A Popular Relaxation App Has Transformed Bob Ross’s ‘The Joy of Painting’ Into an Arty Sleep Aid

artnet News | Sarah Cascone

There’s no denying that a huge part of the appeal of Bob Ross (1942–1995), creator and host of the instructional public television show The Joy of Painting, was his soothing, almost hypnotic voice, waxing poetic about “happy little trees” as he created his signature landscapes. But can Ross’s mellow monologues help insomniacs get a good night’s sleep? Calm, a meditation and sleep app with 22 million users, is convinced that hearing Ross’s baritone can help listeners catch some much-need z’s. The app, which specializes in “sleep stories”—i.e. bedtime stories that are supposed to help listeners fall asleep—has added Ross to its line up, in response to what it says is overwhelming demand. “Before there were Calm’s Sleep Stories, there was Bob Ross. Now you can get both at once,” said Alex Tew, who cofounded Calm in 2012, in a statement. “We’ve had so many Calm users asking us for a Sleep Story with Bob Ross. He was and still is a hero to the hard of sleeping.”

Without the visuals, The Joy of Painting becomes an experience in chill, Ross’s steady, even tones accompanied by the swishing sound of the paintbrush and the soft scrape of the palette knife. The basic components of an episode of Ross’s beloved TV show are actually shockingly similar to a present-day YouTube phenomena called ASMR videos, which look to trigger the so-called “autonomous sensory meridian response”—spine tingles, accompanied by a sense of drowsiness. ASMR videos often feature young women whispering, crinkling paper, and using household materials to make other calming sounds. Ross, it seems, is the ASMR OG.

Craig Richard, professor in the department of biopharmaceutical sciences at Shenandoah University in Virginia and an ASMR researcher, believes that Ross was channeling the ASMR effect years before it became an online sensation. “I remembered coming home from school as a kid, flipping channels and stopping on Bob Ross because his voice was so magical,” he told the Star Tribune. “I’d set up a big floor pillow and fall asleep halfway through. I don’t think I ever watched him finish a painting.”…read more

Image: A Bob Ross Sleep Story on Calm. Image courtesy of Calm