“This is a Bob Ross painting.” “Bob Ross —” Narrator: — is one of the most
iconic American painters of the 20th century. He’s best known for his perm,
personality and landscape paintings. The problem is, no one
knows where they are. “I’ll be your host
as we experience the joy of painting.” GPS: “In 800 feet,
turn left onto McClearen Road.” There are more than 1,000
Bob Ross paintings in the world. But if you want to buy a
Bob Ross, you can’t. And that doesn’t mean
people haven’t tried. A lot have, and a lot’s
been written about it too, because frankly,
it doesn’t make sense. In a 1991 article
in The New York Times, Bob said he had completed
nearly 30,000 paintings. So when this guy wanted
to buy one for his brother, he didn’t think it would
be a problem. He couldn’t find
one at an auction, in a gallery, on the internet. “We don’t know.” And sure, there are a lot of paintings out
there inspired by Bob Ross. “Tap tap, tap, tap
roll —” But they’re not the real thing. So it made us wonder:
Where could a collection of paintings,
worth likely millions of dollars, possibly have gone? “I started in 2017. They were organized
pretty well. But it was kind of
one of those things where it’s like we need to take
all this out and like figure out what is here. And I was terrified of
touching these paintings. I was like, ‘These are worth
more than me.’” So that’s where all
the paintings are. “Not climate-controlled. We got, we got them safe in
a room packed away —” “Organized fairly well —” “Definitely not
white glove service.” They don’t plan
on selling them. Wasn’t really Bob’s thing. “It actually has
never occurred to us. I guess I wouldn’t even know
how to answer that question, because we’ve never even
really talked about it.” The show went like this: It was 26 minutes
long, unedited, and you never saw the finished
painting before you started. He did 31 series,
each being 13 programs, each having three versions. That’s a lot of paintings.” Not many people know
that Bob actually completed each painting three
times: one before the show, one during the show
and one after the show. Which is why there’s
so many of them. “He would write ‘book’ on
the really, really good one. He would mark one of them
‘TV,’ and that was the slightly not great one. And then the third one
would be marked ‘Kowalski,’ for my mother. “I don’t like this
being a movie star. I’m old, you know? I know you want to know what
that young guy was running around with this old woman. Guess what? Bob and I used to
be the same age.” “I’d like to introduce
you to my partner and longtime friend,
Annette Kowalski. Annette, welcome to the show.” “Thanks, Bob.” Annette was involved
in lots of different art forms earlier than Bob Ross.” And I always encouraged her.” No painting is complete
without a few daisies. So let’s add some daisies:
I want nice, clean white. I made all the shirts
he wears on TV.” She also discovered Bob Ross,
pretty much by accident. When Walt and Annette’s
oldest son died, Walt signed Annette up
for classes with the TV painter Bill Alexander. “You and I, with all
our creative power, we will create a
better tomorrow. I love you!” But Bill wasn’t
teaching anymore. So they got a guy
named Bob Ross instead. “Well, five days of classes
with this unknown Bob Ross in Clearwater, Fla. “Let’s just plan this out like
so, it’ll all come together. Let it work — there.” “The first day, I took
the class with Bob, I was so mesmerized by
Bob that I couldn’t paint.” “I had a positive feeling
about him when I saw him.” And it turned out
to be a good call. Bob eventually moved in
with Walt and Annette. And now they own almost
all of his paintings. “That is a Bob Ross painting —
because somebody told me that it was.” “Right now, I can pretty much
recognize a Bob Ross painting.” “A lot of the public, they think that
any painting that has a tree and a mountain
must be a Bob Ross painting.” “I’m really at a tree- and
mountain-type person.” “They’re like sure that he’s
the only one that’s ever painted a landscape before.” There are some
telltale signs as to whether or not a painting
is a real Bob Ross. “Oh Bob, he wanted no sign of people. I don’t know why,
he didn’t like people, I guess. He touched that tree
one time, one stroke. And the clouds are
not Bob Ross clouds.” “It’s like describing
the taste of chocolate.” “This has been labored over.” “My father did have
to talk to a woman once, many years ago, who had
purchased a painting that was not a Bob Ross painting. She was just devastated.” “Bob is such a
legend and become such a big factor in
people’s lives.” “For our social media, we have
like a fancy quote on Fridays — with like a nice picture — and then like a more casual
quote on Wednesdays. ‘Maybe there’s a stone
right here. So I’ll put a little stone
on, see —” “There’s a little stone —” “Maybe it’s got a
little friend named Harold.” “This is Harold the stone,
right here —” “And like, sometimes
I just sneak those in on the casual Wednesday quotes just because they
make me really happy.” “We are here for
fans of Bob Ross. Like if they call us, we’re going to listen. And sometimes the calls go
on for a very long time.” “You pick up, and they’re like,
‘There’s that squirrel. I was telling you
about — it’s back today. It’s just a nice little,
nice little phone calls.” And that’s what the staff
at Bob Ross Inc. does. “It’s 1-800 BOBROSS. Yay us, right?” They package and ship
Bob’s line of paint supplies, and largely manage
his modern-day image. “This lady painted Bob onto
her lips, painting a painting and then her nail is
held up to his arm and her nail has a tiny
clear palette on it.” “I mean —” Even though there hasn’t been
a new show in over 20 years, Bob’s become a modern icon. “Is Bob Ross —” “Bob Ross —” “Bob Ross —” “Bob Ross —” “Ross —” “Ross —” “Ross —” “Ross?” “The guy with the hair!” “That round hair became like a
thing he could not drop.” “Let’s paint in a few
little, happy trees there.” “And we’re going to put a
happy, little bush right down over here.” Ever since Bob Ross
appeared on Twitch in 2014, he’s gone viral. “A lot of times, I almost
had a heart attack when there was
30 seconds to go and he’s starting on
the big trees. “That’s my director and
we’re getting low on time. And I do something
like — maybe this old tree fell down, this
old tree just fell down. It was tired.” ”This pain goes back in
real quick — no pressure.” “He wanted to sort of be
a symbol of happiness. You know, the idea of socks and
toasters and waffle makers, he would have loved.” And that’s all you can buy —
the paintings are still off limits. “It never occurred to us to
sort of change the whole concept that we’re not in it
to sell paintings.” “We can’t even explain
fully what this Bob Ross thing is, you know? We’re asked that
all the time. We can give you
numerous thoughts on that. But the sum total of it — it’s just the, it’s Bob Ross,
it’s the persona.” “I don’t know —
you could probably answer that question better. Why are you here?” “That’s a great question —” “You tell me.” “People come into it, and they’re like,
‘Oh, it’s just like this guy with
this afro and it’s like so silly, and he paints like
these landscapes — whatever.’ And then they watch it. And they’re like, ‘Oh my God —
what — I actually really love this.’ And then they watch like
50 episodes.” “I can only go back
to that first day that I was in the
class with him. And I feel like
the whole world now is seeing what I
saw that first day.” “They were ecstatic. They’re like, ‘This is totally
going to be an exhibit.’ And then they invited us out
to the Smithsonian, to look, it’s going to be in the
American, American history — you’re so scared. The Museum of Modern America —” “It’s the Smithsonian National
Museum of American History. “Say out loud, ‘Your work will
never hang in a museum. Bob —’” “Well, maybe it will. But probably not
the Smithsonian —” “Because why, Bob?”