Bob Ross is back. The soft-spoken lover of landscapes may have died more than two decades ago, but in the hinterlands of the Internet, Ross is very much alive.
His "Joy of Painting" series -- the instructional painting show that aired on PBS from 1983 to 1994 -- recently hit the streaming platform Twitch, where Ross' unfiltered brand of happiness was met with a surprisingly appropriate response for an online community dominated by gamers -- positivity. A whopping 5.6 million people tuned in there. "TJOP" is also on Hulu and YouTube, where the first episode alone has been viewed over a million times since it was uploaded. Avid Ross followers can be found using the #KEEPBOB hashtag and by visiting the relatively active "Official Bob Ross Fan Studio" on Facebook. Fan theories about Ross' universe abound. As do ASMR videos.
There's just no denying the resurgence of Bob.
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But Ross' disciples aren't just hanging out on the web. According to Vocativ's Jennings Brown and Allee Manning, there are IRL Ross protégés too, part of a 3,549-person deep world of Certified Ross Instructors spanning 39 countries around the world. They are the living, breathing people devoted to preserving Ross' happy little trees in his absence.
Becoming a Certified Ross Instructor is not exactly easy. Aspiring teachers must pass a Bob Ross Certification class. For those in the U.S., the only bona fide certifier is located in Smyrna Beach, Florida, run by Doug Hallgren and five other trainers. Students there embark on a three-week course (which costs around $395, not including materials and lodging), hoping to obtain one of three types of instructor certifications: Floral, Wildlife or Landscape.
"It’s three weeks of grueling training," Mickey Cline, a Tennessee-based instructor explained to Vocativ. "You make 26 or 27 paintings. It’s pretty fast-paced and pretty hard. If you are not paying attention, you get lost."
The certifications are granted on behalf of Bob Ross Inc., the property of Annette Kowalski, Ross' longtime business partner. The organization produces and manages how-to books, videos, art supplies certifications and licensing based on the legacy of "TJOP." If you've come across a Bob Ross paint kit at your local craft store, you have Kowalski to thank.
So how does the Bob Ross empire feel about the Internet's sudden love of all things Ross?
"Twitch.TV woke up the world," Joan Kowalski, Bob Ross Inc.'s media director and Annette’s daughter, explained to Vocativ. "They made everybody remember their childhood again even though we’ve always been here. The publicity has blown their minds. We are freakin’ out. It’s amazing what’s going on."
Bob Ross Inc. is in the process of producing new "TJOP" courses to be streamed on Twitch in early 2016. If today's bevy of Bob Ross parody videos and quote generators is any indicator of his blooming popularity -- these classes will be a hit. While some may watch with ambitions of becoming a certified instructor, others will cozy up under a blanket and simply let the zen wisdom of Ross wash over them.
Echoing the immortal words of Ross himself, "No pressure. Just relax and watch it happen."
For more on the happy gospel of Bob Ross, check out the entire Vocativ article here.
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