12 Reasons Why Bob Ross Is Still Our Favorite Art Teacher.
Bob Ross, the beloved creator and star of the PBS show The Joy of Painting, died on Independence Day 1995 after a long battle with lymphoma. He was only 52 years old.
Despite the fact that he never lived a day in this century, Ross is arguably more popular in the internet age than ever before. His dulcet tones, permed hair, and relentless positivity have elevated him from public broadcaster to cultural icon.
Millions have watched with delight on YouTube or Netflix as Ross delicately instructs new generations in the subtle art of painting fir trees and mountainscapes. His warm, reassuring quotes have made him the subject of affectionate memery and secured his cult status - even in the more cynical enclaves on the internet.
In honor of Bob Ross, here are 12 facts about his life that remind us why hes still our favorite art teacher.
Bob was a big believer that anyone can be an artist, no matter their skill level or personal restrictions. On one occasion, he began his show with this:
You know, just recently I was doing a demonstration in a mall. I had a man come to me, and he said, Bob, I can never paint because Im colorblind. All I can see is gray tones. So I thought today wed do a picture in gray, just to show you that anyone can paint.
And show us he did. He whipped up his own 50 shades of gray and painted a snowy mountain scene to inspire his colorblind fan to keep at it. Because Bob Ross was the kindest man ever to live life or breathe air.
Heres the full clip.
At the end of the 26-minute episode, Bob had produced this:
He may be right that anyone can be an artist, but I don't think I could bang something like that out in half an hour if I practiced for a billion years.
Some haters dismiss Bobs art as simplistic or formulaic, easily made and easily copied. But theres no denying how prolific he was. For a man who died so tragically young, he produced an astounding number of paintings. By his own estimation, he created more than 30,000 works over the course of his life.
However, finding a Bob Ross original is surprisingly difficult nowadays. (continued...)
Keep reading on the next page!
While he was at PBS, Bob regularly donated his paintings to the broadcaster to help them in their fundraising efforts.
One of the questions that I hear over and over and over is, What do we do with all these paintings we do on television? Most of these paintings are donated to PBS stations across the country. They auction them off, and they make a happy buck with em. So if youd like to have one, get in touch with your PBS station...
Before he became famous, Bob did sell many paintings. He also taught art classes, and liked to give his work away to students free of charge. Some others he kept, and others still he donated to charity.
At least 13 were actually stolen from Bobs van during the second season of his show, but I'm sure Bob forgave the thief immediately. Because Bob's heart was a bottomless well of redemptive love.
Despite his impressive output, you will have a hard time finding anything genuine if you look for one of his paintings on eBay. Most of the works on offer are replicas, or done in Bob's style.
On the other hand, if you have $11,000 burning a hole in your pocket…
I guess it's like a used book store. They have 25 copies of The DaVinci Code and nothing by Kurt Vonnegut, because you can't buy what nobody wants to sell.
Although Bobs show was designed to be interactive, PBS says 90% of the audience never painted along with him.
The majority of our audience does not paint, has no desire to paint, will never paint, Bob once said. They watch it strictly for entertainment value or for relaxation. We've gotten letters from people who say they sleep better when the show is on.
Most TV presenters would be mortified to think they put people to sleep, but Bob was not phased by it at all. He was just happy that he could make you happy.
Can you imagine Bob Ross getting angry and screaming obscenities at you? Yeah, me neither. But before he hit it big, thats how he made his living. (continued…)
Keep reading on the next page!
Bob Ross spent 20 years in the Air Force, rising to the rank of Master Sergeant. He later spoke of how his experiences in uniform led to his subsequent tranquil demeanor:
"I was 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. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn't going to be that way anymore."
Many of his landscapes were inspired by time he spent posted in Alaska, where he fell in love with the snowy mountain vistas that he would become so famous for recreating.
The strictures of painting while also serving his country influenced Bobs methods too, and forced him to adopt ways of producing work quickly.
I used to go home at lunch, Bob said, and do a couple [paintings] while I had my sandwich. I'd take them back that afternoon and sell them.
He left the Air Force when he realized he could make a better living as a painter.
As this article from 1990 notes, Bob Ross was not really considered celebrity material during his own lifetime. It seems that no one in the media really wanted to talk or write about him.
I never turn down requests for interviews, Bob once said good-humoredly, Im just rarely asked.
Despite the lack of interest from the press, his PBS show was a gargantuan hit, airing on some 300 stations in the US and attracting 80 million regular viewers.
The success of The Joy of Painting led to major PBS stations vying for Bob to come shoot in their studios. But he loyally continued to film out of the small affiliate in Eunice, Ind. until the show ended in 1994.
Even devoted viewers (even the ones who stayed awake!) may have failed to notice that Bob Ross had a permanent injury that you might have thought would have affected his work. (continued...)
Keep reading on the next page!
Bob was missing a finger - not that it stopped him from earning a living with his hands.
Bob's father was a carpenter, and the accidentally cut off his digit with a saw while trying his hand at the family trade in his youth. He disguised this fact on his show by always holding his palette with his four-fingered hand.
Bobs sprawling perm afro is one of the most recognizable dos in the world. If you think that was calculated, you would be wrong.
In his early days as an art teacher offering classes in malls and storefronts, Bob wasnt making much money. In order to cut down on his overhead (pun!), he went with a perm. That way, he wouldnt have to cut his naturally straight hair as often.
He later came to dislike the look, but was forced to keep it because it was an indispensable part of his image. When he lost his hair during cancer treatments, he wore a wig.
Bob Ross was a champion of man and beast alike, at one point turning his backyard into a small animal sanctuary where he cared for orphaned baby squirrels, a fox squirrel, and a crow with a broken wing.
I dont use the pool, Bob said, but it sure makes a nice view for them.
Inside his house, he also let an epileptic squirrel live in his jacuzzi. Because Bob Ross' soul was made of sunshine and spongecake.
You might think that someone with Bob Ross appeal and Bob Ross ratings would make a killing working in television. But in reality, he never made any money off his TV show. (continued...)
Keep reading on the next page!
People see you on television and they think you make the same amount of money that Clint Eastwood does, Bob said in an interview. But this is PBS. All these shows are done for free.
Bob instead made his money writing how-to books, selling art supplies, and through 150 teachers who were trained in his techniques.
As much as Bob cared about painting happy trees and secret oases, he cared even more about his fans.
Bob received as many as 200 letters a day from his viewers, but he still somehow found the time to build relationships with those who corresponded regularly. If a person stopped writing him, he would sometimes call them up just to make sure they were okay.
At Christmas, he would send free paintings to those who had shared stories that moved him.
The overwhelming favorite subject of Bobs painting was the simple tree. Even folks who have never seen the show can joke offhand about his fondness for painting happy little treesand giving them friends.
In fact, the website FiveThirtyEight conducted a statistical analysis of the elements contained in the paintings Bob produced on-air. Here are the results.
Finally, Bob would probably love the fact that he's become a staple of internet memes and jokes, because he definitely had a healthy sense of humor about himself.
Check out this MTV promo he filmed in the late 80s.
Paint on, Bob. Paint on.
Thanks for reading. Let us know what you think!
Fame always come with a price!
Fame is a tricky, tricky mistress. It can be intoxicating and make you crave it; until it ruins you or until it does you right. And thanks to cable television and the internet anyone can be famous for literally anything and nothing all at once. Who knew being a "Meme" could garner you a fan club? What does one do with that sort of fame.
Redditor u/AnswersOddQuestions wanted to hear from those who are part of Meme fame by asking.... People who have had their pictures end up as memes. How has it affected your life?
I wanna be Memed!