Meditation app draws on artist's voice to lull listeners to sleep

NEW YORK • Artist Bob Ross did not lose any sleep after getting letters from people who said they dozed off easily when his show - The Joy Of Painting - was on.

Now, the maker of a meditation app hopes Ross - who died in 1995 - will put everyone else to sleep too.

Calm.com, which produces meditation products, is recasting classic episodes of the PBS show The Joy Of Painting into Sleep Stories, an audio series designed to ease the burden of insomniacs.

It is the first time the company that manages Ross' estate has agreed to license audio of the show that turned Ross into a celebrity in the 1990s and, after his death, a pop culture favourite on YouTube.

"We asked ourselves: 'What would Bob do?'" said Ms Joan Kowalski, president of Bob Ross Inc, which oversees licensing of his brand name. "Using his voice to help put people to sleep? He would love that."

Ross was born in 1942 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

In 1961, he enlisted in the air force, where he served for two decades. He started his life as an artist painting trees on metal pans.

In 1983, he began hosting The Joy Of Painting, which attracted viewers enamoured of his soulful witticisms ("We don't make mistakes. We have happy accidents.") and the soothing swish of his painter's brush on canvas.

Even then, his folksy demeanour garnered a lot of attention. In 1993, he was featured in promotions for MTV. His technique, called "wet-on-wet", allowed him to finish painting a scene in about 30 minutes.

Ross said he was not paid to do the show. Instead, he made millions selling how-to books and painting videotapes, and licensing his name for paints, brushes and easels.

He acknowledged, too, that his honeyed voice caused some viewers to nod off. "They watch it strictly for entertainment value or relaxation," Ross told The Orlando Sentinel.

Mr Michael Acton Smith, a founder of Calm, said he was browsing in a bookstore in San Francisco's Noe Valley more than a year ago when he came across Ross' Happy Little Accidents: The Wit And Wisdom Of Bob Ross.

He grew up in Marlow, near London, and had not heard of Ross.

He looked him up online and came across his show. "His voice blew me away," he said.

He contacted Bob Ross Inc to see if it would allow Calm to use audio from The Joy Of Painting for its sleep series. The first instalment made its debut last week, with two more to come this summer.

If they prove popular, Mr Smith said Calm could do more.

Ms Kowalski said it was the first time a company had licensed audio from the show, although it once let a maker of a bobblehead doll use recordings of Ross' favourite lines.

"We hear from people almost daily who are going onto YouTube to hear his voice," she said.

"People back in the day were shy to tell him they fell asleep listening to him. They thought it would insult him. He loved it."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2018, with the headline 'Meditation app draws on artist's voice to lull listeners to sleep'. Print Edition | Subscribe