Award-winning quilt “Happy Stitching” depicting Bob Ross and some of his favorite small animals. photo by Sue Stafford
Award-winning quilt “Happy Stitching” depicting Bob Ross and some of his favorite small animals. photo by Sue Stafford
One hundred and fifty quilts on display at the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District Community Hall for the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show (SOQS) captured the essence of iconic PBS painter Bob Ross. The 20-by-20-inch quilts shown in Sisters were only a portion of the 450 quilts entered in the annual Cherrywood Fabrics Challenge.

Looking remarkably like the real Bob Ross, SOQS President Jeff Omodt was on hand, complete with curly brown wig and beard. He greeted visitors, posed for photos, and explained the process behind the display. This was the fifth year Cherrywood sent their challenge quilt exhibit to Sisters. It started with “Wicked,” using only Day-Glo green and black, followed by “Lion King” in three shades of gold and one black, “Van Gogh,” with three blues and a black, and “Prince” in three purples and a black.

The colors of this year’s fabrics came directly from the color palette Ross used in his paintings — one blue, two greens, one yellow, one gold, and a brown. Each quilter could only use the designated Cherrywood hand-dyed cotton fabrics and then add a variety of embellishments including beads, embroidery, and paint.

Many of the quilts included iterations of Ross’s face as well as the small animals and trees he loved, especially squirrels. Others were designed around one or more of Ross’s favorite “Bobisms” — “A happy little accident,” “Everyone should have a friend, even a tree,” and “I love water.”

The Ross exhibit was particularly meaningful to Sisters Middle School art teacher Judy Fuentes and her art students. To more fully engage her art students during the hybrid part of the school year, she assigned them a Bob Ross painting video to watch on YouTube (season 28, episode 4) while at home. Students also read his biography. Then, when they were together in class, they watched it again as they painted along with Ross and Fuentes.

The teacher took on Ross’s persona when she donned a curly brown wig and glued a beard on her COVID-19 face mask for the class.

“It was an awesome experience with the kids,” Fuentes said. “They all created something awesome.”

She wanted them all doing the same thing at the same time so they could each see their own ability and capability.

Fuentes believes that Ross was a good role model, beyond his artistic ability. His optimistic view of life, expressed in his “Bobisms,” and his soothing, calming voice were positives for the students. They learned about his background and “how he got where he was going,” providing inspiration to young teens.

Special education teacher Susie Werts put Fuentes in touch with Omodt when she learned about this year’s Bob Ross Cherrywood Challenge and saw the connection with Fuentes’s Ross curriculum.

Several of Fuentes’s art students brought their parents to a special showing of the Cherrywood exhibit last Thursday, where they were able to see the quilters’ interpretations of Ross’s work. Eighth-grader Alexandra Imel has gone on to do several more paintings inspired by Ross’s work.

Next year, the Cherrywood Challenge theme will be “Princess Diana.” For information, email challenge@cherrywoodfabrics.com.