116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
BETTENDORF — The iconic art and mannerisms of artist Bob Ross — the big-haired artist who made painting accessible with phrases like “happy little trees” for years on PBS — are famous around the world. For a Bettendorf family, his legend hits closer to home.
Paul Fields and Bob Ross met while serving in the U.S. Air Force in Alaska. The two quickly formed a friendship that would last a lifetime. The pair became so close that Fields named his son Craig Ross Fields in honor of the artist.
Ross first started painting while on that Air Force base. Through the years he perfected his unique style of painting mostly landscapes based on wet-on-wet technique, according to the Bob Ross Inc. website. Ross’ PBS television show, “The Joy of Painting” first aired in 1982 and became a hit. Part of that success came from Ross’ willingness to travel the country offering talks and classes at malls.
His mellow, upbeat style struck a chord, and though he died in 1995, he remains embedded in popular culture. Four hundred episodes live on via public television and YouTube, and his company’s website offers painting classes, teacher certifications and Bob Ross swag.
Fields collected Ross’ original works. The prolific artist didn’t sell his work, but some were donated to PBS stations, according to a New York Times profile. They rarely come on the commercial market.
“These pieces are so valuable, and hopefully are passed down through the family,” Craig Fields said.
Ross inscribed a message on the back of one of the paintings Craig Fields now owns. It reads, “No one could ever be more proud of a namesake than I am of you. I wish for you a future filled with success and happiness. God bless my friend — Bob Ross 1993.”
The Fields’ collection includes four paintings, a set of carved figures and two painted platters.
“We know everything is original artwork. We hope to get them authenticated,” Fields said.
That authentication has to be done in person, at Bob Ross Inc. in Virginia. So this summer, the Fields family plans to take a road trip. It’s important to them to keep the paintings safe and have the art on record.
“To our family, these paintings are priceless. Bob Ross art can’t even be bought, so these are even more special to us,” Fields said.
The Fields family has no plans to sell the works.
“These pieces are a big deal to my father. He has lots of good memories and stories, so the art means a lot to him,” Craig Fields said.