Robert Norman Ross was an American painter and television host. He was the creator and host of the PBS program The Joy of Painting. The show aired from 1984 to 1994. Ross was born in Daytona Beach, Florida on October 29, 1942. When he was a child, Ross entertained himself by caring for injured animals.
One of his animals, a squirrel named Peapod made a few appearances in the show. Ross dropped out of school during his freshman year to work as a carpenter with his father. During his time as a carpenter he lost a portion of his left index finger, however this did not affect the way he held the palette.
When he was 18 years old, Ross enlisted in the Air Force, after some some time he reached the rank of Master Sergeant. He served as the First Sergeant of the Air Force Clinic at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, the scenery that he saw while there would later become a popular theme of his paintings. Ross did not enjoy his high position in the military that made him be, as he put it, “the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work”, so he decided that if he ever left the military he would never raise his voice again. While Ross was in the military he found a taste for painting, however his painting instructors where more interested in abstract painting, as Ross said, “They’d tell you what makes a tree, but they wouldn’t tell you how to paint a tree.”.
While in the military Ross discovered a show called The Magic of Oil Painting, hosted by German painter Bill Alexander, which featured use of the “Alla Prima” technique of painting which allowed him to finish a painting in under 30 minutes. Once Ross was proficient enough at painting this way, he began painting Alaskan landscapes on the inside of novelty gold pans that he sold during brief daily work breaks. When Ross started making more money from selling the painting than the military paid him he retired from the military and started his renowned show The Joy of Painting two years later. The two years prior to him starting the show, he couldn’t afford a crew-cut style of hair anymore, therefore he adopted the beloved permed hairstyle that we know today. Upon starting the show, Ross formed Bob Ross Inc., which would become a $15 million company by selling his line of art supplies and how-to books and marketing painting classes instructed by those taught in the “Bob Ross Method”. He received no money from the show itself. Ross is well known nonchalant demeanor, when asked about it he stated, “I got a letter from somebody here a while back, and they said, ‘Bob, everything in your world seems to be happy.
‘ That’s for sure. That’s why I paint. It’s because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news.”. Ross enjoys the use of catchphrases in his show including: “happy little trees”, “We don’t make mistakes; we just have happy accidents.
“, and his instruction to “beat the devil out of the brush” when drying it off. Ross was diagnosed with lymphoma in the spring of 1994. The final episode of the episode of The Joy of Painting aired on May 17, 1994. He died at the age of 52 on July 4, 1995. He kept his diagnosis a secret to the public, like he did most things in his personal life. Ever since his death, Ross has been inserted into multiple instances of pop culture.
Television shows like The Boondocks, Peep Show, and Family Guy have included references to him in the show