Seniors learn to create ‘happy’ landscapes the Bob Ross way

Published 10:22 am Monday, November 17, 2014

Photo by Brandon Hicks For more photos visit

“All you need to paint is a few tools, a little instruction, and a vision in your mind.” Those are words of creative wisdom from renowned painter Bob Ross.
Painting instructor Jay Holdway is using the Bob Ross Method to help his students find the vision in their own minds.
Holdway teaches painting classes once a month at the Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center. In the classes, Holdway uses Ross’ wet-on-wet oil painting technique to show his students how to create a variety of landscapes, complete with a few “happy trees.”
“Everything was happy in his world, and I loved that,” Holdway said, referring to Ross. Ross, who died in 1995, was known for the PBS television show he used to teach painting techniques.
On Thursday afternoon, Holdway taught a small group of painters at the Elizabethton Senior Center how to paint a mountain and lake scene. His class has featured beach and ocean scenes, mountains, lighthouses and winter vistas.
“I like to do a different scene each time so they are always learning something different,” Holdway said.
Linda Fore has been coming to Holdway’s class for the past three years.
She said she has created so many pictures she now has enough to give as Christmas presents. Her paintings are big hits with her family.
“My husband cleared all the pictures off the walls so we can hang my paintings,” she said. “My 6-year-old grandson always says the one I bring home next is his favorite and that he wants it to hang in his bedroom.”
But which one is her favorite?
“It is really hard to say,” Fore said. “Each new one is a favorite. I really liked an oval painting we did with a stream and a waterfall with trees. I loved when we did the winter scene with the snow coming down. I love them all.”
For Betty Jean Moore, the painting lessons were a chance to try something new. She has been coming to the classes for about a year.
“It has been wonderful,” she said. “It is very relaxing. It is good to know that you can always try something new. You don’t always have to do well, but you can always try.”
Like Moore, Jo Voigt started the classes as a way to do something new. When she noticed the senior center was offering the classes, she said she told her husband that she had to take them.
“I love it,” Voigt said. “It is therapeutic. I can take all my frustrations out with the paint brush.
“I have always loved making something out of nothing. To be able to take a blank canvas and make a beautiful painting, that is what I love to do.”
Holdway has been teaching for about 12 years since he attended a class to become certified in the Bob Ross technique in 1998. Holdway missed the opportunity to meet Ross during the classes, he said.
“He died three years before I went to his school,” Holdway said. “I am really disappointed I did not get a chance to meet him. It broke my heart that I couldn’t. I was told that when someone became certified, he would travel to go to their classes.
“It doesn’t feel like it has been 12 years. I guess time does fly when you are having fun.”
Holdway said the best part of the classes is making the connection with the students. He considers the people who take his classes to be his extended family.
“I have probably taught 200 people since I started,” he said. “Each one is like family to me. I love each one of my students.”
The students at the Senior Center seemed to return the feelings back to Holdway.
“Jay is great,” Moore said. “He is patient and he motivates us. He always says we can do it, and we can.”
The class is open to all ages and students of all experience levels. Holdway has taught students as young as nine and as old as 93.
“If you can pick up a paint brush, you can come to my class,” he said.
Holdway’s classes are usually held once a month at the Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center. For more information, contact the center at 543-4362.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox