Bob Ross was an American painter and TV show host. He was born on October 29, 1942 in Daytona Beach, Florida and was raised in Orlando. As a teenager, he worked with his father as a carpenter and lost part of his left index finger in an accident. At the age of 18, Ross enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a medical records technician. He progressed through the ranks and was made a master sergeant, and later the first sergeant at a clinic in Alaska. It was here that he became impressed with snowy landscapes and mountains, which he incorporated into his paintings. Being a military man required him to be very loud and angry to get his orders obeyed, which is why he resolved never to shout again when he quit the military. He first started painting during his breaks at work in order to sell them for money.
While working as a part time bartender, Ross watched a German TV show called “The Magic World of Oil Painting” hosted by a German TV show host called Bill Alexander. To his surprise, he learnt that he could make a lot more money by selling his paintings, than by working in the Air Force. After 20 years of service, he retired to pursue painting. Before the launch of the show, he tried to popularize his technique but did not receive a good response. He was trying to save on money so he got his hair permed to avoid getting repeated haircuts. Although he did not like this hairstyle, it later became his signature look.
Bob Ross became best known for hosting a publicly broadcasted show called “The Joy of Painting”. It initially aired from January 1983 to May 1994. During the show’s 11 year run, Ross taught viewers how to paint using a technique known as “wet on wet” painting using oil paints. In his program, he taught painting in a series of easy to follow instructions. His show was broadcast in several countries and he became a well-known public figure. He also launched a series of instructional books and a line of art supplies. Ross built up an impressive business empire worth $15 million but in the 1990s, he donated all his paintings to PBS stations while earning his income through the sale of books, videos and art supplies. He wrote more than 20 books and recorded over a hundred videos. He also became a teacher trainer.
Ross’s “wet on wet” technique comes from adding paint to previous layers which had not dried completely. The method used was kept as simple as possible, so that viewers could easily follow his instructions. He loved painting trees, water, clouds, and mountains, which he could do in a matter of seconds. On his show, he credited Bill Alexander with teaching him that technique. He encouraged his viewers that everyone had inherent artistic ability, and they could improve and perfect their skills given time, patience and practice. He has completed an estimated 30,000 paintings during his lifetime. He was noted for his calm personality and manner, which ingratiated him with his fans. Bob Ross had married twice and had three sons. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in the 1990s, and retired from public television in 1994. He died on July 4, 1995 at the age of 52.