Bob Ross painted more than 1,000 landscapes for “The Joy of Painting,” a show that ran for 31 seasons on public television and still airs daily. (It’s likely playing somewhere in the world as you read this sentence.) But when one of our colleagues tried to purchase a painting by Ross, things got interesting. What seemed like a simple question led us down a rabbit hole that let us tell the untold story of a cultural icon — a story hidden in plain sight. “Where Are All the Bob Ross Paintings?” is the video account of the search that followed. It was published on July 21, 2019.
Using in-office interviews, a trove of archival footage, access to Ross’s original paintings and clever documentation of the online communities that revolve around him, we developed a dynamic narrative approach that brought readers along for the journey, allowing them to enjoy the many surprises and delights in the same way that we experienced them.
Jump-cuts, annotations, chapters and music are just a few of the editing techniques that allowed our team to weave the past and present in conversation with one another, while maintaining the video’s light, dynamic energy.
Annette’s movie-star monologue, Joan’s Smithsonian slip-up, Sarah’s self-talk while opening the cardboard boxes, and Walt’s surprising previous career would all likely find themselves on the cutting room floor for a traditional piece of news storytelling. By short-circuiting the standard three-act structure, we were able to capture the attention of a fleeting online audience and develop a narrative style that to us, felt like a fresh approach for The New York Times.