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A lineup of Bob Ross paints and painting tools.

The Bob Ross Story... but fixed!

Early on

Robert Norman Ross was born in Daytona, Florida, on October 29, 1942, to Jack and Ollie Ross. From his mother, Bob learned a love and respect of wildlife. Bob’s father was a carpenter, and for a short time, Bob worked with him. However, after an unfortunate accident where Bob cut off one of his fingers, he decided that carpentry wasn’t for him, and in 1960 he joined the Air Force.


Learning to paint

Stationed first in Florida, he was eventually transferred to an airbase in Alaska. During his service there, Bob took his first painting lesson at a U.S.O. Club in Anchorage. To augment his Air Force pay, Bob took a job as a bartender and sold his landscape paintings on gold prospecting pans to tourists. When he left the Air Force and returned home to Florida, Bob attended various art schools and painting classes until he discovered the “wet-on-wet” painting technique taught by William Alexander. Alla Prima Bob continued to experiment and refine the wet-on-wet method, ultimately creating his own unique version along with the custom made paints, brushes, and knives needed to follow it. The Bob Ross wet-on-wet technique is also known as “alla prima” or “direct painting.” Work created using the “alla prima” process can be completed in a single session. Throughout art history, from the 16th century until today, artists such as Jan van Eyck, Diego Velázquez and Thomas Gainsborough as well as impressionists Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh, realists John Singer Sargent and even modern artists like Willem de Kooning have, in different ways, employed the alla prima technique.


Teaching others to paint

Bob was passionate about sharing his love for painting with the world. In 1982 along with his partners, he launched the Joy of Painting on public television. To promote the television show and reach a greater audience, Bob toured America, teaching others to paint. In the beginning, the classes offered in shopping malls and art stores yielded only small groups of students. As word of the popular TV show grew, so did the live audiences for his public lessons. From 1982 through 1994, Bob recorded more than 400 episodes, and The Joy of Painting became and remains today, one of the most popular and well-known shows on public television. Bob’s passion for teaching and inspiring others lives on today through the thousands of instructors who teach his method worldwide.


A media darling

Although he might seem shy and retiring, Bob was a savvy media personality. He often reached out to his viewers for ideas and shared their successes with his audience. He was regularly asked to appear on talk shows where Bob entranced the live studio audiences. He famously recorded a promo for MTV when the network was still young and growing.


Something for everyone

Dedicated fans include Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Generation Zs alike. They enjoy and appreciate the happy little trees, friendly clouds, and happy accidents that can make the noise and whirlwind of their everyday lives a little easier to take in. There is also some science behind the dulcet tones of Bob’s voice and the gentle tap-tap-tapping of the two-inch brush. For many fans, Bob is the “King of ASMR,” the autonomous sensory meridian response that keeps people tuned in and watching his every move. He can also be found today at the forefront of an exciting and inspirational wellness movement.


And the beat goes on

His presence continues today with the thousands of tributes and parodies that can be found across the internet. From the Twittersphere to YouTube to professional sports teams, there are no barriers to fan appreciation. Bob appeals to everyone. When the interactive gamer platform Twitch launched the Bob Ross channel with a nonstop marathon of the Joy of Painting, there were 5.6 million unique views and thousands of requests for more when the series ended. Yes, you can see the “Real McCoy.” Few painters have been copied as much as Bob, and copycat versions of his artworks abound. Although he donated many of his works to public television stations to help them with fundraising, you can still see a painting from the show. The best place to see an original is to visit the Bob Ross Workshop in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where you’ll find an extensive collection of original paintings. Classes in the Bob Ross method of painting are offered there, and you can also train to become a certified Bob Ross instructor in landscape, florals, and wildlife painting.

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