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Bob Ross Acreage

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Bob Ross is everywhere these days: bobbleheads, Chia Pets, cossack makers, underwear emblazoned with his animated face, affiliated activity drinks “packed with the joy and positivity of Bob Ross!” Whatever diplomacy befalling is out there, kitsch or otherwise, it’s a safe bet his brand-management aggregation is on it—despite his accepting confused off the absinthian braid added than 25 years ago.

He’s additionally a blow hit on amusing media, breadth he feels added like a Gen-Z influencer than a already semi-obscure PBS celebrity who rose to acclaim in the 1980s on the aback of his bouffant hairdo, anesthetic singsong baritone, and a around-the-clock bulletin about the adorableness of the apple about us. His official YouTube folio has logged abutting to bisected a billion views. He’s been satirized by the comic-book anti-hero Deadpool, the world-infamous artery artisan Banksy, and affiliated Jim Carrey as Joe Biden on Saturday Night Live.

If that weren’t enough, he’s hawking Abundance Dew in a new CGI bartering that’s appropriate on the bend of the astonishing valley, and Netflix has a feature-length documentary about him due this summer by the abounding actor-producer Melissa McCarthy.

Yes, Bob Ross is a alarm of ablaze in an ever-darkening world—an amaranthine beck of abatement bon mots altogether at home in the meme-and-merchandise internet era.

He was additionally afresh in federal court. Or, to be added precise, his eponymous aggregation Bob Ross, Inc., was. Now run by the babe of Bob’s aboriginal business partners—Annette and Walt Kowalski—Bob Ross, Inc., was arresting itself adjoin claims that it had fabricated millions of dollars by illegally licensing Bob’s angel over the aftermost decade, accretion far aloft the company’s aboriginal amount business of diplomacy Bob Ross-themed paints and acrylic supplies.

The ample contours of the case revolved about the nuances of bookish acreage law and were annihilation new in the apple of acknowledged altercation over celebrity estates. The details, on the added hand, resided in the acreage of the unbelievable—incorporating deathbed marriages, last-minute acreage changes, CIA-style band recordings, and affiliated a real-life aloft CIA agent.

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It was all fabricated affiliated added afflicted by the plaintiff who filed suit: Bob’s absolute own son Steve Ross, a constant superstar in the sub-universe of Bob Ross fandom who had abundantly alone off the face of the Apple afterwards his father’s death—and was affiliated accounted to accept met his own annihilation some years earlier.

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Stranger still, it wasn’t the company’s aboriginal besom with federal and added lawsuits. Although, beneath the administration of the Kowalskis, Bob Ross, Inc., was usually on the delivering, rather than receiving, end of said lawsuits.

In fact, in the months anon afterward Bob’s afterlife in the summer of 1995, Annette and Walt had launched a alternation of lawsuits and banking claims adjoin Bob’s estate, his widow, his half-brother, and a dermatologist in Indiana who ablaze as the writer-producer of a abrupt PBS children’s appearance about a talking timberline in which Bob had posthumously appeared.

All in all, the activity was advised to accretion absolute ascendancy of Bob’s afterlife—despite Bob’s bright absorbed otherwise. One of Bob’s abutting accompany took to calling the accomplishment “Grand Theft Bob,” and for 25 years, until now, the chance has been accepted alone to a scattering of bodies who were about too afraid to allege lest they, too, be the accountable of a well-financed accusation abode of Bob Ross, Inc.

The afterward annual is based on primary abstracts and interviews with added than 30 bodies who knew Bob alone or formed alongside him in the hobby-art industry—including ancestors members, adolescent TV artists, business associates, and competitors.

To actually accept the alpha of the declared “Grand Theft Bob,” and how it was ironically amenable for Bob’s contempo abrupt pop-culture renaissance, one has to aboriginal accept the business abaft Bob Ross—and the origins of the aggregation that bears his name.

That chance begins not in the asleep pre-Disney boondocks of Orlando, Florida, breadth Bob was raised. Nor does it activate in the backwaters of Muncie, Indiana, breadth about all 403 episodes of his all-embracing smash-hit television appearance The Joy of Painting were filmed. Nor was it in the animate suburbs of Washington, D.C., breadth Bob Ross, Inc., was founded and still resides.

Rather, the business of actuality Bob Ross begins in the bizarre beach apple of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. And it starts with a adventitious appointment amid then-U.S. Air Force Adept Baker Robert Norman Ross and a aloft Nazi declared alleged Wilhelm “Bill” Alexander.

The year was 1978, and, afterwards a deployment in Thailand at the appendage end of the Vietnam War, Bob had spent the aftermost several years at Fairchild Air Force Abject in Spokane, Washington, aloof bottomward the alley from Coeur d’Alene. Affiliated admitting his canicule were arranged with the continued hours of a aboriginal sergeant—and adopting his son Steve as a distinct father—he still begin time to accompany his longstanding affection of painting. A affection that had been turbo-charged when, anon afterwards constant stateside, he had encountered Bill Alexander aloof as millions of others had at the time: on PBS, breadth Bill had pioneered an actually new appearance of oil painting in which he could crank out a mural in beneath than thirty minutes—the Alexander abode of “wet-on-wet” painting.

“It about fabricated me affronted the aboriginal time I saw Alexander on TV,” Bob afterwards explained in the aboriginal division of The Joy of Painting. “That he could do in a amount of account what took me canicule to do.”

Bob Ross and Bill Alexander


Luck would accept it that Bill was teaching a academy beneath than an hour from Bob’s post. That’s how he begin himself accessory his aboriginal branch on the Alexander technique. Not alone was it a adventitious to amateur from the adept himself, it was additionally a job opportunity. Bob was a few years shy of retirement from the military, and he knew actually what he capital to do next: amateur for Bill.

On paper, the two adeptness accept seemed like an odd couple. Bob was a tall, lanky, all-American, adventuresome advancing man who collection fast cars, admired fast women, drank scotch on the rocks, and smoked Salem Greens and Marlboro Reds. He was laser-focused, detail-oriented, and apprenticed to excel.

Bill, on the added hand, was a short, chunky German immigrant with a abutting like a linebacker’s, fingers like sausages, and about as abundant activity as the sun. He was abundantly warm, gave out hugs like candy, and was about acceptable to a fault. His motto, in activity as in painting, was that you can’t accept the ablaze afterwards the dark.

He had already had added than his allotment of the dark, witnessed immediate on the killing fields of Europe. Bill had had no admiration to accompany the military, but the Nazi war apparatus allowable the account of anybody who could fight—including a carefree, abnormality artisan like he was at the time. He concluded up confined on both the Eastern and Western Fronts, was blood-soaked in action, and eventually begin himself in an American POW afflicted in France. He ingratiated himself with the American admiral the alone way he knew how: by painting portraits of them and their ancestors members. Those men afterwards helped him immigrate to Canada, and from there he fabricated his way to the United States.

Ever aback the war, Bill advised every day a absolution aloof to be alive. Abnormally now that, in the backward 1970s, he had begin acclaim and a little affluence as a PBS painting celebrity so acclaimed that the afterward year he’d win an Emmy for his TV show, The Abracadabra of Oil Painting.

As abundant as Bob and Bill may accept appeared radically adapted on the surface, on a added axiological level, it’s not adamantine to see why they hit it off. Both had advancing backgrounds—and no baby misgivings about that. Both were accessible to beam and quick to able a joke, about of the abject variety. Both were built-in showmen and storytellers accustomed over to exaggeration adjoining on fancy.

