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Bob Ross’ ‘The Joy of Painting’ series revival brings audiences 7 unseen Ross paintings

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  • A new TV series continues Bob Ross’ “The Joy of Painting” with a new instructor, Nicholas Hankins, who recreates Bob Ross’ final paintings.
  • Ross created seven paintings intended to be used in season 32 of “The Joy of Painting” before he passed away from cancer in 1995.
  • Interest in Bob Ross surged when people were stuck in their homes during the pandemic.

A new generation can learn how to paint happy trees and to make happy accidents with a TV series teaching the Bob Ross method of painting using some of the prolific artist’s work that have never been seen before.

Before Ross died in 1995 from cancer, he had completed seven paintings to use in season 32 of “The Joy of Painting.”

“He was so sick, but he was still working on his next series because he wanted to be able to keep going,” said Joan Kowalski, President of Bob Ross, Inc. Her parents, Annette and Walt Kowalski, co-founded the company with Ross.

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Those works were stored away for almost three decades. Certified Bob Ross instructor Nicholas Hankins has studied those seven paintings and paints them from scratch on camera in “The Joy of Painting with Nicholas Hankins: Bob Ross’ Unfinished Season,” which started airing this spring in some markets on American Public Television. Some episodes are available on PBS’ website.

The opportunity to “take these paintings and do what Bob ultimately wanted done with them, (to) have them out in the world making people happy is gratifying” said Hankins recently over Zoom. He teaches at the Bob Ross Art Workshop and Gallery about 15 miles from Daytona Beach, Florida, and oversees instructor certification. Hankins also uses six of his own paintings in this new “Joy of Painting,” which was filmed and produced at WDSC-TV Daytona State College.

“I think that Bob would be incredibly proud of how we’re doing this,” said Kowalski. “There aren’t really many things that come our way where we have to wonder, what should we do? Bob was very specific in how he wanted this whole thing to go into the future.”

Nicholas Hankins is seen in the studio during a taping of "The Joy of Painting with Nicholas Hankins: Bob Ross' Unfinished Season."

Nicholas Hankins is seen in the studio during a taping of “The Joy of Painting with Nicholas Hankins: Bob Ross’ Unfinished Season.” (Derek Sanford/WDSC-TV via AP)

Hankins is a familiar face to Ross devotees. His own teaching videos posted to the Bob Ross YouTube channel drew upwards of 300,000 views before the idea of TV was ever mentioned.

Kowalski is fascinated by the online response to Hankin’s videos. “People notice that Nick is not at all trying to be Bob, and he’s delivering naturally as himself and yet there’s still that same sort of feeling you get watching Bob.”

A surge of interest in all things Bob Ross came out of the pandemic, when people were staying home and looking for ways to pass time. Now, with so many distractions, it can seem like there aren’t enough hours in a day to unwind and rest. If viewers don’t tune in for a painting lesson, Hankins hopes his 30-minute “Joy of Painting” episodes helps people to relax in the same spirit as the originals.

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“I hope I can carry that part of the legacy on,” he said. “I want to genuinely create an environment where people are going to come in, take half an hour and just turn off the world. Right now is a time we need it.”

Kowalski says people used to sheepishly tell Ross “all the time” that they would fall asleep to his episodes, but he didn’t mind. “He said, ‘I love hearing that you’ve never watched a full episode of me.’”

If you want to paint along, Hankins said you need basic materials like oil colors, an easel, canvas, and brushes. “But if they’re just watching all they need is a tall glass of iced tea. “That was Bob’s thing,” he said, “get some iced tea and kick back and watch.”

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