With his signature curly hairstyle and laid-back temperament, painter Bob Ross has endeared himself to millions since The Joy of Painting first debuted on public television in 1983.
Born on October 29, 1942, Ross dropped out of high school in ninth grade and embarked upon a 20-year career with the Air Force, where he ultimately attained the rank of Master Sergeant. A military man on the outside but an artist at heart, he took his first painting lesson while stationed in Alaska. He was instantly hooked, and even began teaching his now-famous “wet-on-wet” technique after retiring from the Air Force in 1981. After several years of struggling as a teacher – he began perming his naturally straight hair during this time to save money on haircuts – his efforts eventually paid off. The immensely popular series The Joy of Painting made its public television debut on January 11, 1983, and viewers fell in love with Ross’ relaxed attitude and easy-to-follow teaching style. A runaway success, The Joy of Painting ran for 31 seasons on 275 stations, inspiring numerous how-to books and even a line of art supplies. It ceased production in 1994 after Ross was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Ross died at 52 on July 4, 1995, but he remains a beloved public television fixture and pop culture icon more than two decades later. In addition to hundreds of annual continued airings on public television, The Joy of Painting can be found on streaming services such as Netflix and even niche websites such as Twitch.tv – a gaming-themed online community whose initial short run of the series drew 5.6 million viewers. He is the subject of numerous memes, listicles, inspirational quote compilations, and fan tributes on YouTube, and has millions of followers on social media, where his persona has inspired fan Twitter accounts, Tumblr blogs, and Facebook pages.
In an era of shortened attention spans and almost unlimited options for new entertainment, Ross and his “Happy Little Trees” have continued to inspire artists, bring solace to those in need, attract new fans and delight audiences of all ages for more than 25 years.
Visit Create's special Bob Ross website, CreateTV.com/bobross, for more information.