“That’ll be our little secret.”
© — Photo by Peter Petipas
This scene of a forest landscape on the side of a white van was made naturally by salt and dirt. Peter Petipas took a photo of it at Monty’s Place in Whitbourne.
Any Bob Ross fan worth their weight in oil paint will recognize the quote from the American painter.
The soft-spoken Ross had his own show — “The Joy of Painting” — on PBS. He used to talk about something being his and the viewers’ little secret when putting a tree somewhere in the background of a painting.
Ross was well known for his scenic nature landscapes.
Now, a picture taken in this province of something that reminds people of Ross is anything but a secret. It has gone viral, with more than one million views on the Internet.
It all started when Peter Petipas was gassing up at his family’s business, Monty’s Place in Whitbourne. A white van pulled up at the pumps next to him, and Petipas noticed the salt and dirt had naturally made a marvellous creation.
“Holy shit. That looks like a painting of something,” Petipas remembers thinking.
And few could argue any different. The side of the van looks as though Ross himself took his brush to make a forest scene.
“I just took a couple of pictures of it and buddy was giving me the stink eye, so I figured I better get out of there before he flips out at me or something,” says Petipas.
A couple of days later, he posted them to Facebook with the intention that he was going to post them to broader social media sites like Reddit and Imagr. However, somebody beat him to it. A Facebook friend had taken the photo unbeknownst to Petipas and already posted it to Reddit. Then it was picked up by Imagr and theCHIVE.com.
“Then it kind of exploded,” says Petipas. “It had 1.5 million views the last time I checked.”
And the comments left about the photo are a fine illustration that Ross, despite having died in 1995, is still a fond memory for many. There are plenty of references to his name, his work and his sayings from the PBS show. And also disbelief that it isn’t a doctored photo.
“The thing that pisses me off the most is I was planning on putting it on Reddit the next day and when I got on the Internet and started posting the picture on everything else besides my Facebook, everyone started in calling me out,” says Petipas.
People started accusing him online of taking credit for somebody else’s photograph.
“I was like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’”
Such animosity may seem very un-Bob Ross-like with his quiet whisper of a voice and calming portraits of land, water and sky, but any painter could probably understand the frustrations of an imposter on one’s work and the desire for recognition.
“I’ve emailed them all asking them to credit me or take it down,” Petipas says of the websites now displaying his photo.
Only theCCHIVE.com has given credit to him. Perhaps in such a situation, a bit of Ross’s philosophy might come in handy. Not just in accepting that the salt and dirt made the scene on their own, but that in doing so, the piece belongs to everyone.
‘There are no mistakes, just happy accidents,” Ross often told his viewers as he painted.