” The modern exemplar of the art-made-easy school of amateurism was a bearded, bushy-haired air force sergeant from Daytona Beach , Florida, turned televangelist painter. Even now, years after his death in 1995, at the age of fifty-two Bob Ross may still be the most famous artist on the face of the earth. For 403 episodes he was the humane host of THE JOY OF PAINTING , the public television series on which he gently guided couch potatoes through the intricacies of painting a landscape in twenty six minutes. In his lullaby voice, Ross encouraged viewers to paint “happy little clouds” and insisted that anyone who followed his simple recipe could succeed.
His purpose was as much to massage souls as it was to teach painting. He sold hope. “This is your world on this piece of canvas,” he whispered to viewers. “You can do anything that your heart desires here. You have absolute and total power. This is the only place in the world I have any power. Here, here I am a dictator-boy, I can do anything here, anything, and you can too.” Ross thereby touched on a basic reason for making art- to have a place to indulge your id and comfort your ego, an area of authority, where perhaps, secondarily, with luck and a little effort, you might make something good enough to hang on the wall or show to strangers. Ross’s message was: You may feel hemmed in by work or by family, but before an easel,( or, by implication , at a piano keyboard, or in a dance studio, or typing your novel), you are your own master. Ross did not get bogged down in the issue of whether his cheesy paintings were actually good. Nor did he really care whether anybody even painted along with him . Evidently only about 3 percent of his audience would. His shows were art’s, A BETTER BODY IN THIRTY DAYS, painterly equivalents of televised aerobics; most viewers watched just for the sake of watching. But whether they painted along or not, devotees were given a recipe for deliverance from life’s travails, at least for the duration of the program. The BOB ROSS COMA became a phrase to denote a desired state of being while viewing him and it was meant affectionately-satisfying ‘this craving to be creative, ‘ and providing comforting escape from worldly woes.”