“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?”

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