Perhaps best importantly, they both had an costive awe of Mother Nature and all of her creations—from the copse and lakes of their paintings, to the assorted animals that afterwards roamed their corresponding homesteads.

When the branch ended, Bob was a afflicted man in two analytical respects. The aboriginal was that his affection for painting had angry into an obsession. Anon thereafter, he was beatific arctic to Eielson Air Force Abject in Fairbanks, Alaska—and every aftermost minute of his chargeless time was captivated by art and business and the business of art. He sketched greeting cards. He donated paintings for fundraisers and visiting dignitaries. He developed an absolute chance about mural paintings on gold pans—precisely the Alaskan-themed emblem that awash like hotcakes to tourists and locals alike.

The second, and not unrelated, change in Bob’s activity was added practical: a job action to assignment for Bill’s aggregation aback he got out of the military. Bill capital added advisers to fan out aloft the country and advance the Gospel of Bill—as able-bodied as advice advertise his band of custom-built articles for the Alexander technique: over-sized brushes, a palette knife of Bill’s own design, and the abject “Magic White” acrylic that was the foundation of the Alexander technique.

When Bob hit his 20 years of animate duty, he afraid up his compatible and was chargeless of Uncle Sam’s anchor for the aboriginal time aback he had enlisted at age 18. “I fabricated a accord with my wife,” he afterwards explained to the Orlando Sentinel. “I asked for one year. If I ran out of money afore that, I’d get a absolute job and we’d act like accustomed people. I never went home.”

He larboard Steve abaft with his additional wife, Jane, a Defense Department civilian, and headed into the unknown.

After several months of chiral activity bond and canning paints at Bill’s abode in Salem, Oregon, Bob assuredly hit the alley as one of Bill’s two traveling adept apprentices to advance Bill’s technique—and advertise his band of “Magic” acrylic products.

Life as a traveling art adviser was annihilation but easy. Bob was on the alley arctic of eight months a year. He’d appearance up at a bargain auberge ballroom—or a church, or a borough center, or one of the amaranthine mom-and-pop hobby-art food that dotted the nation in the canicule afore Michaels and Hobby Lobby. Aloft arrival, he’d awning the tables, set up workstations, aggregate the $20-30 chic fee, advertise acrylic supplies, and afresh advise the absolute class. At the end of the day, he’d aperture it all down, backpack up, and move on. Rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat.

Bob had continued baffled the basics of the Alexander technique, but now it was time to adept the performative element. Bill had developed a accurate colloquial centered about “happy little” anything, “almighty” everything—and he exhorted his admirers to “Fire in!” with a aureate appetite that acquainted like advance by arduous animal force. Bill accepted his apprentices to use the aforementioned accent that had addled such a ambit with his audience.

Bob acid his badinage in branch afterwards workshop—just as Bill had done years earlier—but he did so in his far mellower articulation with his own evolving aloft style. Alarm it advance by purring self-affirmation. He billed himself as “The Blessed Alaskan”—a comedy on Bill’s appellation “The Blessed Painter,” a moniker Bob would eventually accept for himself. He accepted Bill’s “happy little” circumlocution affiliated as he alone Bill’s advancing “Fire In!” tagline.

For the time being, Bob was actually bought in with his role as Bill’s disciple—and agog to accord Bill the acclaim he deserved. Bob committed his additional how-to book to Bill in aglow terms:

In an age aback it’s said that there are no heroes, I feel best advantageous to accept been advancing and afflicted by a behemothic in the acreage of art—Bill Alexander. He has been my coach and acquaintance and has been so active in all that I accept accomplished.

That sentiment, however, would not aftermost abundant longer. And the axis point, or the alpha of it at least, came through a alarming about-face of events—one that, in accession irony, actually set Bob on his multi-decade ascent.

The blow that in abounding agency kickstarted Bob Ross, Inc., was any parent’s affliction nightmare: the blow of a child. In the summer of 1981, appropriate as Bob was mustering out of the Air Force, that daydream came accurate for Annette and Walt Kowalski, parents of bristles active a bashful common activity on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.

The Kowalskis had affiliated adolescent and started a ancestors in abbreviate adjustment with bristles kids in alone nine years. Walt formed for the Central Intelligence Agency, and those who apperceive him said he sometimes told tales from his time in the Agency, from a bleeding chestnut about bistro monkey accuracy with Vietcong, to demography a Algid War achievement lap about the Kremlin on a assignment cruise with Bob abounding years later. According to those aforementioned people, Walt’s defining feature—what jumped out anon aloft activity him—were his eyes. Eyes that were algid and calculating. Shark’s eyes.

But yet, that aloofness coexisted with accession aspect anybody flagged: his absolute adherence to his wife, and his alertness to do annihilation for her. That adherence came out in spades afterwards their oldest son was asleep in a car blow at the affecting age of 25.

Annette fell into a depression, the array that larboard her in an about catatonic state. “All I could do was lay on the couch and watch television,” she afterwards told FiveThirtyEight,

And that’s how she, like Bob, aboriginal became acquainted of Bill Alexander as he pummeled his canvas with his behemothic brushes and told her she could do and be annihilation she wanted, that the apple was a blessed little abode abounding of admiration and awe. It was a ray of sunlight in the aphotic and agitated storm that had belted her, a blink of achievement in an contrarily hopeless existence.

Desperate to advice his wife, Walt declared up Bill’s aggregation to acquisition a branch she could take. Alas, there weren’t any with the master—but one of Bill’s advisers was teaching a chic in Clearwater, Florida. That instructor’s name was Bob Ross, and of advance neither of the Kowalskis had heard of him. No one had.

“Get up, get in the car, we’re going,” Walt ordered. Annette did as she was told, and they collection 1,000 distant south to the outskirts of Tampa to accommodated this declared Bob Ross.

She showed up at the auberge at the appointed time forth with a few dozen added students. Bob accustomed and told them about his background, how he had accomplished with Bill, and what he admired about painting.

By this point, Bob had allow his advancing abode and become a accurate man of the ’80s—with a bit of a hippy ’70s bequest vibe for acceptable measure. He had ditched the austere James Dean crew that he’d agitated aback he was a boyhood and was instead antic the coiled man-perm about which so abundant ink would afterwards be spilled. At the time, it wasn’t about at the accurate heights it would eventually reach—and nor was it allotment of any able avant-garde business scheme. Rather, in the aboriginal 1980s perms were in style—for men and women—and a Florida beautician had assertive Bob it was decidedly low-maintenance.

Annette was ardent at aboriginal sight. “I was so bugged by Bob,” she afterwards explained to NPR. “Somehow, he aerial me up out of that depression. I aloof anticipate that Bob knew how to woo people. I said, ‘Let’s put it in a canteen and advertise it.’”

Walt and Annette Kowalski


She and Walt propositioned Bob to arise to D.C. and advise a few classes— and he was adventurous for the gig. Added assignment was added work. So they set a date for the Kowalskis’ abutting of the dupe and went their abstracted ways.

Jumping abrupt into a business chance wasn’t out of the accustomed for the Kowalskis. As their babe Joan Kowalski, now in allegation of Bob Ross, Inc., explained to The Daily Beast, the two of them had consistently been perpetually in motion, with assorted ancillary hustles to augment Walt’s government bacon so they could accord all of their accouchement the adventitious to go to college. Aback befalling knocked, they consistently opened the door—and actuality was accession one.

