I don't know what to do when a game gives me too much freedom. I'm very much a player who likes completing tasks, following storylines and ticking off checklists, so when I was dropped into SuchArt (opens in new tab)'s pristine studio, it was a tad overwhelming.
It's an artist sim where you try and break into the world of modern art through a combination of taking commissions and selling your works on the market. The studio, which happens to be in space, has all the paints, tools, and canvases an artist could ever want, and you're given the freedom to create whatever you like.
I messed around a little at first, trying out the different tools and colours. The amount of stuff SuchArt gives you to paint is quite impressive, but I need structure. SuchArt's Steam page showed two streamers, Plumbella and RTGame, following a Bob Ross tutorial (opens in new tab) as they played (with hilarious results) so I decided to follow their example and test my art skills by following a tutorial from everyone's favourite softly spoken sweetheart.
Out of all of Bob's tutorials, I decide to go for "Quiet Cove (opens in new tab)". There's something about the pink sky and rocky mountains in the thumbnail that catches my eye. Bob first takes me through what colours I'll need before we begin, and I'm already starting to feel out of my depth. But after some quick Googling, I quickly choose what paints best represent 'Van Dyke brown', 'alizarin crimson', and 'phthalo green' from the colour palette wall in the studio.
There's already an easel and table overlooking a huge space shuttle so I set up there, hoping that the grand backdrop will help with my artistic flow. I carefully squeeze each of the colours onto my palette, gather my tools, place my18 x 24" canvas on the stand and I'm ready to press play on The Joy of Painting.
Bob begins with a warm sky by painting yellows with a flat brush, and I follow suit. But I quickly switch out my brush for a blender tool which makes painting those dreamy skies all the easier. I add a pinkish-reddish glow to my sky and add a dabble of purple to create some clouds. Things are going pretty well. My colours are a little more vibrant than Bob's but I blame that on the quality of the show, which is older than I am.
What happens next is the beginning of a string of bad decisions and unfortunate events. The dark, sharp mountains are next and Bob says, "deciding where my mountain lives" is the first major decision of my painting. Well, according to my artistic skills, it's definitely not on this canvas. I try and dab as carefully as I can, the brush only just lightly touching the canvas, but my mountains end up being giant gelatinous blobs of purple.
I don't take it too harshly, Bob says painting is all about expression and my mountains certainly have that, even if they are sort of dull and flat. I'm attempting to add some white highlights to my three mountains when disaster strikes. I take a step back after I'm done and the white strokes make it look like a bird has taken a crap on my painting, on three separate occasions. Three mountains, three craps.
In my panic, I try and blend it in but it doesn't work. Frustrated, I fumble with the controls and end up slapping a big ol' 'phthalo green' splodge on the biggest mountain. My pride is dashed in an instant. SuchArt has no undo button which means every paint stroke you do is there for good. I feel myself start to blame the controls and brushes, but you know what they say: a bad carpenter (or artist) always blames their tools.
After awkwardly painting over the green blotch and adding a second layer of mountains, Bob soothes my wounds by suggesting we add some foliage. To paint the trees, Bob uses a fan brush to paint the perfect bushy branches. I don't have a fan brush, so I begin stabbing the canvas with my flat brush getting out my anger from my previous mistake. They look ridiculous but they do resemble trees, sort-of.
Bob then suggests we add some highlights, and makes the bold choice of adding yellow to the trees and bushes. I try my best but my movements are clunky. My yellow highlights, dark green tree trucks, and brown river bed edges are messy. It's all okay though because Bob begins to chat about a squirrel he was looking after called Peapod and my annoyance melts away.
After some failed last-ditch attempt to blend the bottom of the painting, I'm finally done. I step back and gaze at my creation, and you know what? It's really not that bad! The sky looks nice, I think the placement of everything is spot on, and I actually like how bright and vibrant the whole thing is—like a colourful fever dream. If you squint your eyes and blur your vision, it actually looks pretty good! Happy with my work, I crouch down and carefully sign my name, tying myself to this painting forever.
After a minute of quiet reflection, I immediately chuck the painting straight onto the market for the highest price tag possible. Surely someone out there will take my mad paint splashes as something deep and meaningful.
With my first step into the art world complete, I start to take on some of the commissions that have been piling up in my emails. I think with more practice and unlocking more of the advanced tools, I could conjure up a half-decent painting. Bob himself said that there are no mistakes, just happy accidents, so I'm treating my very first painting as one happy accident.