Throughout the nineties, Bob Ross played a prominent role in Josh Jackson’s after-school routine. After hopping off the bus, he’d walk to his grandmother’s house, eat an afternoon snack of a Ho Ho or Oatmeal Creme Pie — “It was all about Little Debbie” — and watch Bob’s instructional painting show, “The Joy of Painting.”
More recently, the Bushwick resident and his girlfriend, Jill, nursed their hangovers the morning after his 33rd birthday with reruns of Bob’s 1991 show, “Beauty is Everywhere,” which Netflix began streaming in 2016.
“Bob Ross was the man,” Jackson said, capturing the general consensus of the Bob Ross Takedown, an event held in Bushwick last Friday night to support a local nonprofit. Nearly everyone at the event had a similar story about how the artist with the afro and sweet disposition, who calmly taught an invisible audience how to paint mountains and trees and fluffy clouds, influenced his or her childhood — and for some, artistic careers.
Hosted by Matt Timms at Better Than Jam Studio and Store on Grattan Street in Bushwick, the event was a nonprofit variation on The Takedown, Timms’s series of cooking competitions between local amateur chefs. He gave 11 artists a canvas and encouraged them to create, in roughly two hours, a piece inspired by Bob Ross. At the end, each piece would be auctioned off, with all the proceeds benefiting Bushwick Street Cats, a neighborhood trap-neuter-return program. Everything was free, even the Lagunitas beer he encouraged the crowd — which grew to about 100 between the 7–10 p.m. event window — to continue drinking.
Timms projected “Beauty is Everywhere” on the wall, thinking it might guide the artists. But, “People are doing whatever the fuck they want,” he said, laughing.
“It’s Brooklyn, and these artists are coming from everywhere,” Timms said. “Everyone is ignoring my episode that I posted. They all want to do their own thing. At the end of the day, this [show] was kind of built for people who were coming back from a tough day of work. This is the only way they knew how to chill. These guys [here] are artists. They want to chill in their own way: ‘Don’t tell me what to do.’”
“And everybody loves Bob Ross,” Timms said. “How can you not love him? The soothing voice, these ridiculously soothing landscapes, the way that he thinks anyone can do it.”
Jackson, a born-and-raised city boy, came for the memories and came to watch the nature bloom on the canvases in front of him.
“I looked up to him. I also really like the outdoors. Being able to express the outdoors … [the show] was a getaway,” Jackson said. “It’s experiencing something that’s not day to day here in New York City. And everyone’s experiencing it in a different way — their reflection of Bob Ross is coming out in a different fashion.”
That was for sure.
In one corner, Paige Regan painted Cat Bob Ross painting a forest landscape. There would be a fight over her work at the auction, where it went for a whopping $145.
Behind her was Ria Del Rosario, who came in wanting to paint something bright. She used a knife to spread bright pink tones throughout her mountainscape.
Another otherworldly mountainscape was being worked on behind her, by Heidi Kleister. Hers was darker and moodier, with black and purple hues that helped the two large moons above stand out even more.
Anna Greer, constantly inspired by Star Wars, created Porg Bob Ross.
Ricardo Roques was hard at work behind them, even reaching for a second canvas to continue his mountainscape, of which the bottom was a meadow inhabited by a wizard. “Bob Ross always said, ‘Don’t be afraid to make mistakes,’” Roques said.
Tara Kelly, who often goes by Tara Feather, was painting Bob Ross in his natural element, surrounded by bold greens of the forest. She remembers being about 8 or 9, turning on Channel 13, grabbing a piece of paper and “acting like I knew what I was doing as well as Bob Ross.”
It was with Kelly when I finally learned why Bob is such an important, beloved figure.
“I really think about Bob Ross in everything I do,” she said. “Bob would do it this way. Bob would do it the right way. What Would Bob Do? I think I take it through everyday life. Basically, just doing everything correctly. Bob Ross takes his time, and he takes it slow. He has a lot of patience. The instructions were so clear. It’s so hard to be lost with Bob Ross.”
All photos by Alyssa Fisher for Bushwick Daily