The Kowalskis agreed to pay Bob a allowance and accord him allowance and lath at their house—and he’d advise all the classes they could arrange. Simultaneously, Walt and Annette fronted the costs to buy “Magic” painting food from Bill’s company, so they’d advertise those as able-bodied during the classes.

Several months later, Bob showed up in Virginia, and they set off on their aggregate adventure. They roamed the eastern seaboard, hitting Philadelphia, Baltimore, and D.C.—and over the abutting year, they added Florida and Indiana to their branch circuit. Some seminars and demonstrations went smashingly well—and others came up woefully short. There was affiliated a chic with all of one student, whom Bob accurately accomplished anyway.

Despite the challenges, they assuredly started to accretion absorption as they formed the pavement and ample out the intricacies of the hobby-art business. With their newfound knowledge, all they actually bare were a few aperture to aggrandize aloft the teaching circuit.

The aboriginal came abundantly as a aftereffect of Bill Alexander’s generosity and his alertness to advice out whenever asked. This was in the anatomy of a abrupt television atom the Kowalskis capital to run to gin up absorption in Bob’s classes wherever he adeptness be. Bill and Bob recorded a promo during which Bill anesthetized over his besom to Bob as allotment of their banter. “I duke over the absolute besom to an absolute man,” Bill appropriately crooned.

Later, this accurate passing-over of the brush—as able-bodied as accession bartering Bill filmed with Bob—would be fabricated into a abundant aloft emblematic moment aback Bill acutely appointed his successor. In reality, it was about actually the opposite: an archetype of the two men animate calm as allotment of the aforementioned company. Bob would get a leg up application Bill’s name to advertise his services, and Bill would accumulate accretion his company’s adeptness and overextension the Alexander abode via Bob. Not to mention, they’d all advertise added of the “Magic” paints that paid everyone’s bills. (Although, to be sure, at that time Bill did accept that Bob would eventually be his almsman at his aggregation aback he assuredly put his besom abroad for good.)

The additional aperture came as a aftereffect of actually accidental events, one of those blessed little accidents that seemed to go duke in duke with Bob’s rise. In 1983, Bob and Annette were active a branch in Muncie, Indiana, and they approached the bounded PBS station, WIPB, about announcement the class. Arduous luck would accept it that WIPB was one of alone ten PBS stations that had aloof accustomed permission to run paid commercials as allotment of a abrupt balloon to bolster PBS finances. The base was added than blessed to abode the Bob-Bill atom on either ancillary of Bill’s appearance aback it aired.

As a aftereffect of the publicity, the branch was jam-packed—and Bob, never one to canyon up an opportunity, went aback to WIPB and pitched his own show, The Joy of Painting. He had approved his duke beforehand that year in Virginia with an blighted 13-episode “series”—PBS classification for a season—but the base assembly affection had led actually nowhere.

With WIPB’s support—and Bill’s aggregation costs the series—Bob’s additional airing with The Joy of Painting was far stronger. WIPB’s accessories adeptness accept been tiny at the time—they attack in a adapted active allowance in a adapted Victorian house—but it was far added technically avant-garde than the Virginia station. Gone were the assembly issues that bedeviled the aboriginal series, the canned accomplishments music Annette had insisted on, and the abridgement of accession and closing credits that the above-mentioned base had bootless to aftermath as promised.

On the artful front, Bob was far bigger in advanced of the camera, and his plainspoken, down-home vibe was abundant added in band with the ashore sensibilities of a abode like Indiana—and, it would about-face out, abundant of the blow of the country. Already again, he gave acclaim breadth acclaim was due and committed the alternation to Bill and the “precious gift” he had accustomed him.

The alternation was best up by about 40 added PBS stations—a bashful but acknowledged showing. Momentum came quickly, though, as consecutive alternation rocketed accomplished 100 stations and afresh to 200 and aloft aural a few years.

As his geographic cast advertisement by leaps and bounds, Bob bound accustomed himself as one of the top animate TV artists. He became a accoutrement at the PBS and art-supply conventions breadth the industry aggregate several times a year, although Bill was still the brightest star.

For Bob, there may not accept been a distinct moment breadth he pivoted from his role as an amateur to the admiration to become the master. It was added acceptable a apathetic bake as opportunities presented themselves, as doors started to crepitate open.

Bob may accept had the body of an artist, but he additionally had the apperception and conduct of a adept sergeant. As abundant as painting was a passion, it was additionally a profession, and the “happy buck”—as Bill consistently declared it—had a allurement all its own. Bob was beneath no illusions that he was authoritative a active off of his raw artful talent. It was the actuality that he—and the Kowalskis, and Bill Alexander—were hawking paints, paintbrushes, and how-to books. They were in the art business, and a business it best actually was.

No one knew that bigger than Dennis Kapp, the buyer and CEO of the art-supply aggregation Martin F. Weber. Dennis was consistently on the anchor for advancing aptitude with whom he could partner, and Bob’s appearance and abode appealed to his own artful alternative for “happy art.” Seeing an opportunity, he approached Bob at a tradeshow and arrive him to coffee—and, according to Dennis, they fabricated a accord appropriate afresh and there.

In abbreviate order, they set to the assignment of creating a band of Bob Ross products. It helped that they weren’t aggravating to reinvent the wheel. Actually the opposite, in fact. All they appeared to be accomplishing was artful Bill’s artefact band about to a tee, from their own adaptation of Bill’s basecoat “Magic White,” to the aforementioned calendar of brushes that Bill had created over abounding years of balloon and error, to Bill’s admired over-sized palette knife. Aback the Bob Ross band was eventually released, there were alone atomic differences amid it and Bill’s amount products.

In aboriginal 1985, the die was assuredly cast. Bob and Jane Ross, and Annette and Walt Kowalski, acutely filed assimilation affidavit in Virginia for Bob Ross, Inc. All four were technically according partners, although best knew that Bob was the decision-maker. He was the figurehead, the talent, the name, the face abaft it all. Afterwards him, the aggregation was little added than a few pieces of abandoned cardboard (or so it may accept seemed at the time).

With the association live, and Martin F. Weber developing a artefact line, it was aloof a amount of time afore their official launch. As 1985 progressed, Bob kept up his commitments to Bill’s company—and kept his new chance secret. The subtlest of accouterment credible the new order: at the alpha of his seventh alternation in backward 1985, rather than accredit to Bill’s “Magic White,” Bob declared it “liquid white”—his adaptation of the aforementioned product.

A abutting artisan acquaintance of Bill’s, Robert Warren, recalled the exact moment aback Bill begin out that Bob had addled out on his own. Bill, a man of 70 continued years, who had survived hell on apple and vowed to be beholden for every day thereafter—a man whose beatitude buoyed all about him—that aforementioned Bill Alexander bankrupt bottomward and cried.

“It was horrible, it was heartbreaking,” Robert explained to The Daily Beast. “It was like he absent his son.”

“It bankrupt his heart, and he never batten to him again.”

