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Alexander Cruz's public statement about the Netflix documentary


     As many of you know, I am one of Bob Ross's certified instructors since 1992 and took several seminars and classes of completed works with Bob Ross himself.  I was at the first CRI meeting in Daytona Beach, FL, the only CRI’s meeting that Bob Ross attended.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet him and, in addition of being my teacher and mentor, to be able to call him my friend.  I was only 17 years old when I met him but with his grace and fatherly tenderness, he adopted me as one of his own.  He never missed an opportunity to give me positive advice and put big dreams in my head.  From all our conversations, I will always remember what he wanted from me, which was to keep the dream of painting and the hope of becoming an oasis for all the new talents in painting.  “Anybody can paint” he told me, “but with instructors like you it can be better achieved.”  Since then, I have maintained with honor and respect the desire of my teacher to continue awakening the interest in the art of painting of thousands of people.

     My certification began in 1992 and since then, I have worked day by day with all my love and dedication thanks to the motivations I received from my mentor, Bob Ross.  During this certification I also had the joy of meeting his talented son, Steve Ross, and Dana Jester.  They also made me part of their friends immediately. Because I was so young, the three of them welcomed me as if I were the group's mascot, their little brother or their son.  Both Dana and Bob fondly called me “Felix the Cat” and corrected my attempts to speak English.  They were my defenders, my friends.  I felt at home with relatives when I was with them, always taking care of me and guiding me all the way. When Bob died, my pain was as great as if a father had died for me.  
I mourned him for a long time and every time I see a video where he waves goodbye, those feelings of loss are awakened.  It was so much that I stopped painting for six months.  Everything I saw and all his products with his face made me remember him. Until one day I remembered the words my teachers told me that kept going around and around inside my head.  I realized that for his memory to continue I had to continue changing lives towards art as the three of them taught me, especially Bob.

     When I returned to my hometown with this new "Wet on Wet" painting technique,
I was criticized by many traditionalist artists who always saw this technique as a threat instead of seeing it as a way of artistic growth. Thanks to these criticisms, I continued studying various other traditional techniques with various teachers such as Daniel E. Greene, Dana Jester (Bob's best friend) among others, and I completed my university degree with a Bachelor of Visual Arts. After so much study and mastering the art of oil painting, I have developed several collections of paintings that have led me to be in international magazines, in museums and galleries, convention centers, etc. where I have promoted my art but never without forgetting that promise I made to my teacher Norman Robert Ross.

     After the death of Bob Ross, many of us thought that Steve was going to continue with the company, but he did not.  Many of the National Staff teachers wanted Steve to continue but Annette never saw him as sales material and what she wanted was to keep the Bob Ross brand intact without sharing it with his son. Because of this decision, many of the original teachers, faithful to Bob Ross, withdrew from the company.  Even Dana Jester, not with BRI anymore, continued to offer painting workshops in traditional techniques by painting animals.  I took several multi-week seminars in New Jersey, Tennessee and where Dana went, I followed him.  During this time, an interest in painting animals awoke and one of my classmates was Bea Cox.  This person, who also took classes with Dana, (who I called Annette's spy) was the one who brought this theme to Annette Kowalski who also wanted to steal the idea of ​​making a color line and brushes on the subject of wildlife by making a few changes to Dana's technique.  They created acrylic bases to make the "under paintings" instead of doing everything in oil as Dana taught us.  That's where they got the wildlife oil paint tubes under the name Bob Ross Soft.  I don't know what happened to Bea Cox and her works that started this new technique, but I never saw her name on the works or in the company again.

     The friendship I had with Dana Jester was so great that for 2004, 2005 and 2010 I invited him to Puerto Rico to offer painting seminars on wildlife using traditional techniques.  Dana had been working on these techniques before he met Bob and he managed to have my admiration for how well they were performed. During these seminars in Puerto Rico, Dana and I were able to teach more than 100 students.     


     This solidified our friendship to the point that when I visited Denver, Colorado for a NAMTA show I visited his home.  During this visit I ended up buying several works by Dana and had many long conversations about our friend Bob.  He told me that he wanted to make a book telling everything that had happened, his memories and everything that the Kowalskis put him through.  This desire of bringing everything out into the open was always on Steve and Dana's minds but it wasn't until several years later that Dennis Kapp's son, CEO of Martin F. Weber, entered the equation, Lawrence Kapp, who was also suffering from the fact that Joan Kowalski had sent a "divorce" letter to the MFW company and he and many employees would be left unemployed due to the sale of the MFW company. Approximately 50% of the MFW Company's sales were from the production and distribution of Bob Ross materials which, up to that point, were created under the specifications of Bob Ross. This was the moment where Mr. Dennis Kapp, already an elderly person and being ill, decided to sell the company to Chartpak.

     After the death of Bob, the Kowalskis tried to make many changes in the quality of the products, meeting resistance from the MFW company, creating conflicts in the business relationships they had.  MFW executives on several occasions consulted with several of Bob Ross' friends taking into consideration the integrity and respect we had for Bob.  “What do you think Ross would think of this?”  They told me every time the Kowalskis came up with an absurd idea.  They even did a "Bob Ross Paint by Number" as an attempt to make more money marketing the Bob Ross name but it was all a loss.  It did not get public appreciation for being so cheap and of poor quality.  I remember telling them when they came up with this idea, “In and of itself, the Wet on Wet Painting technique has been criticized by traditionalists and on top of that they want to sell Paint by Number, something that has had little respect in the art world.  That is a very bad idea! That would damage Bob Ross's name.” Still, by demands of the Kowalskis it was done.  They also made 4 puzzles out of four Bob Ross paintings which were also unsuccessful. Always trying to get money from his brand; that was always Bob Ross for the Kowalskis and it was seen from miles away to this day.


