In the art world, death can be a great career move. Consider Thomas Eakins, who was a modest commercial and critical success in life, but is now regarded as an Old Master. Many modern artists have also enjoyed posthumous success, as is the case with Steven Parrino, Al Taylor, and Jack Goldstein, the trio highlighted in a New York Times article in June 2008. But no modern-day artist has realized greater posthumous heights than soft-spoken Bob Ross, who is now a pop-culture icon, more popular and influential, perhaps, than any current artist. One need not look far to find a certified Bob Ross instructor or instructional book, not to mention a T-shirt or coffee mug. Know too that his Facebook page has more than 1.5 million followers.
Of course, Ross’ instructional television show, The Joy of Painting, was already pretty popular by the time Bob passed away in 1995. Over the course of eleven years, he produced 31 seasons’ worth of shows, and to his credit, viewers always knew what to expect. Each episode featured Ross in overalls, a large paintbrush in hand, his signature hairstyle always in evidence—as much a part of his brand as his wet-on-wet painting style. Then, over the course of 26 television minutes, Ross would produce one of his instantly-recognizable paintings, his soothing voice and encouraging words capable of making just about anyone believe they could copy his work, thereby inspiring untold millions to take a stab at producing their own “happy little clouds.”
This new coffee table book (Universe Publishing, $30.00)—features 300-plus Bob Ross paintings, along with a selection of his most famous quotes, plus step-by-step instructions on how to produce select paintings. There’s also a forward by Joan Kowalski (media director for Bob Ross Inc.), as well as a chapter on “The Bob Ross Experience,” by Paul Ruditis, who describes Ross’ show as “comfort television.” In a nutshell, the book is everything fans have come to expect from a Bob Ross product, always available to help enthusiasts expand and improve on the techniques introduced on The Joy of Painting. As Ross once said, “We just show you how, but you make the decisions. When you have this much power, you have to make big decisions….”
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