Friday, March 25, 2011

Captain Bob

-By Dan dos Santos

If any of you have seen me give a lecture, you've probably heard me mention a man named Robert Cottle, better known as 'Captain Bob'.

Bob Cottle was the host of a 50's puppet show called 'Ruff & Ready', which later spawned a spin-off show called "The Nature World of Capt. Bob". The show, which focused on how to draw things in nature, went off the air in the mid 60's. It was later re-aired in CT and MA until the 80's. Growing up in Connecticut, I was able to catch these amazing episodes every Saturday morning at 5:30 am. Since VCRs were not that common yet, I was diligent about never missing an episode, even if it meant skipping family vacations. I was obsessed.

Capt. Bob was my first introduction to instructional drawing. I always attempted to copy various drawings and cartoons that I liked, but I had never met anyone who could show me HOW to do it. His show really opened my eyes, and taught so well some of the fundamentals of basic drawing, such as starting with big shapes, and drawing lightly so you can later refine things. These are things we may take for granted now, but coming from an unartistic family, this was mind-blowing to me as a 6 year old! Still to date, I can think of very few influences who have had a greater impact on my artistic life than this man.

I have searched for years trying to find videos of this show, to no avail... until now! Apparently someone uploaded a single episode to Youtube a few months back, and man am I grateful! I recall watching this very episode as a child, and it is honestly every bit as wondrous as I remember it... if not better. Please watch the clips below, I promise you won't be disappointed. This man had an amazing ability to engage his audience and describe his methods. I am -very- passionate about teaching, and I can only hope to one day obtain a fraction of this man's charisma and brilliance.

When you watch the video, take note of the things he is doing for the audience's sake, such as sitting several feet to the left of his easel so you can see what he's doing. That must be uncomfortable, and make it really difficult to draw accurate proportions. Yet he makes it look effortless. He is also drawing completely from memory on live television... not something I would care to attempt.


  1. OMG I remember this episode!!! I remember watching the cat seemingly just "appear" out of vague circles and shapes and thinking to myself "ooh I wish I could DO that!" I'd forgotten all about this show, THANK YOU for reminding me of it!!

  2. Wish I had this show when I was kid ;_; Thanks for sharing! :)

  3. This is fantastic, only wish you could find a thousand more like it!...I really need to take a course of some sort *sigh

  4. Thanks for posting. I watched a similar PBS show growing up in Hawaii. As a kid that stuff was, as you put it, mind blowing!

  5. Wow, that guy was a phenomenal teacher. I wish they still syndicated him, or had his shows on DVD, I would love to show those to my son when he gets older. It's amazing the amount of information he manages to sneak in there in an easy to digest form. I wonder if the master tapes for those programs are still around in any decent shape.

  6. Also, I think it was particularly amusing when he said "for those of you who have color televisions"...ah, memories.

  7. Has anyone suggested that Muddy Colors get a Twitter account? I reccomend you guys all the time on there and it would be a great way to shout about you blog posts. Just a thought.

  8. I just had to watch that whole thing, almost just to hear that guy talk. It made me wicked homesick for the east coast.

    Wish I had been able to see this show when I was a kid!

  9. Captain Bob is the reason I draw . . . and have searched in vain for YEARS to find anything on the show.


  10. I actually think art education in primary school and even high school should be more like this. Getting solid drawing training from a young age would not only benefit those who turn out wanting to be artists when they grow up, but everyone. You don't teach writing only to the people turning out as poets, do you?

    1. David, it's amazing how schools have an "Art" class
      that is really but ONE of the SEVEN Fine Arts (painting).
      Music (another of the seven) is a SEPARATE entity!
      You're so right...trick is to teach kids EARLY !
      This is true with Music.
      It's why kids in Europe learn English so well...
      I lived five years in Salzburg, Austria.

  11. Two of my granddaughters were mesmerized by these videos. This method is timeless. After watching, we pulled out the sketchbooks and tried his approach with satisfying results. Thanks for posting.

    1. I'm a musician but TERRIBLE at drawing.
      Even I(!) could at least do SOMEWHAT well,
      drawing stuff "Captain Bob" did !
      In early 1959 I got to be ON the show in the audience.

  12. I was going to say, he's like the American version of Tony Hart, though not as camp!

  13. Wow this is great! And I think that I noticed him glancing down on the floor as he was drawing, maybe his references? ;)

  14. I also would wake up to this guy. Do you Remember drawing the bald eagle with him? Oh that was my masterpiece! I also did the greyhound, flamingo and ostrich. I loved that show.


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