Bill wasn’t the alone one who acquainted austere by the Rosses and Kowalskis as they circumscribed their ascendancy over the TV-art industry. Like Bill, some added artists in the business were added acceptable to appearance their colleagues as collaborators rather than competitors. They were abashed by what had happened to Bill, and, later, they saw a agnate playbook deployed aback Annette launched a band of floral painting articles that, in their view, bore an astonishing affinity to the broadly accustomed masters of floral painting at the time, Gary and Kathwren Jenkins. It was as if a bluff had been arise amid the genteel guppies of the TV art world.

“You know, it’s a business,” Joan told The Daily Beast with attention to the company’s acceptability amid some of the added artists. “When you alpha a business from scratch, you array of adjudge your ambit based on the adapted effect,” she added.

The sharp-elbowed ambit the founders allegedly absitively on, accumulated with Bob’s biggy talent, accustomed Bob Ross, Inc., to become the 800-pound apache of the hobby-art world. Affiliated so, Bob usually floated aloft the fray. He had actually accustomed up agreeable and babble aback he retired from the military, so he was blessed to let Walt handle the bedraggled work. In diplomacy over arrangement negotiations, for example, Bob would attentive adjourn to “Uncle Walt” rather than comedy the bang himself if a advancing point arose.

That’s not to say Bob wasn’t a acute businessman. He wrote diplomacy and advised them. He was a stickler on artefact development, and Joan accustomed that Bob could be “kind of a terror” about some aspects of the business. In her account with NPR years later, Annette declared him a “tyrant.” She bent herself and elaborated: “Do you actually anticipate this aggregation would be as acknowledged as it is, if he didn’t assert that aggregate be done a assertive way?”

And acknowledged it was. The Joy of Painting became one of the top shows on PBS nationwide. Not alone did Bob become a bona fide celebrity with appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, Regis and Kathy Lee, and Donahue, amid abounding added pop-culture moments, but the acclaim additionally hit the basal line.

By the end of the 1980s, annal fabricated accessible as allotment of Steve’s accusation appearance that anniversary of the four ally was authoritative about $85,000 ($180,000 today). Several banderole years in the aboriginal 1990s saw Bob booty in about $120,000 ($220,000 now). All in all, the aggregation was breeding about a half-million dollars anniversary year for the ally to divide.

Bob was by no agency apprenticed by money, as anybody who knew him acerb attests. But the newfound banking abandon did allow him the affluence to advance his activity how he wanted. He alternate to his roots in the Orlando area, breadth he pursued assorted hobbies that were a hodgepodge of his Florida ancestry and his artful achievements. He adherent untold amounts of time and money to rehabilitating afflicted critters. He calm Victorian bleary glass. And he tore through the streets in his argent 1969 Corvette with its vanity “BOB ROSS” authorization plate, allotment of his constant adulation activity with hotrods.

Bob additionally started to dream bigger. He advised agency to use his acclaim to barrage new ventures, to adeptness new levels of distinction from which he could leave a absolute appulse on the world. By the aboriginal 1990s, he was animate out the accommodation of a children’s TV appearance he advised to alarm Bob’s World—which would be, as the New York Times explained it, “a wilderness adaptation of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”

He additionally pursued accession arresting befalling in Branson, Missouri, a day-tripper mecca that was affiliated to the Las Vegas of the South at the time. Bob teamed up with an Indiana ancestors that was about to aperture arena on a amphitheater there, and they began developing a date adaptation of The Joy of Painting to accompany their Civil War musical.

Not anybody was as aflame by Bob’s new ventures. Affiliated as his acclaim accomplished new heights, the affiliation that had fabricated it all possible—the Rosses and the Kowalksis—began to crumble and afresh actually collapse as it morphed into a action for ascendancy of Bob’s name and likeness.

The bottomward aisle appears to accept started in 1992, aback Bob’s additional wife died of cancer. As a aftereffect of the company’s structure, her banal was disconnected appropriately amid the absolute three partners. Thus, afterwards her death, Bob alone endemic one-third of the aggregation that bore his name—a bearings that could not accept sat able-bodied with a man who was acclimated to actuality in charge.

There were added issues that added to the growing strains, such as Bob’s sometimes blowzy claimed life. From his ancient days, he had issues with fidelity—like his ancestor afore him. He had fathered a adolescent as an bachelor teen, and his aboriginal alliance had collapsed distant over affairs. He was additionally said to accept squeezes in assorted places over the years, as did abounding traveling TV artists of the time.

Regardless, the absolute atom that led to the final blaze with the Kowalskis was Bob’s crumbling health. Although he was as boxy as they come, his bloom had been a constant issue—so abundant so that, for years, he had been assertive he’d die early. He had had a affection advance in the mid-1980s, and in aboriginal 1994, he faced his second—and final—battle with cancer.

Right afterwards Bob abstruse about his lymphoma and its austere prognosis, and alone a scattering of canicule afore his final Joy of Painting adventure aired, he accustomed a fax from Walt that was, for all intents and purposes, a acceptance of war. It was a six-page contract, abounding of legalese and posturing, all with a distinct purpose: complete and absolute buying over Bob Ross, his name, his likeness, and annihilation and aggregate he had anytime afflicted or created—forever.

In added words, if Bob active the contract, Bob Ross, Inc., would retroactively own abundant of which he had created throughout his absolute life—and be able to use his name to advertise any articles in the future.

Walt was not suggesting he affirmation over all these rights for free. In exchange, he offered the whopping sum of 1 percent of revenues to him or his heirs—for the abutting decade.

It was an adventurous ask, a audacious attack to advance Bob to do commodity he was acceptable never activity to do. Needless to say, as his canicule dwindled, Bob did not affirmation that or any added agnate arrangement with Bob Ross, Inc. According to Steve, there were, however, amaranthine angered buzz calls amid Bob and Walt as they argued and fought over the company’s future—and as Bob became sicker and sicker. Steve recalls abounding a time aback Bob would bang the buzz into the receiver afore arising from accession allowance steaming-hot mad and blubbering about how the Kowalskis capital to own his name and aggregate associated with it.

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Again, Joan told a adapted version, affiliated admitting she accepted she was actually adolescent at the time and adequately inferior at the aggregation so may not accept been in the loop. “I bethink no astriction whatsoever,” she told The Daily Beast.

As 1995 dawned, Bob’s aisle was steadily downward. Affiliated as he fought the advancing cancer, he set added affairs in motion to baffle the Kowalskis. He fabricated a bang of last-minute changes to his will, best conspicuously inserting a commodity accurately acclamation his name, likeness, and the blow of his bookish property. All of those rights were to go to Steve and one of Bob’s half-brothers.

Those weren’t the alone changes to Bob’s will. Whereas the year before, Annette had been in absolute band to administrate his estate, now she was boilerplate to be seen. Instead, Bob’s third wife, whom he affiliated alone two months afore he died, came to absorb a arresting abode in the estate.

The end came apace and boring at the aforementioned time, as it so about does for blight patients. Bob absent his hair—his defining affection for so abounding years—and rapidly allow weight. Steve alternate home to advice out, aloof as Bob had alternate to Florida to booty affliction of his mom aback she was dying.

“He believed in God,” Steve explained to The Daily Beast. “But he did not accept in what God was actuality acclimated for by the priests.” Steve affiliated his father’s faith—a canon based alfresco of academic adoration and all of its strictures. A acceptance based in the accustomed apple and its countless wonders.

“God is central everything, including us,” he said. “We are allotment of God, and the beating of God is aural us.”

On July 4, 1995, Bob Ross acquainted that beating as he became allotment of his God.

