‘Bob Ross of Japan’ goes viral for teaching ‘the joy of painting’

This grandfatherly Japanese painter is sparking a viral amount of joy on YouTube.

Harumichi Shibasaki has been creating, studying and teaching the art of oil and watercolor paintings for decades, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that his son convinced him he should share his work more widely by posting it online. His mesmerizing videos harken back to artist Bob Ross’ beloved TV series, “The Joy of Painting.”

“Don’t you want people from all over the world to look at your artwork?” Shibasaki’s 47-year-old son, an IT firm employee, asked his father in 2016, Japanese newspaper the Mainichi reported.

Shibasaki, now 73, had previously existed mostly offline, but decided to follow his son’s advice.

“Not only do I want people to look at my work, I want to convey the joy of painting,” he told the Mainichi. Beginning in March 2017, he launched his channel, “Watercolor by Shibasaki,” where he has since garnered over 679,000 subscribers and more than 28.4 million total views. In January, he also started a TikTok account, where he has now amassed approximately 30,000 followers.

“I’m Shibasaki,” he introduces himself at the start of most of his five- to 15-minute long instructional videos, which he usually records by himself in his studio to the east of Tokyo, in Chiba Prefecture, where he was born.

The teacher offers viewers insights on how to paint landscapes as well as in-the-weeds techniques of making art with watercolor and pencil.

“Beginners stumble over the frustration of not being able to paint familiar items that seem like it would be easy. I hope to help them get over that phase,” he said.

While elderly women from Tokyo used to comprise the main demographic of visitors to his exhibits, his YouTube data tells him that over a quarter of his viewers are now Gen Zers and millennials, and half are watching from beyond Japan. To cater to his large English-speaking viewership, Shibasaki got a translator to put English subtitles on his videos.

In addition to bringing free, friendly advice to painters across the globe, his digital presence also brings Shibasaki fulfillment.

“I’m happy as my motto is to enjoy drawing, to provide easy to understand [instructions], and to work with everyone,” he said.


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