Legendary US art teacher Bob Ross: With him everything was possible

25 years ago the great painting teacher Bob Ross died. What he taught us went far beyond applying paint to surfaces.

On July 4, 1995, the painter Bob Ross, known to many primarily as the presenter of the never-ending television course “The Joy of Painting”, which still runs at night on the educational channel ARD-alpha, passed away. Two tributes to the 25th anniversary of the death of Eva Oer and Andrea Maestro.

Devotion, silence, listening

In my parents’ house, the TV was actually always on. However, nobody really watched it, because at the same time my parents, my brothers and I were talking wildly, we were annoyed, we were annoying – the loudest crowing was who wanted to watch the programme that was on at that moment and now the others were screaming for silence.

Bob Ross was devotion, silence, listening – at least for a short moment. The TV painter with Minipli captivated us when we happened to zap into his show. With his gentle voice, peacefully painting landscapes in front of him, quietly explaining that there are no mistakes, only “happy little accidents” – happy little accidents.

When Bob Ross explained it, anything was possible: Anyone can paint, look, those little clouds, they’re still hiding in the brush, taptaptap, and there they are. Here is a second little happy tree, everyone should have a friend, even the tree.

His paintings were sweet idylls that didn’t demand anything from the audience – but the audience* wasn’t just interested in painting. Bob Ross was the great television hypnotist, who silently and almost whisperingly talked millions of people into a state of mild fatigue. A peaceful guru with no demands on his followers other than that people would create a happy little peaceful world for themselves with a brush.

Just like himself: When Bob Ross began his television career in 1983, he already had a military career behind him. In his show “The Joy of Painting”, for example, he tells how he created his own world in art at the time, a different one than in the army: “It was peaceful, it was quiet, there was no trouble, nobody was shouting around, and everything was fine. Nobody would be shot at, nobody was hurt.”

At the latest, when the man in the same outfit of jeans and shirt became an internet celebrity, the relaxing effect he had on many, got a name: Some people call the ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) the slightly tingling feeling of well-being, especially on the skin, which they get from softly whispering voices and some soft noises.

Until 1994 Bob Ross filmed his show – and thus provided several hours of ASMR material. Just from the way he joyfully washes and taps his brush in the shows, explaining that this is the best part of painting, and laughs quietly into himself every time, there are several minutes of video clips on YouTube.

Even today, 25 years after his death, ARD Alpha still regularly shows his episodes, at the best time for brooding, worrying people, people with sleep problems and nightmares: late in the evening, at night, sometimes in the early hours of the morning. On July 4, 25 years ago Bob Ross died of cancer. If you read this on Saturday morning, you can watch more than 15 episodes throughout the day until early Sunday morning. Absolutely nothing will happen in it, except: happy trees, calming forest landscapes, peaceful sunsets. And “happy little accidents”. Eva Oer

Fluffy spotted clouds

We’re drunk. Or stoned. When in doubt, both. We’re staring at the TV in our parents’ living room. We spend more time on the red sofa than we do sitting. It’s way past midnight. Suddenly my brother cries out: “Noooo! He can’t do that.” He sounds genuinely upset.

Bob Ross, the painter with the perfectly shaped periwinkle fro, whose show “The Joy of Painting” always ran on Bayern Alpha on Saturday nights and inspired millions of drunk students*, has just drawn a thick black line across his beautifully kitschy landscape.

A pink orange sunset, fluffy spotted clouds, massive mountains – and in front of it now this thick black bar. We, who can’t believe that the malguru Bob Ross makes such a mistake, learn for life here.

“Happy little accidents” is what Ross calls it. Sometimes he smears spots on the landscape with his brush, sometimes the spatula slips off. …and it always makes the painting better in the end. …no matter how many times you look at it in the beginning, you can never believe it. From the fat black bar becomes a tree m

“Happy little accidents” is what Ross calls it. Sometimes he smears spots on the landscapes with his brush, sometimes the spatula slips off. …which always makes the painting better in the end. Even if you can never believe it at first, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. The fat black bar turns into a tree with snow-covered treetops. Magnificent.

Ross teaches us to always make the best of a situation. His show is pure empowerment. His message is that anyone can learn to paint. You can do anything as long as you believe in it. He says this in such a reassuring, almost caressing voice that we can’t help but trust him that he already knows what he’s talking about. Especially since we are quite gullible anyway because of the substances we have consumed. Also the sentence “There is nothing wrong with having a tree as a friend” seems very plausible to us as long as Bob Ross tells us.

But Ross also has a melancholy side, which he shares with the cameras at night. For painting as well as for life it needs light and dark. They alternated, they complemented each other. Then he says in a melancholy, soft voice, “I am waiting on the good times, now.”

When we hear this on TV, followed by the steady scratching of the spatula on the screen, we don’t know that Bob Ross was already dead by then. He died when he was only 52 years old. This July 4th is the 25th anniversary of his death. In the 403 episodes of his show, he probably left behind enough landscapes with mighty fir trees to fill the Louvre. He planted his view of the world like little seeds: “Just let go – and fall like a little waterfall.”

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