• Jenny Schildan

The fascinating truth behind America's beloved Painter

It's rare these days for a Vine Gogh class to "Gogh" by without the mention of Mr. Bob Ross. I often overhear students asking their easel-buddies, "Remember that painter-guy on TV with the big hair?", or, a laugh and a comment about "happy little trees". As a fledgling child artist growing up in the 1980's, with only a handful of TV channels, OPB was my jam and Bob was a God. You just can't help but get sucked into an episode of The Joy of Painting, watching Bob transform a blank canvas into a fetching landscape with only a fan brush and Van Dyke Brown in a matter of minutes. Alright, I might have exaggerated there a bit, but... the man was awfully impressive. He was mentioned so many times in my classes early on, that, shortly after starting Vine Gogh, I decided to do some Ross research. I found several articles with little-known factoids about Bob. Jaw-dropping things I never knew, such as:

Epic Hair: Move over, Steve from Stranger Things

His puffy little 'fro - was a perm! That's right, and he hated it. It was the 1980's - my dad had one too (and I now know that there's nothing funnier than seeing my dad in pink perm rods). But, Bob soon realized that his hairstyle was a marketing schtick and he was schtuck.

Straight hair, don't care: Pre perm Ross.

Master Sergeant Ross: Sir yes Sir!

In his younger days he was a screamin' and hollerin' Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Alaska. Bob stated, “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." He decided after the military he'd never scream and yell again. Now we know where that soft, encouraging voice came from (not to mention the happy trees and mountains). All were inspired by his time in Alaska.

Scrub the latrine!!! DO.YOU.HEAR.ME??! Here's Bob in his military days.

Hustlin' fo Free

He worked for free! Say WUT? Yep, He didn't make any money off of The Joy of Painting, earning his income solely by building his $15 million empire, Bob Ross, Inc., selling art supplies, lessons and books. It was worth the perm, Bob!

Surprise, it's supplies! With happy little afros!

Turbo Painting: Yer a Wizard, Bob!

Ross would film an entire 13-episode season of The Joy of Painting in about 2 days. Considering he made 3 paintings per episode (a reference painting, the work in progress, and another finished painting) that's a whole lot of wizardly brush-wielding! And a whole lot of "beating the devil out" of his brush (one of his favorite sayings - watch him crack up every time he says it!). Bonus fact: He didn't sell his paintings from the show (and it's estimated he made around 30,000 paintings), choosing instead to give them away or donate them to charity. Awww, Bob.

Happy Little Critters

Ross had a soft heart for animals, particularly injured ones, caring for and rehabilitating them. It was rumored that he kept an alligator in the bathtub as a kid (heck, I would have, too, it could have joined my turtle) and nursed it back to health. His squirrels would often appear on his show with him and at times he had up to 10 orphaned or injured squirrels that he was raising or rehabilitating.

Awww, Bob. We heart your heart.

The Joy of Painting aired from 1983 - 1994, and continues to leave an enormous impact on so many lives. Not many people actually paint along with Bob, but he sure is enjoyable to watch. I often tell our VG students that if they're feeling stressed, pour a glass of wine and binge watch The Joy of Painting on Netflix. His cheerful and encouraging attitude is sure to turn your frown upside down.

"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."

-Bob Ross


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