An Evening with Bob Ross at Loma After Dark

Students at the Loma After Dark Event. Photos credit to Jessica Tilney and Emily Ryken.

By: Grace Chaves

Neon lights, the smell of paint wafting through the air and dozens of students gathered in Point Loma Nazarene University’s (PLNU) Activities and Recreation Center to spend an evening with Bob Ross.

No, PLNU didn’t resurrect him, but they did resurrect an old episode of “The Joy of Painting.”

Loma After Dark (LAD) is a favorite Friday night activity among many Point Loma students. From Taylor Swift karaoke parties to trivia nights, LAD always puts on events that students talk about for the rest of the semester.

In the spring of 2023, third-year business marketing major Jessica Tilney began hosting Loma After Dark events with third-year student Kennedy Brown. After Brown left to study abroad this semester, Tilney’s best friend, third-year business management major Emily Ryken, stepped up to help keep the LAD tradition alive. At the beginning of February, LAD hosted their second spring semester event, and it became one of their biggest ones yet: a Bob Ross painting night.

“The idea for the Bob Ross painting night came from our boss, [director of Nicholson Commons], Milton Karahadian,” said Ryken. “He mentioned a Bob Ross night had been a successful event a few years prior, so we were inspired to put on a similar event with our own twist.”

Tilney said they didn’t want this night to simply be a paint-along. They wanted it to be a competition with some invaluable prizes on the line.

At the beginning of the event, students grabbed a number if they wished to participate in the competition. When students finished painting, they displayed the number near their paintings. A QR code allowed students to access a form to vote for their top three favorite paintings, and the top three winners received gift cards and Bob Ross wigs.

But for Tilney and Ryken, this night was about more than just painting and Bob Ross wigs. According to Ryken, they wanted to provide a place for creativity, fun and community.

“Jess and I were very surprised by the turnout of our event,” said Ryken. “We had over 50 students attend, and we were laughing as it seemed like crowds of people just kept coming in by the minute. Overall, we left that night feeling like our event was a success. Seeing students interact and laugh while painting was the most rewarding feeling for us.”

It wasn’t just Tilney and Ryken who left feeling satisfied. The students have only had positive things to say about LAD’s latest event.

“It was a nice break from the chaos of college and a good time to sit and do something I enjoy with my friends,” said first-year undeclared major Abby Pickett. “I liked that there weren’t any expectations to be perfect. We just had fun.”

While there weren’t any expectations, Ross is known for his elaborate paintings and designs. Tilney and Ryken challenged the students to follow along with episode 29 of “The Joy of Painting,” “Island in the Wilderness.”

“There were some funny moments with people struggling to keep up with Bob Ross,” said Pickett. “They kept yelling to pause the video to keep up. But I think it just added to the overall fun vibes.”

First-year business major Maddie Manley also attended and said that after many “happy accidents,” her painting was a success.

“We painted a gorgeous sunset over a body of water and lots and lots of happy trees,” said Manley. “I started out thinking that my painting wasn’t doing too well, but it turned out to be a lot better than expected. I guess you can never doubt yourself, even in painting.”

LAD will be hosting a bingo night on March 15, a collaboration with Knots of Love on March 22, an outdoor movie on April 5 and more. All of the dates and event details for upcoming Loma After Dark are posted on @lomaafterdark on Instagram.

“Emily and I are very excited for the Loma After Dark events to come,” said Tilney. “We have multiple future collaborations with various clubs on campus in hopes of bringing together new groups of students.”