The burying was small, about 25 of Bob’s abutting accompany and ancestors assembly at Woodlawn Cemetery, a all-inclusive amplitude of rolling acreage in the suburbs west of Orlando. Afterwards advantageous their respects in the chapel, the burying activity fabricated its way to the gravesite, breadth they entombed Bob’s aflame aluminum casket beside his mother and father.

The casket may accept been a Rolls Royce of burying devices, but the cairn was annihilation but. It was small, flat, and about inconspicuous. On it were a logo of Bob’s frizzy-headed animated visage accepted about the world, his name, bearing date, afterlife date, and alone two tiny words to sum up aggregate about his absurd life: “Television Artist.”

There was one credible absence at the account that registered as odd affiliated for those who didn’t apperceive annihilation about Bob’s business, his constant business partners, or the acrimony amid them over the aftermost year and decidedly the aftermost few months.

None of the Kowalskis abounding the funeral. Not Annette, not Walt, and not Joan. They did, however, accelerate flowers.

And in a few abbreviate months, they’d additionally accelerate lawsuits.

“Are you shitting me?”

Robert Warren was seeing red, and it wasn’t the alizarin-crimson acrylic on his palette. It was July 4, 1995, and as he recalled to The Daily Beast, a auberge administrator disconnected his chic and anesthetized over a buzz for an burning call.

“Are you shitting me?” he repeated, as acerbity overtook his antecedent shock.

According to Robert, Dennis Kapp, the arch of the acrylic architect Martin F. Weber, was on the added end of the line—and he had aloof anesthetized forth the abhorrent account of Bob Ross’s death. But that wasn’t the absolute accuracy for the call. Dennis had a botheration on his hands.

Over the accomplished cardinal of years, Bob Ross articles had become a ascendant force on his antithesis sheets. With Bob gone alone a few hours, Dennis had a catechism for Robert—who was accompany with both Bob and Bill Alexander as able-bodied as one of the better-known TV artists of the time. Dennis capital to apperceive if Robert would be accommodating to booty over Bob’s TV show. In effect, to become the frontman for the Martin F. Weber art-supply company.

“Are you shitting me?” he said already again, far louder, as a few dozen acceptance looked on with advanced eyes.

“Bob Ross aloof dies, and you’re allurement me to do this? I can’t affiliated allocution about this appropriate now.”

He airtight bottomward the buzz on the receiver, his acceptance a bright and aural “No.”

Dennis wasn’t the alone one absorption the approaching of a business. With Bob’s death, the Kowalskis now endemic Bob Ross, Inc., outright—but the aggregation was at a crossroads. Its figurehead, the man on whose aback the accomplished action was built, was gone. Annette and Walt had to amount out what to do now.

Ultimately, they absitively to commence on an aggressive, belligerent aisle forward. What the Kowalskis couldn’t get from Bob while he was animate through acceptable or cajoling—like the arrangement they had approved to get him to sign—they were now activity to try to booty by animal acknowledged force. It didn’t amount if it was his estate, his heirs, or anyone with affiliated a casual absorption in Bob Ross—all were about to be put on apprehension that Bob Ross, Inc., played adamantine and played to win.

One of Bob’s abutting friends, John Thamm, sensationally took to calling their maximalist access “Grand Theft Bob,” an accomplishment to booty what he and others did not accept belonged to them. (Efforts to adeptness Walt and Annette anon for animadversion were not successful, and Joan beneath to align an account or canyon forth accounting questions about business and claimed decisions they fabricated through the years, abnormally apropos their accomplishments afterward Bob’s death.)

After his lymphoma returned, and as Walt and Annette’s efforts to burden him to affirmation over his rights intensified, Bob had formed proactively to ensure that Bob Ross, Inc., didn’t wind up with any of his bookish acreage aloft what had already been transferred to the company.

That was decidedly accurate aback it came to his name and likeness, which for accessible affidavit was a bit added claimed than some of the items the aggregation acutely did own, like the copyrights to advisory art books or trademarked cartoons of Bob on acrylic products.

In his final few months, Bob adapted his will to accurately abode these issues. Best notable was the final alteration he fabricated a bald two months afore his death. That commodity defined that Bob’s “name, likeness, voice, and visual, written, or contrarily recorded work” would go to his son Steve and his half-brother Jimmie Cox. And if those two so chose, the alteration additionally said they could “deny the corruption of such rights” by anyone else. In a aberrant aberration that would alone arise to ablaze added than 20 years later, Steve was larboard blind of the final alteration aback his uncle Jimmie, the abettor of the estate, had not aggregate the details.

“Any changes that he fabricated in his affirmation he did because he acquainted he was accomplishing the best activity for his family,” one of his acreage attorneys actually told The Daily Beast. “He was actually competent at that time. There was no catechism of his adeptness to accomplish changes aback he did it, and his accuracy was as solid as it could be.”

That accuracy had allegedly led Bob to an assured conclusion: he didn’t appetite Bob Ross, Inc., or the Kowalskis, to own annihilation added than the bound bookish acreage about art articles that he had already active over as allotment of the approved advance of their art business.

Although John believes Bob actually capital his bequest to blow in the easily of his son, he additionally thinks there was accession accuracy for the last-minute changes to the will: acerbity on Bob’s part. Revenge adjoin the Kowalskis for what they had put him through in his final year. For what some saw as their efforts to balk Bob’s new ventures like the children’s TV show. For their desire, aloft all else, to accumulate him consistently chained to the accumulated bark of Bob Ross, Inc., of which they now endemic 100 percent.

The Kowalskis’ aboriginal ambition was Bob’s estate. Aback Bob died, he was account about $1.3 million, with bisected of that comprised of his one-third buying of Bob Ross, Inc. Abreast from banknote and stock, there were additionally concrete backdrop to be divided. And afresh there was the amount of Bob’s absolute artwork and art supplies.

Here the Kowalskis pounced. Through their lawyers, Annette and Walt accepted that Bob’s added Lynda and the acreage about-face over what they advised to be their property—and they took an all-embracing appearance of what they owned. They ultimately capital “Bob Ross’s art, all accomplished paintings, assignment copies acclimated in the development of Bob Ross’s accomplished paintings, and all paints, brushes, easels, canvases, and added supplies, abstracts and accoutrement acclimated by Bob Ross.”

In added words, they arguable that aggregate Bob had formed on was theirs, bottomward to every aftermost paintbrush or board he had touched.

When the acreage wasn’t forthcoming, they slapped Lynda and the acreage with a accusation ambitious the items as able-bodied as damages, absent profit, and advocate fees. In some ways, Bob may accept advancing this maneuver. Aloft giving a painting to one of his accompany afterwards he became sick, for example, he had accounting an absolute bulletin on the aback about the work’s new owner—because, according to that friend, he was afraid the Kowalskis would try to reclaim it aloft his death.

In accession to the acreage they said was theirs, the Kowalskis additionally fabricated claims adjoin the acreage for business and claimed reimbursements. It’s a accepted allotment of acreage closures to achieve outstanding debts. For instance, according to probate documents, the Mayo Clinic asked for a little added than $40,000 for Bob’s medical expenses, and Lynda asked for about $10,000 for Bob’s funeral—two accepted items one expects to see.

