For the second episode of SHOW YOUR WORK! I tried to tell the story of the famous PBS star and painter Bob Ross and his rivalry with his painting teacher, Bill Alexander. (Read the full story here.)
It was hard to find a lot of good information about their relationship — most of this was gleaned from the documentary, Bob Ross: The Happy Painter (which only mentions their beginning, not the falling out), and this 1991 New York Times article, “Bob Ross, the Frugal Gourmet of Painting.”
Alexander Art has a terrific YouTube channel full of videos of Alexander painting.
There were a lot of ways you could go with the story (What happens when a gift becomes a business? Steal Like An Artist, etc.) but I was thinking mostly about what it means to be a mentor and what it means to be a protege.
Here’s a melancholy clip of Alexander that I thought was too sad in the context to use — he talks about how there’s always “new blood” coming in, and it’s okay to “make a buck” from painting, and how when he’s in heaven it will make him proud to see everyone painting:
And here’s a pic of Bill and Bob from the doc:
I like to think they reconciled before Ross’s death in 1995. (Alexander died two years later.) Maybe they’re up in heaven, painting together. Who knows.
Favorite story I had to cut for time/relevance: Bob Ross struggled so much in the early days that he got his famous perm to try save on haircuts. When his business partners made it his logo, he was stuck with it forever, and he always hated it.
Another interesting tidbit: Bob always had a reference painting off camera in the studio to copy off of — what looks like spontaneity was actually very planned. He was a terrific showman and knew how to play into his image. (I also believe he really, really loved to paint and teach.)
Speaking of showmanship, Patton Oswalt has a really funny skit parodying their different styles—Alexander with his lusty German “ZEE MIGHTY BRUSH!” and Ross’s hippy-ish “happy little trees.”
I’m having a lot of fun making these videos — trying to keep the production fast and dirt simple, using only Keynote for the animations, Garageband for recording the sound, and Quicktime Pro to cut it all together. I like the constraint of those primitive tools.
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