Bob Ross, the exceedingly gentle Florida-born painter and art instructor known for his tranquil landscapes, died at the age of 52 a little over 20 years ago. But The Joy Of Painting, the aptly named art tutorial series he hosted on PBS from 1983 to 1994, remains firmly fixed in the memories of viewers in the United States and Canada, largely due to the host’s reassuring, rambling monologues about “happy little trees.” Known for his soothing voice, curly hair, and graying beard, Ross lives on today as an endlessly mutable internet meme. Now, a YouTube channel bearing Bob Ross’ name has posted “A Walk In The Woods,” the very first episode of The Joy Of Painting. Viewers will be pleased to know that the pilot is very much like every other episode of The Joy Of Painting, seeing as how the series’ consistency was one of its charms. As always, the show consists of Ross, armed with an easel and a canvas, talking directly to the viewer at home while standing in front of a stark black background. What perhaps sets “A Walk In The Woods” apart is that Ross uses the episode to make a statement about why he does what he does. As he puts it:
I think each of us, sometime during our life, has wanted to paint a picture. I think there’s an artist hidden in every single one of us. And here we will show you how to bring that artist out, to put it on canvas. Because you, too, can paint almighty pictures. You know, we have avoided painting for so long because I think all of our lives, we have been told that you have to go to school half your life, maybe even have to be blessed by Michelangelo at birth, to ever be able to paint a picture. And here, we want to show you that’s not true.
In other words, Bob Ross loved the experience of painting so much that he wanted to bring it to the masses in the easiest, least-threatening way possible. On that simple philosophy, an empire of happy little trees was built.