to all those episodes of The Joy of Painting. I started thinking of all the times that Bob would effortlessly mix two or more colors to create something new and amazing. I decided I would give it a shot.

So I mixed…and it looked pretty good. I started painting away. I can do this! I am PAINTING. I started thinking of what snotty pretentious name could I give my new color. “Hot pink” was too simple. No. My creation, while it certainly LOOKED hot pink, was anything but. It was a bold new fashion statement. It was CHIC. It was…

…out. I had run out. And I needed to mix more. Do you think I could replicate my perfect mix from before? No. The answer is no.

“It’s all right,” I told myself. “I can say the slight change in color is an artistic choice. Yeah, that’s it.” I started trying to reassure myself by using the artsy jargon I had heard a friend — who is an actual artist with a degree in graphic design — toss around on occasion mixed with some literary buzzwords. “I am just…adjusting the gradient…directing the eye to a focal point of intense…umm…I am creating a sense of ennui by…oh, who am I kidding? This is nonsense.”

Then it was time to move on to the next panel. Did I learn my lesson from the first one? Of course not. I once again attempted a color blend. This one was even worse. It can only be described as “vomit mustard with a hint of dirt.” The attempt at reassurance via buzzwords resumed. “Well, this panel is dirty because I’m trying to convey a sense of despair in contrast with the bright optimistic colors of the first panel.”

And then my second inner voice showed up, the one who exists to argue. “Really, Amy?” it said to the first inner voice. “You’re creating a sense of despair…about an ice cream cone. You’re really grasping at straws here.”

“Shut up, me,” First Voice said to the Second Voice.

Together my arguing inner voices decided it would be best to choose a solid color for the last panel. It looked decent. And somehow that gave me the confidence to resume trying to mix colors again.

“Are you kidding me, woman?!” said Second Voice.

“I can do it!” First Voice said. “I’m just mixing two slightly different shades of brown to make the cone.”

“And then you’re going to mix colors for the ice cream, aren’t you?”

First Voice was silent.

“Aren’t you?!” Second Voice insisted.

Too late. I had already started mixing up the ice cream colors. My vision for a chocolate soft serve turned into a dusty gray blob.

It was really pathetic.

I should mention also that throughout this process I was barely talking to the other attendees because I was so darned focused on the painting. I was SWEATING, y’all. I was literally sweating from the intense concentration. No joke. I have witnesses.

“Okay, now it’s time to add some shading to the cone,” said the instructor.

That’s the moment where First Voice and Second Voice came together and in unison said, “oh HELL no! There will be NO SHADING today!” So I finished my gray blob, hung up my apron, and walked away briskly to go talk to the others. Everyone else apparently had enough brain power to be able to talk and paint at the same time.

So what did I learn from this experience? Well, as referenced earlier, Bob Ross lied to me. Painting is NOT a joy. At least not for me. It was a stressful, sweaty, taxing experience that made me question my sanity. But all that being said — I’m still kinda proud of my weird little ice cream cone. Maybe someday I’ll be inspired to touch it up. I think I realize now what I did wrong.

Clearly, I needed to add some trees.