The Mysterious Life Of Famed Artist Bob Ross

Robert Norman Ross was born on October 29, 1942, in Daytona Beach, Florida. The man was an American painter, art instructor, and a television host (at the same time). He was the creator and host of The Joy of Painting, which was an instructional television program that aired from 1983 to 1994 on PBS in the United States and also aired in Canada, Latin America, and Europe. With a gentle, comforting voice and a perfectly-permed afro, Ross went from being a television personality in the 1980s and 1990s to an online phenomenon with fans on YouTube and many other websites.

Ross was well known for his trademark mottos that he used while painting such as “Happy little trees.” In most episodes of The Joy of Painting, Ross would claim that one of his favorite parts in the act of painting was cleaning the brush. Furthermore, he was quite fond of his personal method of drying off a brush that he had dipped in odorless thinner by striking it against the thinner can (- he also struck a box in earlier seasons, and a trashcan in the later seasons; every now and then he would strike the brush hard on the trashcan, and say he “hit the bucket,”) and an easel. With the paintbrush in hand, he would smile gently and often laugh aloud as he instructed his audience  “beat the Devil out of it”. He also used a lightly-sanded palette, which was implemented in order to avoid catching a glare from the bright studio lighting.



When asked about his calm, cool and collected approach, and his rather chill and contented demeanor, he noted,

“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.”


Believe it or not, for such a beloved television personality, there is actually very little known about the artist. Besides a few details about his earlier years and information regarding his experience with his mentor Bill Alexander, Bob’s well-known persona remains non-transparent. While not exactly a hermit, Bob simply wasn’t asked for interviews that often, and the company that protects his intellectual property is also insanely protective of his privacy, even after his death in 1995.

Today, we at are delving into the mysterious facts about the painting icon Bob Ross, unveiling the mysteries behind the unforgettable and ever so colorful legacy that he left us with. The following list contains some of the unique facts you would never have guessed about PBS’s star of The Joy of Painting.

10. Before the conception of his show on PBS, Bob Ross put in twenty years of military service. He joined the United States Air Force in 1961 when he was only 18 years old, working his way up to the rank of Master Sergeant before he put in his resignation in 1981.

9. When he left the Air Force, he permed his hair in order to save some money on haircuts. He put that money aside for art supplies, and he began his painting career. ROSS REALLY DIDN’T ENJOY THE AFRO THOUGH! However, he realized that the fro actually held a lot of marketing potential (which would prove to be completely correct), so he ended up sucking it up and keeping it. He even had the afro added into the logo for his company of painting products.

8. After he left the Air Force, Ross vowed to never ever yell again. In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, he told the interviewer, “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.”

7. Bob Ross’s show The Joy of Painting ran consecutive successful seasons on PBS from 1983 to 1994. There were 31 seasons consisting of 403 episodes. Ross was such a swift painter that he was able to slam out an entire 13-episode season of The Joy of Painting in just a little over two days.


6. Ross was never actually paid by PBS for his TV show. Instead, Ross made a profit off his signature art merchandise which he advertised on the show.

5. Ross’ business entity,  “Bob Ross, Inc.” continues to make around $15 million a year, to this very day.

4. Bob adored animals. He would periodically tell the audience all about the animals he had saved on his show. He always wanted to have his own show specifically targeted for children to show them all the different types of wildlife in the world.

3. At a young age, Bob lost a chunk of his left index finger during a woodworking slip while working with his father who was a carpenter. Luckily Bob was a righty so he didn’t risk the loss of his painting hand. Most of his audience never knew that he was missing part of his finger because he was always holding a palette in his left hand during his show.

2. Bob Ross made approximately 30,000 paintings in his lifetime. Many of these works were donated to PBS stations for funding purposes.

1. Despite being completely adored by the general public, Ross was often criticized in the art world for being “too formulaic” or a “commercial exploiter.” Using his meditational mantra, Ross didn’t pay much attention to his critics and said he never even had any desire for the contemporary art association. All he wanted to do, to be honest, was to teach people the true joys of painting.

“Traditionally, art has been for the select few. We have been brainwashed to believe that Michaelangelo had to pat you on the head at birth. Well, we show people that anybody can paint a picture that they’re proud of. It may never hang in the Smithsonian, but it will certainly be something that they’ll hang in their home and be proud of. And that’s what it’s all about.” – Bob Ross

What is your favorite The Joy of Painting moment? Tell us in the comments below!

(Sources: Today I Found Out & Wikipedia)

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