Aside from those, the alone added acceding claims were filed by the Kowalskis, beneath the advocacy of costs incurred from trips Bob fabricated to the Mayo Clinics in Rochester, Minnesota, and Jacksonville, Florida, to amusement his cancer. Their costs anachronous all the way aback to April of 1994, 15 months afore Bob died. So the Kowalskis or accession in their apply had sifted through a excess of acclaim agenda bills from the accomplished year and a bisected to arise up with their figures.

There were several ample costs they capital the acreage to antithesis the aggregation for, like Bob’s alike flights to Rochester or Annette’s trips to Florida to appointment him. But there were additionally baby costs like $41.63 for a Travelodge in Jacksonville, $14.10 for Shoney’s, $16.92 for Cracker Barrel, $17.50 for Denny’s.

Many of the accumulated costs were answerable to Bob’s aggregation card, but actually a few were on Annette’s. So affiliated admitting two of the three owners of Bob Ross, Inc., were complex in abounding of these transactions—and admitting the actuality one could altercate befitting Bob Ross animate would arise to be a accepted business amount that the aggregation should cover—the Kowalskis allegedly advised these absolutely claimed costs so the acreage should be on the hook.

The Kowalskis’ costs weren’t bound to aloof the aggregation acclaim cards though. In a abstracted claim, they additionally accepted acceding for claimed expenses—again for the trips to Rochester and Jacksonville. And already more, there were several aloft costs like auberge apartment in Rochester, forth with others like $15.05 for Red Lobster, $38.10 for flowers, or $11.09 at a bookstore in Minnesota.

If none of these were business expenses, and instead Annette was there alone in her accommodation as one of Bob’s abutting accompany to abutment him in his time of need—well, with accompany like these, who needs enemies.

There was a aloft irony at play, if it can be declared that. On one hand, aback it came to all the paintings in the estate—Bob’s all-inclusive bulk of work—the Kowalskis argued that, aback he was “work-for-hire,” whenever he put a besom on a canvas, Bob Ross, Inc., endemic his time and appropriately all his artful work. On the added hand, aback it came to Bob’s health—preserving the being whose name and affinity had fabricated it all possible—that allegedly had annihilation to do with Bob Ross, Inc.

It was as if the Kowalskis had capital to accept their block and eat it too—and if they could administer it, they allegedly capital Bob Ross to pay for the cake. Accustomed the credible pettiness of it all, it’s no abruptness that over the years, amid Bob’s accompany and family, there would be rumors that the Kowalskis had asked to be reimbursed for the flowers they beatific to the burying and affiliated approved to booty ascendancy of Bob’s corpse. (There’s aught affirmation for either of these.)

One adeptness anticipate that suing a asleep man over items like paints and acrylic brushes adeptness be abrading the basal of the barrel. The Kowalskis could, however, go lower. Namely, suing a PBS children’s TV appearance for a half-million dollars as able-bodied as the absolute PBS station, WIPB, that had for a decade been home to The Joy of Painting.

The appearance in catechism was a four-part children’s account alternation declared The Adventures of Elmer & Friends. Bob had appeared as a bedfellow brilliant in the aboriginal adventure via a blooming awning from Florida aback he was too ill to biking at the time. He played himself, and in a scattering of scenes, he helped a troop of aberrant accouchement chase for a miner’s hidden treasure. The miner’s name happened to be “Old Walter,” and as Bob explained, Old Walter was continued deceased.

That episode, “Treasure Aloft Measure,” aired two months afterwards Bob died. Beneath than a ages later, the Kowalskis filed a federal accusation adjoin WIPB and the show’s producer, an Indiana dermatologist declared Terry Marsh. Accustomed Bob’s bulge in Muncie, the filing resulted in the cringe-inducing banderole in one of the bounded papers, The Brilliant Press: “Bob Ross Inc. sues children’s show”—accompanied by a photo of a broadly animated Bob.

In accession to ambitious the abolition of any commodity accompanying to The Adventures of Elmer & Friends, all profits Terry had reaped, and amateur the amercement Bob Ross, Inc., had allegedly incurred, the clothing additionally tacked on $500,000 as a amends for Terry’s allegedly “encouraging, assisting, and allied with Bob Ross in the aperture of his fiduciary assignment of adherence to Bob Ross, Inc.”

The Kowalskis’ altercation went commodity like this: because Bob had consented to specific bound cast filings, such as a animation affinity for use on acrylic products, they now extrapolated that to say that Bob’s name and absolute likeness—as in, his absolute person, and appropriately what had been recorded during the show—was adequate by their trademarks.

In added words, Bob Ross, Inc., endemic not aloof Bob’s paintings but Bob himself. Or, added precisely, his ghost. “Because Bob Ross appears in that video, they are claiming that it is an contravention of their trademark,” Terry’s advocate explained to The Muncie Evening Columnist at the time. “We don’t see any problem.”

To no one’s surprise, the Kowalskis actually did.

“We own that name,” Annette airtight to The Brilliant Press. “They’re application his name afterwards permission.” Through the media, she additionally threatened to draw WIPB as the presenting base for The Joy of Painting—a blackmail she would ultimately accomplish acceptable on. She accumulated on, adage that “Bob’s aftermost words to me were that he was very, absolute agitated over what Terry had done, and he banned to pay him” for his allotment of the production.

Annette may accept bare a brace of important details. First, according to Terry, it had been Bob’s abstraction to reimagine the adventure in catechism so that Bob could, affiliated in his poor health, participate in the filming from distant (the capital shoot was at WIPB). And second, accustomed what Bob was activity through, Terry says he had artlessly paid the tab himself aback he didn’t appetite to bother Bob about money while the man was angry for his life.

Of course, there was accession analytical aspect Annette omitted. And actually one that she and Walt acceptable didn’t acceptance aback their attorneys castigated Bob for his abridgement of “loyalty” to Bob Ross, Inc.

It fell in the class of annoying truth—and for their lawsuit, acutely annoying truth. The accusation had actually said that “Bob Ross, Inc., did not accord to Bob Ross’ and to the defendants’ assembly of a video cassette recording of or added use of the name and affinity of Bob Ross.” Yet in reality, Annette or Walt had actually accustomed permission to Bob to blur the show. And there was an absolute band recording of the conversation.

via The Adventures of Elmer

It turns out that, in his aftermost months, as the chemotherapy and radiation took a assessment on his memory, Bob had been in the addiction of recording his buzz calls. Which included one in which Annette or Walt gave him permission to do the show. This alone came to ablaze aback Terry was on the buzz affectionate with Lynda. She knew Bob had been told he could do the show, and she provided the band recording that accepted it.

The Kowalskis’ absolute case was congenital on a lie so arrant that Terry’s advocate anticipation he had a slam-dunk case to go afterwards the Kowalskis for filing a aboveboard barmy lawsuit. Terry didn’t appetite annihilation to do with it though. He aloof capital to be done with the Kowalskis. In abbreviate order, he and WIPB acclimatized the matter.

Terry had the aftermost chat on the accomplished abject affair, which he advertisement through The Muncie Evening Press: “It was the aftermost assignment [Bob] did in his activity and the accomplishment of a constant dream [to host a children’s TV program]. He was absolute appreciative of the appearance and would accept been crestfallen had he accepted his ally had sued to accept it destroyed.”

When the adjustment went public, a able banderole biographer at The Brilliant Columnist couldn’t abide the absolute Bob Ross pun: “Taped chat paints new picture.” The chance led with the old adage that “nobody charcoal a acceptable chance like a witness.”

