William Paine/The Patriot
The art of Ernie Ross can be seen (and purchased) at the Fine Arts Center for the NRV
William Paine/The Patriot
Ernie Ross stashes one of his art pieces in downtown Pulaski. Ross places his painted rocks in various locations so as to spread the joy of art.
By WILLIAM PAINE
Ernie Ross is a local artist with a penchant for painting rocks … and then losing them … on purpose.
For several years, Ernie Ross taught painting classes at Judi’s Studio, across from the OLD courthouse on West Main Street In Pulaski but … “we finally had to close the doors when a water leak from one of the apartments upstairs messed up the ceiling and destroyed some stuff on the first floor,” Ross explained.
Ross currently displays several pieces of his art, which include depictions of various landscapes painted sawblades, wood boards and, of course rocks, at the Fine Arts Center for the NRV on West Main Street. Other of his works include colorful tiles mounted on tiny tripods, as well as paintings done on conventional canvas.
He is still teaching painting classes. A few months ago, Ross taught an acrylic painting class at the Fine Arts Center but he also goes to Hillsville, Galax and other places in the region to teach. Ross often frequents Assisted Living facilities, where he’s known to offer his services at no charge to the residents.
But what about losing his rocks … on purpose?
“I do more realistic type paintings on rocks and then I hide them different places,” Ross explained. “You know, somebody’s walking by and if they just happen to look down, it might just be in a little corner somewhere. It might be on top of something. I’ve put them amongst the rocks at various churches … but you know. You can find them. That’s the point.”
Ross has left these rocks in the Town of Galax and in various parts of Carroll County but most of his painted rocks end up in and around the greater Pulaski area.
What do people do when they find these rocks?
“It’s a gift,” said Ross. “Sometimes I put on there, ‘You’ve found me. I belong to you now.’ Another says, ‘The Lord made me do it’ and just other little things like that.”
Ross’s painted rocks sometimes find their way into surprising places.
“You know how shopping carts fit together?” Ross asked? “I opened them up and put a rock down there. The next customer comes over and gets a buggy and they think, ‘what in the world is that?’”
“I’ve put a rock in the fruit section of grocery stores,” said Ross with a smile. “So, somebody’s getting oranges and suddenly they find that, right? I even painted one so it looked like a potato on one side and there was a mountain scene on the other side.”
Ernie Ross was born in Carroll County but moved to Colorado at a young age. He came back east to look for his two brothers, whom he hadn’t seen since he was nine years old.
Ernie Ross has lived in Pulaski County since 1971 and he’s been painting even longer.
A woman recently called the Fine Arts Center to find out who painted the painting her mother gave her 50 years ago in Colorado. It turned out to be a Still Art painting signed by a fellow named Ernie Ross. Another art lover, who works at a local hospital, has an Ernie Ross landscape painting that dates back to 1972
Artistic talent seems to run in the family as Ernie Ross’s daughter, Lauren Bobbitt is also a fine artist who, along with her husband, makes illustrations for Marvel Comic books.
Ernie is also kin to his more famous cousin Bob Ross, who painted “happy little trees” on his long running Public Television show The Joy of Painting.
Bob Ross certainly made a big impact with his TV show but Cousin Ernie is doing his part to promote art appreciation by leaving his small, meticulously painted rock art in unexpected places, just so that random strangers can take them home and appreciate them.
“I enjoy doing it,” said Ross. “You know, if it makes people happy to have something like that, then I’m doing my job.”