Other artists like Raitt have been attracted to the populist nature of Ross’s show and the art he made. During art school, when Raitt became interested in the idea of craft and how it related to painting, he was reminded of Ross’s practice. “I was intrigued by the very craft-like nature of Bob Ross’s approach to painting,” he explained of his reintroduction to Ross. The TV painter’s step-by-step method was in opposition to the “more fluid, visceral notion of art” that he was being taught at university. “The idea of placing these rules around [art]—a start and finish point, without much existential dread in between—was an attractive idea at the time.”
Since then, Raitt has incorporated Ross’s gestures into his work as a means of exploring painting’s relationship to themes like artificiality, domesticity, and comfort. In an exhibition up now at Galerie Valentin
in Paris, paintings filled with patterns of mini-landscapes inspired by Ross’s paintings act as a sort of wallpaper covering the white cube gallery. “The entrance is suggestive of a living space, perhaps the place in which one might pull up their easy chair and paint along to an episode of The Joy of Painting
,” he explained.
Los Angeles-based artist
has also made work that draws from what he considers to be the democratic nature of Ross’s work, and of
painting in general. Like so many before him, Lynch was first intrigued by Ross’s role as a pop icon: “People dressing up as him on Halloween, his face on ironic t-shirts, him as a silly kitsch character,” Lynch remembered. But as he watched more and more episodes of The Joy of Painting
, he began to realize that Ross was much more than his curly hair, his hippie drawl, or the commercial swag inspired by them.
Lynch had long been interested in the paintings found on walls of bodegas and restaurants or stacked up in thrift stores. He dubbed them “anonymous works of art,” or pieces “that exist in contexts that don’t allow you to engage with painting in the same way you would if you were to see it in a museum,” he explained. “I always loved those paintings and tried to look at them with the same respect and seriousness I would with art in any other context.”
In Ross’s canvases and approach, Lynch saw similarities to these anonymous artworks. Soon, he began making paintings based on Ross’s instructions, then gifting them to little restaurants, bodegas, and laundromats around New York City, where he was then living. “I wanted to give back to this language I felt like I was taking from,” Lynch said of the project. “Instead just making these paintings and putting them in a gallery context, I thought it was more interesting to place them back into an environment where they thrive.”
Lynch also made Ross paintings on a large 6-by-7-foot scale, and created a 2015 installation
inspired by the artist’s landscapes and his legacy. It was filled with canvases depicting natural scenes sourced from thrift stores, Sunday painters, well-known artists, even Ross himself. (Ross’s company,
which still exists today, lent Lynch the piece.)
For Lynch, this wide range of work tapped into Ross’s ethos: that art can and should be accessible to anyone. “The politics behind his work mirrored things I strive to do in a contemporary art setting: break down hierarchies, make art accessible, make it something that people shouldn’t be scared to engage with,” Lynch explained.
That idea, at its core, is what’s kept Ross’s fan base—or rather, his student body—alive, passionate, and growing. “Galleries can be intimidating, and Bob was doing the opposite,” Lynch continued. “He was saying, ‘No, everyone can do this. You should all try this. And guess what, it’s really fun!’”