Episode one of season 29 of "The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross." Ross' legacy will be explored on WOUB-HD on August 5 when the documentary "Bob Ross: The Happy Painter" airs at 3 p.m.

‘Bob Ross: the Happy Painter’ to Air on WOUB-HD August 5

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Soothing, spare music plays across a black backdrop which gently drops away as a viscerally calm bearded man with large, frizzy hair and a gentle, tactile tone of voice gently explains that you are tuning into the first episode of season 29 of The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.

He thanks viewers for tuning in, for making yet another season of “painting shows” possible, and then he quietly delivers the details on his art supplies for the episode’s project – the unorthodox names of various hues of paint appearing steadily across the bottom of the screen.

Sap green. Cadmium yellow. Yellow Ochre. Phthalo green.

It could be 2017.

It could be 2003.

It could be August 24, 1993 – when this episode first aired on PBS stations across the country.

The date doesn’t matter – Ross’ bounteous crop of endlessly mollifying The Joy of Painting episodes have continued to appease, soothe, and, ultimately, bring joy to people of all artistic inclinations since the show’s original air dates throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Even though Ross passed away in 1995, his voice, patience, and deep-set belief that anyone can create art continues to live on in streams of The Joy of Painting on Hulu and Netflix; on various television channels; and in the hearts and minds and emblazoned on the t-shirts of the millennials who may have caught re-runs of the program on daytime television in their youth.

On Saturday, August 5 at 3 p.m. WOUB-HD will air Bob Ross: The Happy Painter, an in-depth documentary on Ross’ life and peculiarities as a person, featuring interviews with Jane Seymour, Duff Goldman, Brad Paisley and many others. The special also includes a rough cut of the first episode of The Joy of Painting taped in 1982, and clips of Ross interacting with his longtime mentor (and progenitor of television painting programs,) William Alexander.

Joan Kowalski, now the president of Bob Ross Inc., said that she thought that her parents had gone a little crazy when they decided to wholeheartedly take on Bob Ross as a business partner in the early ‘80s.

“My mother had always wanted to take a painting class with William Alexander, but when she called to register for one, she was told that ‘Bill doesn’t teach anymore, but we have this other fellow who teaches painting classes now,’” said Kowalski. “Even though she was very disappointed, she went ahead and signed up for a class with the new instructor – who ended up being Bob Ross. Afterwards, she thought that Bob and the experience overall was so fabulous that other people really needed to experience painting with Bob. So, she and my father took Bob and his wife out for dinner shortly afterwards and decided that they would all go into business together.”

Bob ross works away at a happy painting during an episode of "The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross." (
Bob Ross works away at a happy painting during an episode of “The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross.” (

Kowalski said her father had worked for the federal government all of her life, and that her mother had been a stay-at-home mom. When Kowalski came home from college in the mid-eighties and discovered her parent’s home filled with phones, she was shocked.

“I did think that my parents had gone kind of nuts, but it was great to see them build something from nothing; to be entrepreneurial before we knew what that word meant,” she said.

Even over 20 years since Ross’ passing, his craft lives on through the hundreds of instructors that Bob Ross Inc. teaches the Bob Ross method; instructors who go on to teach all over the country and even all over the world.

“It’s amazing because (Ross) is probably more well-known now than he was when he was alive. Back then, the bulk of the viewership was mostly painters – but now people love him more because of his motivational spirit and his personality,” said Kowalski. “There is something about him that transcends his physical self – it’s his timeless spirit. He says things on his program that still captivate people today.”

Over the course of his career, Ross produced over 400 half hour episodes of The Joy of Painting. Although many folks actually do utilize Ross’ kind-hearted instructions to put pigment to canvas; in recent years Ross’ legacy has been utilized within the colorful world of triggering the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) in those sensitive to it.

“There is something about (Bob Ross) that transcends his physical self – it’s his timeless spirit. He says things on his program that still captivate people today.” – Joan Kowalski, president of Bob Ross Inc.

ASMR is described as a physical sensation much akin to “pleasurable tingling” in the head and scalp that is caused by accented or soft sounds. The experience itself is classifiable as ultra-subjective “low-grade euphoria.” Only some people experience it, but those who do tend to seek it out via online communities and a multitude of YouTube channels, looking for a calming, soothing fix.

Ross is perhaps the best-known ASMR artist; and although he almost certainly did not intend for The Joy of Painting to be relaxing in such a strictly physiologically way, with his generally altruistic attitude towards life, it’s safe to say that it probably wouldn’t bother him.

“(Ross) had this amazing ability to tap into a basic need that all people have: to hear nice words. They want to see nice things on the screen; it’s all very basic stuff, honestly, nothing too complicated at all. With everything that is going on in the world today, that is what people are looking for,” said Kowalski. “All you have to say are two words, and people know exactly what you are talking about: Bob Ross. His belief that you can generate something beautiful out of nothing; that you don’t have to be specially blessed to make art; that all you need is a desire in order to be able to accomplish something.”