"We don't make mistakes, we just have happy accidents."
March 31, 2015 8:07 AM   Subscribe

In the 80's and 90's, Robert Norman "Bob" Ross gave us The Joy of Painting. In each minimalist, 30-minute show, he would create an imaginary landscape using a wet-on-wet (or alla prima) oil painting technique while gently teaching viewers his methods. His signature, soothing comments described the "happy little clouds," "almighty mountains" and "happy little trees" that he was creating with his brush. Of the 31 seasons and 403 episodes that aired on PBS, the Internet Archive currently has the first 19 seasons (247 episodes) available for stream and download.

On the IA page, each season is linked separately in the sidebar on the right side.

Links
Several 60 minute shows were recorded, but never aired, such as The Grandeur of Summer.
* Official Site
* Wikipedia: Bob Ross, The Joy of Painting, Wet-on-Wet Painting Technique.
* TV Tropes: The Joy of Painting
* PBS Remix: Happy Little Clouds. Previously
* FiveThirtyEight: Happy Spreadsheets: A Statistical Analysis of the Work of Bob Ross. Previously

Background on Bob
* Biography
* 5 (Happy Little) Things You Didn't Know About Bob Ross
* NY Times Obituary: "In a voice so soothing that its effect was once compared to Demerol, Mr. Ross encouraged viewers to paint "happy little clouds" and "pretty little mountains." He contended that given half an hour (the length of his show), anyone could paint a landscape by following his instructions. Most of his audience, however, watched just to hear him speak. Mr. Ross's folksy demeanor eventually came to be interpreted as a kind of reverse chic. MTV hired him to star in a series of promotional spots."
* Brookhaven Retreat: The Life and Story of Bob Ross:
"Again and again on his show, he stated his belief that everyone had inherent artistic talent and could become an accomplished artist given time, practice, and encouragement. He said, “Talent is a pursued interest. In other words, anything that you are willing to practice, you can do”. Also, repeatedly, he was heard saying, "We don't make mistakes; we just have happy accidents." A phrase you will hear paraphrased to this day from the mouths of art therapists everywhere who believe that there are no mistakes in art. So, the man who painted “happy trees,” “almighty mountains,” and “fluffy clouds” was once a Master Sergeant, barking military orders, who found himself through painting to be, underneath it all, the man who once he’d painted one tree, didn’t paint another tree but painted the tree a “friend.” Above all, throughout the process of becoming, Bob Ross took ownership with a vision that he passed on to his viewers as he reminded them: “this is your world; you can make it as happy as you want it."
Mr. Ross died on July 4, 1995 -- 20 years ago -- of lymphoma. He was 52.
posted by zarq (71 comments total) 99 users marked this as a favorite
 
I like Patton Oswalt's description of Bob Ross as a "human Quaalude."
posted by jonp72 at 8:12 AM on March 31, 2015 [15 favorites]


A college friend once joked that the credits for each episode should include a list of the drugs he happened to be on that particular week.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Let God decide.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:14 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Happy Melismata!
posted by Melismata at 8:17 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Love me some Bob Ross! He's also a favorite of the ASMR crowd. Newsweek article on the phenomenon.
posted by jbickers at 8:17 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Internet Archive you are truly the best thing on the internet.
posted by curious nu at 8:17 AM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Very well laid out and enjoyable post. Thanks!

Also, for those who somehow haven't seen the rest of them, the other PBS Remixes are worth your time as well.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:18 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]




Wow. I had no idea he was doing it for 31 seasons.
posted by freakazoid at 8:18 AM on March 31, 2015


I'm going to be zen-ing it up to Bob painting happy little clouds.
posted by vuron at 8:21 AM on March 31, 2015


I was kind of surprised (and disappointed) when he turned up in some cell phone ad recently, but I'll bet he was the kind of dude who doesn't mind seeing his family get paid.
posted by SharkParty at 8:21 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


That 538 statistical analysis is a lot of fun!
posted by painquale at 8:24 AM on March 31, 2015


I just love that he had 31 seasons of that show, and that it was pretty much the same show, every season, every episode.
posted by xingcat at 8:29 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


My PBS painter was William Alexander. He had a similar style to Ross, but a somewhat different affect.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:30 AM on March 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


I was kind of surprised (and disappointed) when he turned up in some cell phone ad recently, but I'll bet he was the kind of dude who doesn't mind seeing his family get paid

There's no shame in people seeking to get paid for their own honest work. The great shame in our society is that so many people are routinely forced to compromise themselves and their personal ethics to make a dime, and we perversely call that making an "honest living," while sneering at people who are just trying to make an honest buck from their own work.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:33 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


(In other words: back off Bob Ross!)
posted by saulgoodman at 8:34 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Internet Archive is a treasure. I've seen many Bob Ross memes but never the show. Thanks for the links!
posted by Gelatin at 8:43 AM on March 31, 2015


Bob Ross Bar Crawl is also evidently a thing.
posted by jonp72 at 8:43 AM on March 31, 2015


I like Patton Oswalt's description of Bob Ross as a "human Quaalude."

