Between 1983 and 1994, PBS aired a program starring artist Bob Ross called The Joy of Painting. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, don’t worry, you’ve seen the series format before. It’s the one with that guy who had a rockin’ afro that would just spend his time on screen painting… and that’s it. As silly as it may sound in a world filled with the likes of Game of Thrones, Orphan Black and Community, Ross became a cultural icon not for his program, but for his passion. When one watched The Joy of Painting, they usually weren’t doing so because they loved watching paint dry; they did so because of a fascination for Ross’ passion of the craft itself. While a television program like The Joy of Painting would likely never make it today, that hasn’t stopped the internet from taking the format forward on sites like YouTube, and one man is far and away leading the charge. That man’s name? Adam Savage.
You know Adam; we all do. After spending over a decade busting urban legends for Discovery, the man (along with his co-stars) has become a cultural icon himself. When he walks into frame on Mythbusters to build something, we become excited because we know whatever’s about to happen is going to be insanely interesting and somewhat mind blowing in its complexity (or simplicity) – how many people do you know could build a water pouch out of nothing but duct tape in a matter of minutes? But something that Mythbusters has always lacked is a display of the passion and desire Savage and the rest of the team have for making things. There’s only so much content the series can spend on the actual building of the team’s creations – a by-product of the natural 42 minute run time. Enter Tested.com.
A few years back, Savage and Jamie Hyneman teamed up with Will Smith and Norman Chan to turn the tech site into a home for “anything that’s awesome.” One of the goals of the site – as stated by the TV duo over the years – was to show off many of the things the series can’t because of editing restraints. They wanted to create content that would allow them an outlet to show off their creativity in full, and this is something we’ve seen particularly from Savage over the last 18 months.
It all started with videos showing off items in Adam’s workshop, usually replicated movie props he would build out of of his love for artistry: the Blade Runner gun, Jason Bourne’s go-bag, a T-Rex skull, etc… During the course of these shorts, Savage displays his true passion, a passion often lost on television, and the more we see, the more interesting a personality he becomes. This man is more than just a special effects expert, he’s a living embodiment of creativity itself. That said, it wasn’t until a new set of videos hit the web that this became abundantly clear.
When talking about the props he created stopped being good enough, Savage entered full blown Bob Ross territory and began taking us into the building process itself. In the last few months, we’ve watched as Adam crafted everything from Standbeest models to hero swords. While most of the time it’s impossible to have any comprehension of the techniques themselves without being a fellow builder, you don’t feel lost watching Adam sand a 2×4 or bend a piece of aluminum because in the end, what matters is the passion being put on display.
Savage’s building videos are so full of creative life that it makes the viewer want to feel the same way, regardless of the method by which they get here. It’d be impossible to display the process we see in the Tested build videos in a standard television format, but in their unbroken web presentation, they’re a sight to behold, because what exists inside Adam during them is something we all crave: a desire to create. Whether it’s a new holster for a multi-tool (arguably the most fascinating build video to date) or typed words in a blog post, we all want to stand proud knowing we can look to the world at large and claim, “I made that.”
Bob Ross fascinated the world with his passion, but his days are sadly long gone, and the definition of “artist” is not what it once was in the mainstream. Perhaps that’s why the word has been taken over today by a better, broader one: creative. Over the years, the term artist, for whatever reason, started to become something exclusive to painters. When someone heard the term, they thought pretention and pompous. Creative is a much more open term with no specifics. Adam Savage is a creative. His medium exists in the physical, but he himself is a creative. What separates him from the rest, however, is all the TV personality has ever wanted is for others to enjoy the sense of creation he experiences on a daily basis. By letting us into his crafting world, Savage has exposed us to an idea that’s been long lost in popular culture: experiencing things is cool, making them is way cooler.