     In 2010, I signed with the Martin F. Weber company to make a series of educational DVDs with step-by-step instructions for creating bird paintings.  I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Dennis Kapp and his son Lawrence Kapp.  Two people completely passionate and oriented to the art business but with different visions who became very good friends.  I traveled to Frankfurt, Germany for three consecutive years to promote Weber DVDs and products.  I met and became good friends with Mr. Michael Gorak, President of MFW.  I shared many dinners and long conversations with all of them and learned a lot from them and from all the stories related to Bob, Many with evidence and witnesses of things that had happened. During art shows in Germany and the United States, I shared a room with Gorak and Lawrence Kapp.  They were my roommates to save the company an extra room. Those were weeks of hard but rewarding work as we made many new contacts and businesses.  Thanks to these shows, many of MFW's clients hired me to do workshops in different parts of the world.  These shows helped me to travel to Spain, the United States and especially two tours in Taiwan of 20 days each, where I had the opportunity to teach hundreds of students and get to know more than 6 large cities in this beautiful country.


     For a long time, the idea of finding another artist in the MFW company, who would make the same sales that Bob Ross had gotten them, was on Dennis Kapp's mind. He knew that if something like this was done it had to be by himself and not through the Bob Ross Company. That is why, in search of this other artist to fill those shoes Dennis approached me and said, “I want you to be the next Bob Ross”. But to this I replied, “I want to be Alexander Cruz, not Bob Ross.  I respect my teacher so much that I don't want to be his imitator”.  Of course, now I understood what he meant.  He wanted to create other artists and make them famous to create sales of materials just like they did with Bob.  The Kapp had several future plans for the company, most notably Lawrence, who was to be Dennis Kapp's successor.  He had many dreams and plans for the future of MFW but they were shattered when his father decided to sell because of the loss of business that Joan Kowalski took from MFW.

I've always said, "If it's not broken, why fix it!"  A saying a former MFW employee taught me. Already the MFW company had everything running on four wheels. They had the production and distribution of all Bob Ross products, but years of business lacerations and Joan Kowalskis ambition caused her to make a very wrong decision which had dire consequences for both Bob Ross Inc. and Martin F. Weber and all the artists that were inside MFW.  When Chartpak bought MFW, they took out more than 80% of the products that MFW sold including all their artists: Susan Scheewe, Donna Dewberry, Bruce Blitz, John Howard Sanden and myself, Alexander Cruz among others.  This decision affected the businesses of several people but that is not surprising since from the beginning the Kowalskis have always had that culture of hurting the businesses of others for them to be in charge.  Crush the weakest to profit and sell what they want; the mentality of “quítate tú para ponerme yo” "get out of my way, so I can take over" a very famous saying in Puerto Rico.    

Many years ago, they got the Jenkins out of the race by stealing their business ideas and trying to get them off even television.  There are many Jenkins stories that were not told in this Netflix documentary but that many of us know and resent because of how greedy and malicious the Kowalskis were against the Jenkins.  Those stories will come out to the public but not in a documentary that talks about Bob Ross. Both Gary and Katherine Jenkins have the same right to tell their stories and bring them out into the open as Steve and Dana.  The Jenkins were the most affected in all this by the Kowalskis.  I was very happy to have seen them in the Bob Ross documentary on Netflix but the truth is that they did not get the almost 4 hours of interview they did with them.  They only got 2% of everything they said according to what Katherine told me.


     As for this documentary that came out on Netflix, there is no doubt that everyone who spoke and everything they said is 100% real and true.  Now a Pandora's box has just been opened and in the next few days we are going to see the Kowalskis (I don't like to call them the Bob Ross Company) trying to do damage control. Now they are posing as saints saying all the good they have done in order to allude to the feelings of all of us who really follow Bob Ross' dream using words like "legacy" and "memory." Those of us who knew him know that Bob Ross would never have left a "legacy" of commerce where his image was sold to the highest bidder, he would never have left a "legacy" where the company officials ignored their true warriors that we are, the CRIs, he would never have left the "legacy" of lowering the quality of their materials to have a better profit, and much less would have left us with the "memory" of abuse and outrage that the Kowalskis did indeed leave, for those who worked with them and who until today have profited with their name.  I am not a person to promote hatred but I am a person to do justice. Thanks to my entire artistic career, I have earned the prestige and reputation of being a person of integrity and good human principles.  I have earned the respect of thousands of followers and the love of many with whom I share this dream that Bob Ross planted in my heart.

     For my part, I will continue to be one of you, a CRI teacher, but I will not continue to support or promote the sale of materials from the Bob Ross company since they are below student quality and above all I will no longer support the Kowalskis.  They have failed all the CRIs due to the lack of communication, lack of respect, their indifference to all the demands that the CRIs themselves have had. They have failed us all.  They should be ashamed that they continue to use Bob Ross name that is too big for them. They failed Steve, Dana Jester, the Jenkins, the Kapp family, MFW, all their partners and followers, their audience, but worse still, they failed Bob Ross who must be crying and in a lot of pain with all the damage that they have done to his family.  Shame on you Kowalski!

Alexander Cruz, IAA (International Ambassador Artist by UNESCO)

Copyright © Alexander Cruz 2021. All rights reserved.