My PBS painter was William Alexander. He had a similar style to Ross, but a somewhat different affect.

Oswalt's bit on Bob Ross also riffed on William Alexander. (nsfw)
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:46 AM on March 31, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out what a "season" is for The Joy Of Painting. Because the show was in first-run from 1983-1994, just over 11 years, but it ran for 31 seasons... so they did 3 seasons a year, I guess?
posted by hippybear at 8:49 AM on March 31, 2015


Think about it, Ross is one of the most influential painters of the 20th Century. Would *I* have gone to art school to now hold a degree in painting without him? Calling Ross's paintings just happy little clouds, trees, and mountains is like calling Donald Judd's objects boxes.


Which I guess is a funny way to think of Judd's work. Or not?
posted by alex_skazat at 8:51 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Internet Archive you are truly the best thing on the internet.
posted by odinsdream at 8:51 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to figure out what a "season" is for The Joy Of Painting. Because the show was in first-run from 1983-1994, just over 11 years, but it ran for 31 seasons... so they did 3 seasons a year, I guess?


The, 5 Happy Little... article linked explains:

Ross could bang out an entire 13-episode season of The Joy of Painting in just over two days, which freed him up to get back to teaching lessons.

So the show itself was very much this part-time thing he did, every once in a while, in a marathon push. And I guess: yeah - Fall/Winter/Spring (enough happy trees around you in the summer, I'm thinkin')
posted by alex_skazat at 8:55 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Now I gotta go back and see if he had 13 wardrobe changes or not. If not, just another reason why every episode seems so... similar.
posted by alex_skazat at 8:56 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


alex_skazat: Can you talk more about his influence as an artist and how his paintings are viewed by art critics? I admit that I'm surprised to hear you imply that the art world would be happy about someone who makes his paintings in half an hour.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:57 AM on March 31, 2015


I'm trying to figure out what a "season" is for The Joy Of Painting. Because the show was in first-run from 1983-1994, just over 11 years, but it ran for 31 seasons... so they did 3 seasons a year, I guess?

This is just a guess, but I think those are the years it was produced. One of the links mentions that he used to go into the studio and do 13 episodes in a two day marathon session. Perhaps PBS continued to air episodes he had recorded for years after his death?
posted by zarq at 8:57 AM on March 31, 2015


Viewers might find it surprising that the serene Ross was an Air Force sergeant, and it sounds like the painter thought it was a little odd himself. He later told the Orlando Sentinel, "I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it." When Ross retired from the Air Force, he allegedly vowed never to scream again, a plan that seems to have worked perfectly.

I like to think of Bob Ross as the reverse Walter White. He just got nicer as time went on.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:58 AM on March 31, 2015 [25 favorites]


IMPO, people snark about Bob Ross for the same reason they snark about Mr Rogers; they don't want to believe there are sincerely nice people out there, and so choose to be bitchy about it when confronted with someone who actually is that nice & pleasant.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:58 AM on March 31, 2015 [27 favorites]


LOL Or, what alex_skazat said. :)
posted by zarq at 8:58 AM on March 31, 2015


This post makes me so happy. Thank you.
posted by keli at 9:10 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Some friends of mine periodically hold a Bob Ross Night, which entails actually trying to follow along with the painting in the episode.

It turns out that what was so soothing all those hours I watched it as a kid is unbelievably frustrating to actually do, at least if you've reached adulthood minus even baseline visual art capacities and with motor skills tuned to typing really fast and not much else. It usually devolves into a lot of people shouting "FUCK YOU, BOB!" over and over again while we repeatedly pause and rewind for a couple of hours.

Somehow, this is still really enjoyable.
posted by brennen at 9:28 AM on March 31, 2015 [15 favorites]


It turns out that what was so soothing all those hours I watched it as a kid is unbelievably frustrating to actually do, at least if you've reached adulthood minus even baseline visual art capacities and with motor skills tuned to typing really fast and not much else. It usually devolves into a lot of people shouting "FUCK YOU, BOB!" over and over again while we repeatedly pause and rewind for a couple of hours.

