The Bob Ross Phenomenon

Child of the 80s that I am, Bob Ross, famous for painting happy little trees and clouds, has always been in the background of my life. I don’t know how often I watched his PBS show as a child, but I have vague memories of him from an early age. It wasn’t until I was in college that I really started to appreciate him, though. And that appreciation really came to its fullness over the last week, as I watched The Joy of Painting, marathon-style, on Twitch pretty much any chance I had.

I don’t really know what it was about him. I think it was a combination of things, really, from his soothing voice, to his incredible talent, and especially his amazingly positive attitude. This is a man who had me truly believing that I could pick up a brush and paint a masterpiece just like he did, even though I have less than no artistic ability, and constantly reminded me that in painting, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents.

Thanks to Twitch, there is a whole new generation of Bob Ross followers, including my children. They loved watching him paint as much as I do, and joined me in my constant refrain of “How does he do that?!?” which was repeated more times than I can count in the last week. I even learned that the art room at Moose’s school has a picture of Bob Ross hanging in it…but until he watched the marathon with me, Moose didn’t even know who he was!

Bob Ross had a unique gift beyond his positive attitude and incredible talent for painting. The fact that over 20 years after he died, and more than two decades since the last episode of his show was filmed, there is still such a great interest in The Joy of Painting is truly a testimony to him. There were over 180,000 people watching that final episode on Twitch last night. 180,000 people who are used to living in a world of advanced technology, high-definition, and almost unlimited viewing and playing choices. And yet they all chose to watch this very simple PBS show that debuted in the early 80s, when almost everything, from video quality to fashion, looked vastly different. It takes a very special kind of person to have that kind of lasting impact, but Bob Ross was that special. His legacy extends beyond the estimated 30,000 paintings he created, because he made the world a more beautiful place with his words and encouragement while he was here, and continues to do so every time an old episode of his show airs.

He was taken from us far too soon, but his memory remains, and he will continue to inspire new generations of artists and art lovers! #ThankYouBob

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