Happy Little Trees

David Arquette Wants You To Channel Bob Ross To Get Zen

Why Arquette’s new Bob Ross painting sets are brilliant.

Originally Published: 
TV painting instructor/artist Bob Ross using a large paint brush to touch up one of his large seasca...
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The last person I expected to see at New York Toy Fair in September 2023 was David Arquette. Yet, there was the Hollywood star, quietly painting a landscape for an audience of one — himself.

Amidst the hottest new toys being showcased inside the Jacob Javits Center, Arquette was hanging out at the Bob Ross Company booth, promoting their latest paint set for kids, “Happy Lessons in a Box.” “I remember seeing Bob when I was younger and always loved watching him and being mesmerized by his talent. When I heard I could learn to do it, I was really thrilled.”

David became a certified instructor in the Bob Ross method in 2018, traveling across the country to teach primarily at charity events for organizations like The Second Harvest Food Bank and Feeding America, among others.

“I've always loved art,” he explained, mixing pools of Prussian Blue and Bright Red on his palette. “My family always kind of put an importance on art and doing creative stuff. When I was younger, I did graffiti art. That's where I really sort of started falling in love with being able to do art.”

Arquette paints along with a Bob Ross set during NY Toy Fair 2023

Matthew Kaplowitz/ Fatherly

The early stages of your typical Bob Ross painting look abstract compared with the final product. At this phase, there’s an off-center golden orb dominating the canvas, now radiating a violet glow with Arquette’s addition. The scritch-scratch rhythm of his dry brush pendulating on the canvas is soothing to hear and mesmerizing to watch. “It's an escape, you know? I have anxiety, depression, all that kind of stuff. So, for me, I need to do something creative every day. Doing something creative just really helps.”

Similar to performing, painting can be a selfish act. It requires dedication and time to make art happen within yourself before you can present it externally, and that’s often a solitary experience. David views creating art as vital to keeping his mind calm and clear, but also incorporates it into his family time to make it about togetherness.

“Art is such a fun thing to do with your kids because it's a way of everybody interacting,” David explained while contemplatively adding more bushes to the scene. “You're just really getting your hands dirty and playing together. There's something just really great about that, and that’s very important for having good mental health, especially for parents. Making sure you have the time to take care of yourself and take care of yourself as much as taking care of your kids. You have to.”

Arquette has three children - his daughter Coco from his previous marriage with Courtney Cox, and two younger children with his wife Christina McLarty.

“If anyone's ever gone through a divorce, it's really painful. Kind of feels like your life's over and it's the end of the world. But, on the other side, I met my wife Christina, and, you know, it's a whole different world.”

Covering his fan brush with a mixture of Sap Green and Van Dyke Brown, we’ve reached David’s favorite part of painting with Bob Ross. “I love the trees. The happy little trees. They're hard, but once you get the hang of them, they're not too bad.”

I was worried I’d be a distraction, but he’s in a zen state of contentment while he works. “I'm sort of an instant gratification person, so to be able to do these in like a half hour is really kind of fun for me,” he says through a perpetual smile that hasn’t left his face since he began painting.

Anyone who has watched a few minutes of “The Joy of Painting” knows Bob’s familiar catchphrases. They’re plastered on mugs and t-shirts right behind David’s workstation in the booth. But those who spend quality time being mindful with Bob, whether they’re painting or spectating, know his true philosophies are in the technique. Simple is better, don’t overwork your picture, and be bold.

“You have to get the technique down,” he says while tapping the surface to make rows of branches, “Once you start doing that, there's something that comes alive in it that really is relaxing. Even when you do just a silly painting, there's something fulfilling about having a piece of art you just did.”

David gleefully poses with his freshly finished painting

Matthew Kaplowitz/ Fatherly

David pauses for a moment, then gives his piece a satisfactory look. “I think we can call this one done.”

He picks up a thin round brush to sign his masterpiece in red, the same way Bob would have done over two decades ago. I asked David if he wanted to spend the rest of his days on this earth focused only on painting, but his journey into self-discovery through art wouldn’t be pigeonholed.

“I believe you don't have to limit your dreams... Nobody says you have to do one thing. That's sort of been my experience in life - just trying different things. But my caveat to that is you should try things and surround yourself and spend time with things you love.”

David has lived through many hardships over the years, including nearly dying inside a pro wrestling ring. Today, he’s as serene as the utopic landscape he painted right before my eyes. He can look back on the happy little accidents that colored who he is today, a proud father who doesn’t need to prove anything to the public or himself. David Arquette is simply living his best life, one brushstroke at a time. Maybe you should, too?

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