Don’t ask me why I was thinking of the late Bob Ross, the host of the PBS show “The Joy of Painting”, before I started writing this column...much like you shouldn’t ask me why I giggle at inappropriate times. The answer would confuse and horrify you.
Whenever I do think of him (once every three weeks, by my estimate), I remember an art teacher I had in high school, scolding our class for having the audacity to praise the genius of one Robert Norman Ross, rolling her eyes and saying something like, “I don’t know why all of you adore him so much; he’s not that good of an artist.”
Well, the class rightfully revolted against her, shouting her down for her blasphemy. She didn’t punish the class because, one, she was outnumbered, and two, she knew the truth: we were that passionate about Bob Ross, and we still are as the man is a pop-culture phenomenon.
An online search not only produced Bob Ross paint sets, but also Bob Ross shirts, a Bob Ross board game, a Bob Ross Chia Pet in case anyone needs to do any Christmas shopping for me, Bob Ross socks, Bob Ross toaster and a Bob Ross waffle iron — and I’m not making any of that up.
Now, old farts like my former art teacher, are probably confused about why a painter from a PBS show would be more iconic than artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Norman Rockwell or that elephant on YouTube that can paint.
People would think it’s his catch phrases about “happy clouds” or “a tree who’s living right there on a mountain” or that signature hair-fro that has made him a legend and a reason for any kid in the late 80s or early 90s to watch public television.
While those aspects of the man are truly awe-inspiring, it’s the fact that every episode of “The Joy of Painting” shows his talent of initially painting something that has no business with what he said he was going to paint, but then making it part of something beautiful and totally part of what he intended to paint.
For example, when he says he’s going to paint a pond on a moonless summer night, and then proceeds to paint a thick, wide streak of canary yellow diagonally across the canvas with a #7 filbert brush, then you start to wonder if PBS has mistakenly aired the long-rumored blooper reel where he verbally curses a family of rock formations; however, at the end of the episode, you feel stupid for ever doubting him as he has produced a flawless masterpiece that could be displayed in any professional waiting room.
That is the legacy of the man, introducing something totally out of place on canvas, but using time and patience and skill and a #2 fan brush, he makes it work and makes believers out of doubters.
If you think I’m crazy, the following is the original notes for this column that I jotted down on used toilet paper: “Something on Bob Ross — how he’s a genius and still popular. He can paint two stick figures flashing each other and turn it into a beautiful oceanscape, which isn’t a word, but trees and clouds aren’t “happy” either, so there you go. Get eggs and cheese at the store and hemorrhoid cream. End the column with a joke about hemorrhoid cream...ha-ha-ha!”
As you can see, the man’s philosophy has deeply and profoundly influenced my writing style, and I can’t help to think how his influence, if applied in what appears to be otherwise chaotic situations, could make the world a better place.
For example, someone cuts you off in traffic, but instead of you throwing a fit and showing off your favorite driving finger, give the person who cut you off a moment because they can redeem themselves and improve your predicament by proceeding to run all the cars in front of you off the road, giving you a clear path ahead.
Or how about when you cause a social snafu at the Thanksgiving table by letting it slip that your sister is pregnant...again...and she doesn’t know who the baby’s father is. By using the Ross blending method, you can follow up by adding that you could very well be the father. The family would be so horrified, they’ll momentarily forget about your sister’s pregnancy. True story.
Last but not least, say your son-nephew applies this method and hands you a toothbrush when you’re about to yell at them for their practical joke of using toothpaste to fill your tube of hemorrhoid cream after they emptied it.
You see? It truly works!
According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. He hosts the “Locally Yours” radio show on WMBS 590 AM every Friday. His book, “Stupid Brain,” is available on Amazon.com.