Which painters are like Bob Ross

Probably no one has ever painted pictures more lovingly before, especially not on television: In 403 episodes of his TV series "The Joy of Painting", Bob Ross put landscapes on paper from 1983 to 1994, and his works now reach five-figure amounts on Ebay. While he was painting, he spoke in a soft voice of "happy little trees", or of "fluffy clouds". His trademarks: perm, soft voice, American optimism, every work of art was ready after 26 minutes. A Bob Ross Museum has now opened in the United States, in Muncie, Indiana, where his TV show was recorded. At the opening there was a Bob Ross Lookalike competition that Brett Estes, 37, won - at his side his wife Shantelle, 38, disguised as a tree. In a video interview, they tell how it came about.

SZ: Oh, you look very different from the winning photo!

Shantelle Estes: I have no leaves on my head, and Brett, well, his hair ...

Brett Estes: I was one of the few with a real Bob Ross hairstyle, even if it's just a wig. It goes perfectly with my beard and is the same color. I think it also helped to have a "happy little tree" by my side in Shantelle.

Shantelle Estes: I was the only tree.

The "happy little trees" were very important in Bob Ross' work: In 91 percent of his pictures, a statistician once found out, at least one tree appears. He often painted a second one with the comment: "Everybody needs a friend. Even a tree" - everyone needs a friend, including a tree.

Shantelle Estes: On the other hand, he hardly painted any people. He lived in Alaska for more than 20 years when he was with the Air Force. It's lonely there, few people. Maybe that's the reason.

How many competitors did you have in the competition?

Brett Estes: About 30. I might have had a bit of an advantage, I've gone as Bob Ross a couple of times, at Halloween parties and once in a costume contest on a cruise. Some even wanted to take a picture with me because I reminded them so much of Bob. Then when Shantelle found out about the competition, she said: A Bob Ross lookalike competition, in your hometown, you have to go there! Actually, I should have worked. But my boss released me.

Shantelle Estes: I quickly took care of my costume with the help of my sister, she has a degree in design. We took a black t-shirt, artificial leaves usually used as autumn decorations at home, hot glue, done. I'm particularly proud of the leggings, they look like bark.

What was the price?

Brett: Here, I'll show you - a Bob Ross bobble-head with a big brush.

They live in Muncie, the town where Bob Ross recorded his television shows. Have you ever met him?

Brett Estes: Oh no, unfortunately not. Rumor has it that he tried to date one of my friends' mom a long time ago.

He must have been a special person, for example he had a squirrel as a pet.

Brett Estes: Peapod, I think that shows up in his pictures too.

He didn't like his perm at some point, but he didn't dare cut it off because it was his trademark.

Shantelle Estes: He always wore jeans and a blue shirt because he thought: it's so classic, it will never go out of style.

Brett Estes: And he spoke in a very special way, softly, gently.

Shantelle Estes: I heard it was also a reaction to his time in the military. He didn't like the way people yelled at.

When he painted, he didn't speak of mistakes, but of "happy little accidents" that should be embraced. Did this attitude contribute to its popularity?

Brett Estes: I think so, mistakes are human too. There is no reason to give up because of it, you should just keep going or just keep painting.

You look astonishingly like Bob Ross - can you paint like him?

Brett Estes: Oh god, no, I'm not a painter.

Shantelle Estes: Me neither. But now I would like to try it out.

Many Bob Ross fans probably just watch him and don't even paint. His programs are still running, also in Germany. What do you think makes them so fascinating?

Brett Estes: You calm down. Himself, his voice, the pictures: it's all very peaceful. Maybe you need that more than ever.