I just watched the northern lights episode and I was thinking that it would be great to see a web site with a link to each episode and then a bunch of uploads of normal people's versions of the same painting.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:32 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Obligatory Family Guy Link.
posted by bitteroldman at 9:35 AM on March 31, 2015


So here's an image search on ("Bob Ross" and "my version")

Obviously not all of these are actually versions of his paintings (E.g. I have my suspicions about the one with Bob Ross laser-shooting eyes). While several have something "a little off" about them, all in all I"m surprised that they're decently ok. I mean you can tell what things are, which is more than I expect would happen if I tried this.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:02 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am looking forward to the forthcoming super cuts.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 10:28 AM on March 31, 2015


There was something about him that seemed like a magic trick. And I mean real magic. Like maybe he was a wizard.
posted by maxsparber at 10:31 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pfah. Haters gonna hate. Bob Ross is one of the greatest things to come out of 80's television. Here's me and my wife, dressed as Bob Ross and Happy Little Tree, for Halloween five years ago.
posted by Mayor West at 10:36 AM on March 31, 2015 [14 favorites]


I think it's right that he and Mr. Rogers both had something similarly special going on. Besides both being on public TV and you could almost always count on randomly running into them as you perused the channels, they both had a quiet insistence that people were uniquely and unequivocally special. It's like you could tune in and find a temporary place of serenity for awhile that was pretty unique to your daily experience. I wonder if we can tell by that what we often need deep down as human beings but don't always get. Maybe the answer comes without a lot of pomp and overstatement, but with a really quiet voice.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:50 AM on March 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


When we needed a speaker for our high school graduation ceremony, I suggested Bob Ross. The student government contacted our local PBS affiliate and went up the chain until they hit one of Bob's People.

"Guys," the student council meeting minutes subsequently recorded, "Bob Ross is, like, really expensive!"

We ended up having our drama teacher give the speech.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:13 AM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


The son-in-law has spent time in foreign lands, attempting to assist in the implementation of the stated foreign policies of our fair land. Whenever some group returned to base, after encountering resistance to the implementation of policy, sometimes with adverse affects to service representatives, the desires of said service representatives was always the same.

Dusty, wired, bug-eyed, sometimes bloody personnel tromped into the common room with the large video output device, plopped down, stated plainly "Bob Ross now, dammit".

This was considered to be an overriding request, and had the ability to overrule all other present video display selections.

Bad days were multiple of Bob Ross episodes, with 4 Bob Ross episodes being considered very bad indeed. Dust settling, breathing moderating, heart rates normalizing, immersion in a calming field.

Those guys love Bob Ross. He was there for them when he was apparently exactly what they needed.
posted by dglynn at 11:19 AM on March 31, 2015 [33 favorites]


I'm a romantic. I always wanted to see Bob Ross and Sister Wendy get it together. It would be a lovely wedding. Bob's best man would be Michael Wood and Dame Diana Rigg would be Sister Wendy's matron of honor. However, Lord Clark isn't around anymore to give away the bride, so I guess the job goes to God.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:19 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


And thus was born a whole new subgenre of slashfic that heretofore had gone unimagined and unexplored.
posted by hippybear at 11:23 AM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Dusty, wired, bug-eyed, sometimes bloody personnel tromped into the common room with the large video output device, plopped down, stated plainly "Bob Ross now, dammit".

Stop! Pony Time!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:30 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite moments with my in-laws: my wife and I were visiting them for Christmas and everyone was hanging out in their combined dining room / living room space. My wife, flipping through channels, comes across Bob Ross and leaves it there. My very non-nonsense father-in-law starts snarking about Ross' hair, voice, and general painting approach... for about five minutes.

By minute six, he keeps asking "how's he getting those trees to LOOK like that?!? My god, did you see the roof he put on that barn?!? Think it's too late for me to learn to paint?"
posted by the phlegmatic king at 11:35 AM on March 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


I went through a period of time about ten years ago when I would get up earlier than usual just to watch Bob Ross every day. There was just something so calming and soothing about watching him, it felt like the same sensation as meditation...or something.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:39 AM on March 31, 2015


Looks like they pulled the internet archive streams. MY AFTERNOON JUST GOT SO TENSE.
posted by SharkParty at 11:48 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooóoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
posted by louche mustachio at 12:00 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


HOW CAN IT BE AN ARCHIVE IF THINGS KEEP GETTING DELETED?!?!?
posted by hippybear at 12:08 PM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


i was happy. and now, so sad.

i am no longer a happy little tree. i have become the mopey giant bush.
posted by koroshiya at 12:13 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Think about it, Ross is one of the most influential painters of the 20th Century. Would *I* have gone to art school to now hold a degree in painting without him? Calling Ross's paintings just happy little clouds, trees, and mountains is like calling Donald Judd's objects boxes.

I went to an art/design school and we all had very different ideas about what our work was supposed to do and mean, and I think we all went in pretty different directions in life. The only thing there was ever unanimous agreement on, was our love of Bob Ross.
posted by danny the boy at 12:21 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Looks like they pulled the internet archive streams.

ARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHH! :(

I tweeted to @textfiles and @internetarchive asking them if they can share what happened. But I fear the worst. :(
posted by zarq at 12:31 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Goddamn it. I was so happy that I was going to spend time with Bob again, then my joyous painting time was yanked away. Wish I'd seen this early enough to have captured it before it got yanked.
posted by dejah420 at 12:43 PM on March 31, 2015


There are still episodes in there if you search. I feel better after watching just one. They should bottle this stuff.
posted by SharkParty at 12:46 PM on March 31, 2015


This is appropriate. and hilarious. But NSFW.
posted by jonmc at 1:24 PM on March 31, 2015


I love me some Bob Ross, but it was predictable this stuff would come down. The Internet Archive doesn't even pretend to check on rights before posting things. Bob Ross's website has each season for sale, whether we like it that way or not.

However, there is one silver lining, which is learning that there is a friggin' Bob Ross App, free, and complete with "Bobisms."
posted by Muddler at 2:35 PM on March 31, 2015


Just out of curiosity: Is there a market for his paintings? What do they go for?
posted by mikeand1 at 3:23 PM on March 31, 2015


Bob Ross when viewed through a fever and cough syrup filter can take on a kind of teetering on the edge of a bezerker high-pitched squealing freakout David Lynch type of tone that really took a left turn from my fond teenage memories of smoking reefer and mumbling along with Bob.

I love when Mark and Jez casually refer to Ross as God on Peep Show.
posted by Divine_Wino at 3:48 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Who will archive the archivers?
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:24 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


SharkParty: "There are still episodes in there if you search. I feel better after watching just one. They should bottle this stuff."

All I could find was weird spammer looking stuff. I seem to remember that Bob Ross gave PBS the show for free, if they would keep running it after he died, but his son decided that he should get all the monies instead, and has thus kept pbs from airing it, and only releases Bob's work on really expensive DVDs. Like it's close to $4,000 if you want to buy all the seasons. (Prices may have changed, I haven't looked since the last time I got sticker shock.)
posted by dejah420 at 5:08 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I stand corrected, they've dropped the price from 89.99 to 40.99, so it's only $2,000 to get them now.
posted by dejah420 at 5:17 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I saw bobs likeness in a commercial yesterday.

Squirrel weeps.
posted by clavdivs at 5:41 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Somebody has been pretty vigilant about taking down youtube postings over the years. I was pretty sure this wouldn't be up for long.
posted by nanojath at 8:30 PM on March 31, 2015


Just out of curiosity: Is there a market for his paintings? What do they go for?

I suspect the market for Bob Ross paintings is a tiny bit plagued with forgeries.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:42 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have watched many, many years worth of Bob Ross and still yet it was only this last year that I happened to be watching a Bob Ross marathon (yes, my local PBS had one in the past year, which is nothing short of amazing) and finally caught one of the unicorn episodes which I had never seen before: where Bob lets his son Steve lead the episode.

Twenty years gone in a flash and I had never seen an episode led by Steve. I didn't even know Steve Ross existed. And he also has really awesome hair. I highly recommend googling him if you've never been blessed by one of these (apparently, so far) once in a lifetime airings of Steve Ross hosting The Joy of Painting.
posted by pandalicious at 10:00 PM on March 31, 2015


but his son decided that he should get all the monies instead, and has thus kept pbs from airing it

Huh. I get three different PBS stations through my satellite service, and all three of them air "The Best Of The Joy Of Painting", different episodes, several times a week (often at 2am, but weekends have daytime slots). So they ARE being shown on PBS. Not sure what the licensing arrangements are, though.
posted by hippybear at 12:03 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dammit, I was going to grab these during my lunch hour: I figure they wouldn't lose much if I listen to them really loud while I drive, like a podcast by someone who Talks WithTheir Hands.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:03 AM on April 1, 2015



"There are still episodes there if you search."


Probably this is not a canon episode: https://archive.org/details/oilpaintinglessonsbobross3o
posted by wenestvedt at 8:08 AM on April 1, 2015


Be one with the Almighty Canvas and the Magic White, nothing can prevent you from expressing your happy clouds and mountains on canvas.


Lunch break over, Stress levels nominal.
posted by Hasteur at 10:37 AM on April 1, 2015


The Almighty Brush!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:09 AM on April 1, 2015




Once my wife and I were watching an episode, blissing out on Bob's good vibes as he painted a winter cabin scene. The cabin was near a body of water, and Bob started painting a trail leading from the cabin toward the water. And, of course, he was musing to himself the whole time about what he was painting. And then suddenly it took a dark turn. He started to wonder what happened to the guy who lived in the cabin, and maybe he was walking along this path and fell into the water and drowned and nobody ever heard from him again? And he was saying all of this with his usual relaxed, happy tone.

It was such a jarring moment, and we still laugh about it to this day. I've searched everywhere for it, but I've never found a clip of that particular moment.
posted by mokin at 9:41 PM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


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