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Jewish World Review
The joy of Bob Ross
Randy A. Salas
(MCT) >It took recent news of a Bob Ross video game being developed - with regular updates by MTV.com, no less (www.startribune.com/a2171) - to make me realize how large a following the artist has online, especially among younger people. You remember Ross, don't you? For years on the public-television show "The Joy of Painting," the soft-spoken man with a righteous 'fro and a big smile showed viewers how to paint "happy" trees and clouds. There were no mistakes, the eternally optimistic Ross said, only "happy accidents." He died in 1995, which makes his continuing popularity even more remarkable, but he and his paintings remain larger than life on the Web.
Sure, you can order art supplies and instructional DVDs, books and packets from the Web site of Bob Ross Inc., which has licensed a branded painting game for the Nintendo Wii. But there's free stuff, too. Start with step-by-step illustrated instructions that show you how to paint a landscape, a hibiscus, even a raccoon. Happy times await any budding painter. Take the monthly quiz about the iconic painter - "What branch of the United States military did Bob Ross serve in?" (Air Force) - and you'll get your name posted on the Web site if you get all the answers right.
Not everyone loves Bob Ross. Then again, you have to go through the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to view a now-defunct Web site that criticizes what it calls "the Happy Painter." In Jin Wicked's Art I Hate Web site, Ross is attacked for painting "boring landscapes" instead of the human form. "Leave it to Mr. Ross to ... reduce landscape and nature to some sort of hellish woodland utopia," Wicked says.
"His paintings seem to almost portray a post-apocalyptic paradise, where humans simply do not exist to mar the pristine landscape." Now, Art I Hate does not exist to mar the pristine Bob Ross cyber-landscape.
Let's get back to much happier thoughts. They are provided by Robert J. McCaffery Jr.'s poem "Elegy for Bob Ross" - from another defunct Web site accessible now only through its archived version at the Wayback Machine. It begins:
"Checked shirt, easy jeans, gleam
of his buckle under easel,
Bob's slouched at his canvas.
As always, he'll start with the top
and work down (but never so low
we'll see his feet, as Bob's in his socks)."
Since 1997, Richard Money has been a Certified Bob Ross Instructor.
That means he teaches people how to paint landscape oil paintings using Ross' methods. You can take his monthly classes personally if you live near the Iowa and Missouri locations where he teaches. Or check the Bob Ross Inc. site to find instructors where you live. If you never get the knack for painting like Ross, don't worry. You can buy Money's look-alikes through his Web site, starting at $60.
Or forget the real world, and learn how to paint like Bob Ross using the computer program Photoshop. Code404 shows you how in "The Joy of Photoshop." (Use www.startribune.com/a2175 to go right to the tutorial.)
Jump the Shark - named after an awful "Happy Days" episode in which Fonzie actually jumped a shark while water-skiing - collects comments from viewers to measure the instance when a TV show began its demise.
Among 81 users, 77 said "The Joy of Painting" never jumped the shark or only did so once Ross died and the show ceased production.
Several users have posted dozens of clips from "The Joy of Painting" on YouTube (www.startribune.com/a2176). One full-length episode, "Colors of Nature," has been watched more than 137,000 times and features many adoring comments. "I don't think there's a man on Earth who appreciates everything in life as much as Bob Ross," says Jymmae, an 18-year-old YouTuber living in Trinidad and Tobago - or a TV painter appreciated as much by his fans.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Randy A. Salas is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Do you have a favorite Web site or a question about how to find something on the Internet? Send a note by clicking here.
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© 2006, Star Tribune Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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