Clearwater actress is in Owen Wilson’s ‘Paint,’ based on Bob Ross

The landscape artist was discovered in Clearwater while teaching art classes.
Owen Wilson in the film "Paint."
Owen Wilson in the film "Paint." [ COURTESY IFC FILMS | TNS ]
Published April 12|Updated April 13

CLEARWATER — It’s a case of life imitating art.

Around 10 years ago, Sonia Lopes surfed YouTube for tutorials that would improve her artistic painting skills.

Like many since the launch of “The Joy of Painting” on PBS 40 years, she watched Bob Ross.

Lopes, a Clearwater actress, can now be seen on the big screen with Owen Wilson in the movie “Paint” about Carl Nargle, a Vermont public television painter.

The movie, which is now in theaters, is based on the life of the calm-talking, big-haired Ross.

“I play Mary, who learns to paint at one of his art classes,” Lopes said with a laugh. “Fitting. The difference between Mary and me is that I am a fan, but she is his biggest fan.”

Clearwater actress Sonia Lopes is featured in the movie "Paint," based on landscape artist Bob Ross.
Clearwater actress Sonia Lopes is featured in the movie "Paint," based on landscape artist Bob Ross. [ Courtesy of Sonia Lopes ]

It’s not the first big role for the Clearwater High School and St. Petersburg College graduate.

Her acting resume includes episodes of “As the World Turns” and “The Unit.” She’s even argued with a line-cutting Martin Short in a SingleCare commercial.

But Lopes said that her role in “Paint” feels like her “biggest.”

“My character really helps move the story along, and working with Owen Wilson was so much fun,” she said. “He’s a really nice and generous actor.”

While doing research for her role, Lopes learned of another connection to the speed painter who inspired the movie.

Ross was born in Daytona, learned to paint while in the military and then made his way to Clearwater where, for a short stint, he taught art classes. One of his students was Annette Kowalski, who recognized Ross’ talents, became his business partner and helped launch “The Joy of Painting.”

Ross died of complications from lymphoma in 1995 at the age of 52, but his show has lived on.

“I vaguely remember his PBS show when it was on,” Lopes said. “But then I later discovered it online and couldn’t turn it off and now I am in the movie. It’s funny how life works out.”