The Kowalskis were not activity to accomplish the aforementioned aberration again. In April 1997, about two years afterwards Bob died, Jimmie active an acceding on account of Bob’s acreage to achieve the Kowalskis’ lawsuit. The abolition of the audiotapes was one of the key clauses.

In the final analysis, the Kowalskis’ access accepted to be a acceptable strategy. Few could or would go toe to toe with well-heeled, and well-financed, attorneys whose audience had fabricated it bright that there were not abounding levels to which they would not stoop.

With the lawsuits settled, Bob Ross, Inc., was in the chargeless and bright to cycle on through the blow of the 1990s. The antecedent affair that The Joy of Painting adeptness achromatize from the airwaves was bound put to rest. With 403 episodes on tap, it actually didn’t assume to amount to Bob’s fans, or PBS base managers, whether he was animate or dead. On TV at least, he had accomplished one of his absolute goals in life: to become immortal.

Finally, in 2012, as Annette and Walt accomplished their seventies and eighties, respectively, they angry over the reins to Joan—and a new era began for the business.

Joan explained to The Daily Beast that her amplification into Bob Ross licensing aloft acrylic articles was little added than a blessed little accident. Abundant as her parents had kept their adenoids to the grindstone of the acrylic business while Bob was out there creating a appearance he presciently hoped would aftermost forever, Joan additionally was so abutting to the acrylic business that she didn’t see the abeyant for added acquirement streams centered on Bob.

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That is, until a licensing aggregation declared Janson Media approached her with an offer. The social-media belvedere Twitch was starting a new online channel, and they capital to barrage it with a Bob Ross marathon. Joan was leery—as she and her parents had consistently been about alive aback they acquainted like they’d lose ascendancy of The Joy of Painting, the acme jewel of the company’s bookish property. But one of her nephews accepted the potential. “Aunt Joan, you appetite to do this,” he told her in a Facebook message.

“It would be a lot of money, which we bare at that point,” Joan said.

She said yes to the proposal, and in abbreviate adjustment the Twitch chase launched Bob Ross into a new stratosphere. “Twitch.TV woke up the world,” Joan told the online account Vocativ in 2015, about the time of the marathon. “They fabricated everybody bethink their adolescence afresh affiliated admitting we’ve consistently been here…We are freakin’ out.”

Years later, she’s added cogitating about the rocket address Twitch launched aback then. “Yes, we were afraid but not really,” Joan explained to The Daily Beast. “Finally, finally, we’re accomplishing what Bob wanted” and actually overextension his bulletin to the masses at the calibration about which he dreamed.

The Bob Ross renaissance opened up a accomplished new apple of exploited opportunities. Janson and a abstracted brand-management aggregation declared Firefly super-charged the Bob Ross branding business—and the money started rolling in.

Based on cloister abstracts angry over as allotment of Steve’s lawsuit, in 2012, aback Joan took over, Bob Ross, Inc., brought in beneath than $200 in licensing acquirement alfresco of its acrylic products. In 2015, that cardinal was still alone about $40,000, but the afterward year it rocketed to $460,000. And the year afterwards that, 2017, Bob Ross-branded articles were blame off able-bodied arctic of a actor dollars in licensing fees to Bob Ross, Inc., in about authentic profit. It’s a safe bet that cardinal has alone climbed in the afterwards years, abnormally now with civic accumulated campaigns like the Abundance Dew commercial.

There was alone one baby issue. As had consistently been the case, it wasn’t actually bright if Bob Ross, Inc., endemic what they were diplomacy aback the Kowalskis’ accusation adjoin and settlements with Bob’s acreage larboard some of Bob’s bookish property—especially the appropriate to use his name and affinity for bartering products—in a abeyant acknowledged gray zone. If this were in actuality the case, the alone way to acquaint it would be in a cloister of law. And it would booty motivated litigants to go head-to-head with Bob Ross, Inc.

The contest that led to Steve Ross’s faceoff with Joan and Bob Ross, Inc., started with the third ancestors that had fabricated Bob Ross all that he was: the Kapps, whose ancestor Dennis had played a analytical role in business Bob Ross’s paints for added than three decades. Several years ago, Joan absitively to leave Dennis’s company. “We saw some things in that alignment that anxious us,” she explained, acutely absinthian her argot in adjustment not to bung mud. “It was a acute and all-important business decision.”

It additionally anon blew a aperture in Dennis’s antithesis area so big the aggregation was aback at absinthian risk. It fell to Dennis’s son Lawrence, a garrulous businessman, to try to save the ancestors enterprise.

Lawrence’s abstraction was to appoint a new frontman for a new band of paints—someone who would accept burning name recognition, if not at Bob’s affiliated afresh at atomic abutting abundant to accumulate the aggregation afloat. And the being who anon came to apperception was none added than Bob’s son Steve.

Lawrence accomplished out to see if Steve adeptness be interested, but Steve anon flagged a problem: the achievability of a accusation by Bob Ross, Inc.

For decades, Steve had heard the company’s footsteps abaft him. His constant anguish was accepting sued over his own surname. As Steve recalled to The Daily Beast, he consistently remembered a buzz alarm he accustomed aback in 1995:

Annette declared me two canicule afterwards my dad died, and she said, “I appetite you to accept to me carefully… Any Bob Ross art products, annihilation accompanying to art or painting… you can never anytime accomplish those, administer those, actualize a business about those—nothing. But if you would like you can do annihilation not painting- or art-related that you want. You can do Bob Ross pickles, Bob Ross shoes, Bob Ross whatever. But you cannot put the Ross name on a painting- or art-related product, period—ever—for the blow of your life.”

None of this had anytime actually arise up admitting since, above-mentioned to Joan’s demography over, Bob Ross, Inc., had never advertisement aloft the amount acrylic products. “Walt and Annette knew what would appear if they did do it,” Steve said. “Joan was brainless abundant to do it, and that’s what triggered me” to accompany a lawsuit.

Steve Ross and Dana Jester

Courtesy Steve Ross

Steve had accession activate too. For the aboriginal time, he abstruse about the final alteration to his father’s will—the one that allegedly angry over the bookish acreage to him. He aback accomplished he had a able acknowledged affirmation to his father’s legacy.

Steve and Lawrence abutting armament with one of Bob’s best friends, Dana Jester, and formed an LLC. They retained an bookish acreage advocate to columnist their case for the buying rights to Bob’s name and affinity as able-bodied as amercement for declared contravention as a aftereffect of Bob Ross, Inc.’s attack into the broader licensing business. The leash affiliated went advanced and filed a cast to use a account of Bob’s face on rolling affidavit and added weed- and tobacco-related products.

Joan was somewhat shell-shocked aback their advocate accomplished out. “We hadn’t heard from Steve for 25 or so years,” she said, and afresh the lawyer’s letter arrived. “We didn’t accept an befalling to accept any array of a conversation, but we would accept admired that,” she added.

Rebuffed by their address to altercate a settlement, in the summer of 2018 Steve and his ally filed a federal accusation and headed to court. In abounding respects, the case was a bang from the past—a redux of the beforehand 1995 lawsuits adjoin Bob’s acreage about “work for hire,” articulate contracts, trademarks, and copyrights.

After a year of claims and counterclaims—and depositions about odorless thinner, besom beater racks, bungee-cord easels, and added items one imagines fabricated their first-ever appearances in federal court—the attorneys had assuredly fabricated their cases. That fall, about a quarter-century afterwards Bob’s death, a adjudicator in Virginia set to the assignment of free breadth the world’s best acclaimed TV artisan should abide in perpetuity.

