Bob Ross Inc paints a painful picture

“Bob Ross; Happy Accidents, Betrayal, and Greed” is both a scathing exposé of Bob Ross Inc. and a beautiful recollection of an artist’s life and legacy. 

Bob Ross’ life before becoming a public figure sets the scene for the beginning of the documentary, while being accompanied by his only son, Steve Ross. The doting father then quits his career to pursue his true love; teaching others how to paint. This transition makes for a crucial backdrop to the troubles that unfold later on.

Business partner Annette Kowalski, who denied the request to be interviewed for the documentary, took a special interest in Bob’s newfound work. However she was blinded by the possibility of profiting monetarily from it, while Bob was merely “in it for the art,” Steve Ross said. This difference in values meant Bob’s face and name were plastered on the front of every paint supply imaginable, yet Bob had no idea of or interest in what kind of money Kowalski was reeling in. In 1994, the painter was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which led to his tragic death at 52. Despite being faced with constant physical pain, he insisted on teaching for as long as possible.

Although the artist was flooded with mostly messages of love and support during his diagnosis, Kowlaski saw his illness as a segue into getting the rights to his name. Steve recalls his father’s final weeks of life being constantly interrupted by the Kowlaski’s vehement demands. In Bob’s final will and testament, he left his rights to his name and company to his son, Steve, and half-brother, Jimmie Coxx. The Kowlaskis countered with a lawsuit, which they eventually won. The Kowalskis are now full owners over the once-shared company, and Steve has not received any of the profits. With Steve and Jimmie having been the rightful owners of Bob’s rights and company, I cannot help but feel as though the Kowalskis stole what was not rightfully theirs. In this instance one can also doubt the justice system in which a powerful family can counter a last will and testament despite not being related to that person or acting on good intentions.

Despite every obstacle thrown his way, Steve continues to teach students how to express themselves through art as Bob once did. Reflecting beautifully on the millions of people who are inspired by Bob’s influence and charisma, the ending minutes of the documentary shed light on what was truly important about Bob’s life. Although the ending scenes were catered to influence positivity, the documentary as a whole is a clear call-to-action: most prominently to help Steve Ross see the rights to his own father’s name and business.

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