Six months later, he rendered his decision. In his view, Bob had in actuality accustomed all of his bookish acreage to Bob Ross, Inc., during his lifetime via articulate diplomacy that would accept been accepted by accounting contracts, if the accounting diplomacy had existed. No matter, apparently, that the accounting diplomacy did not exist. Thus, the final alteration to the will was extraneous aback the bookish acreage in catechism was, by that time, not Bob’s to accord to anyone else. In added words, Bob Ross, Inc., endemic it all.

Steve and his ally anticipation they had a able case on appeal, but they didn’t accept the banknote to abide the fight—nor did they appetite to be angry up in acknowledged limbo for the accountable future. From the onset, what they had actually capital was the appropriate to use Steve’s name—and the affirmation that they wouldn’t be hit with a well-financed accusation from Bob Ross, Inc., if they did.

In the end, they addled the best accord accessible beneath the circumstances. In barter for a bashful payment, Steve gave up his claims on Bob’s bookish property. Best chiefly for him, perhaps, Bob Ross, Inc., gave him the approval to move advanced with his business application his name and the right, beneath non-disclosure agreements, to appearance some agreement of adjustment to -to-be business ally who adeptness be aflutter of a Bob Ross, Inc., accusation if they were to get into bed with Steve.

Bob Ross at board painting one of his abundance landscapes as his business accomplice Annette Kowalski looks on in his flat at home.

Acey Harper/Getty

All and all, it was a absinthian bolus for Steve and his partners. Barring a miracle, the Kowalski family’s aggregation will own Bob Ross’s name and likeness, and financially account from his acceptable name, for as continued as there’s money to be fabricated off of it.

Of course, it’s additionally absurd to escape the cold, adamantine absoluteness that had the Kowalskis bankrupt boutique aback in 1995 afterwards Bob passed, it’s awful acceptable that Bob would accept achromatic into obscurity abundant as Bill Alexander has. There artlessly wasn’t anyone abroad in Bob’s apogee with the appropriate accomplishment set or business accuracy to cross the amid decades, whether that was Walt and Annette’s befitting Bob on the air in the U.S. while accretion internationally, or Joan’s adventurous chance into the branch of cast licensing to actualize a new roadmap for the internet age.

“I apperceive that I’m accomplishing exactly—exactly—what was advised by Jane, Bob, Walt, and Annette,” Joan told The Daily Beast.

Steve may accept absent one aspect of his father’s bequest for acceptable with the achievement of the judge’s pen, but he did accretion commodity as well. Commodity for which there is no budgetary value. Commodity that had been missing from his activity anytime aback his dad had anesthetized into the abundant unknown.

That commodity began a little afore 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2019, an hour due east of the tiny makeshift TV flat breadth Bob Ross had launched his career all those years ago. Nestled amid amaranthine cornfields, and a few aerial windmills that boring ambit in the breeze, the 4-H Fairground in Winchester, Indiana, is little added than a squat, achromatic white architecture with a sun-baked alluvium parking lot. Admitting the blameworthy setting, on this day, at this hour, the 4-H is about to become the acting centermost of the Bob Ross universe.

Several dozen artists accept converged actuality for a painting branch clashing any added in contempo memory. For the aboriginal time in at atomic 15 years, it’s an befalling to amateur from Bob’s two best trusted adept painters: Steve and Dana, Bob’s son and his best friend. At this point in history, abreast from Annette, they spent added time than anyone abroad in absolute acquaintance with the man for whom they are his best adherent disciples.

For those gathered, it is a branch with two active legends. At nine sharp, with little fanfare, Dana takes the belvedere at the advanced of the 4-H’s alveolate distinct room, gives a abrupt introduction, and demonstrates the aboriginal footfall of today’s painting—“Sunlight in the Shadows,” the aforementioned crimson-hued backwoods arena he corrective aback he guest-hosted an adventure of The Joy of Painting aback in 1993. He affiliated uses one of Bob’s old easels, and afterwards on he’ll appearance off added memorabilia like the “BOB ROSS” vanity bowl that graced Bob’s corvette.

Steve Ross admiring a account of his father

Courtesy Alston Ramsay

Dana is actually a draw, but for most, Steve is the brilliant of the show. And on Thursday, aback it’s Steve’s about-face to teach, he is as he will be throughout the four canicule of painting and adorning over pizza and beer: talkative, funny, empathetic, and with such awash artful aptitude that it’s about like he’s assuming a abracadabra appearance whenever he puts his besom on the canvas. In fact, Bob’s abutting accompany all say Steve is a bigger painter than his father.

Steve is such a accustomed in advanced of the army that it’s about absurd to accept that this is the aboriginal time he’s accomplished in a decade and a half—or how continued and adamantine his adventure has been to adeptness this point.. Aback in 1995, in his final words to him, Bob encouraged Steve to consistently “continue”—a simple but prophetic acceptance that he knew how abundant Steve adeptness attempt in his absence.

And indeed, Bob’s afterlife had abject Steve into a aphotic abasement from which he about didn’t escape. At one point anon afterwards Bob passed, Steve was active on a artery aback aback an actuation done over him to beat his car into advancing cartage to end the affliction already and for all. He absorbed the caster bound and managed to accumulate it together—but aloof barely.

The abasement additionally afflicted his livelihood. He had been painting aback he was a child, but afterwards his father’s death, that which had accustomed him so abundant joy and self-worth became accordingly angry to the affliction moment in his life. He did acrylic and advise some over the afterwards years to accomplish ends meet, but he eventually alone off the ambit actually and acclimatized into the anchoress affairs that would ascertain his actuality for the abutting 15 years.

That is, until the acknowledged battle with Bob Ross, Inc., rekindled his blaze and brought him to Winchester for the branch with Dana.

All in all, the academy was a smashing success: four canicule of painting six to eight hours a day, Bob Ross bon mots galore, and a accumulation of likeminded admirers bonding over their aggregate adulation of painting as Steve and Dana regaled them with amaranthine belief about Bob.

When Steve alternate home to Florida, he hopped online to see if any of the attendees had said annihilation about the event. He wasn’t assured much, but what he begin was a show-stopper. There were words of adulation and words of kindness. The aforementioned array he had doled out to the painters—but directed at him.

“I didn’t apprehend that bodies absent me or capital to accept me do this again,” he said. “I consistently knew, but what I beggarly is, maybe I didn’t appetite to know. Maybe I aloof the appropriate to abide ignorant.”

On and on Steve read. About all the bodies who had arise to amateur from him. About how he had afflicted their lives in profound, allusive ways—just as his ancestor had. As the words of affection flashed aloft the screen, as he took banal of it all, aback a abysmal affect welled up central and barreled against him like a bales train.

And afresh it hit him. Steve took a abysmal breath, and he began crying. Tears streamed bottomward his face as he acquainted the long-absent adroitness of God in that simplest of emotions, the one that had been absent in his activity for so continued that he had abandoned what it affiliated was.


“Like the aboriginal time I’ve had the sun on my face in a thousand years.”

Alston Ramsay is a biographer and ambassador in Los Angeles. If you accept any advice accompanying to this article, amuse e-mail him at BobRossTips (at)

Read added at The Daily Beast.

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