You may remember the painter Bob Ross from his famed PBS show or his portrayals in pop culture. But, do you know the story of how he came to be the permed happy painter we know and love today? In recent years, he has ascended to internet fame. But why? What makes his legacy so enduring? How is it that he is still spreading joy to this day?

Bob Ross is best known for his perm, his PBS painting show, and for the “happy little trees” that adorn his landscapes. Just a few seconds watching any of his show episodes can leave any of us feeling a sense of calm, bliss, and happiness.

Perhaps it’s this feeling, one we rarely get from TV anymore, or our own nostalgia about his work that has caused this explosion in his popularity over the years. Or maybe it’s in the way he encourages us to see mistakes as happy accidents and to do what makes us feel happy. Whatever the reason, Bob Ross continues to captivate audiences with his own kind of magic.

Image: Bob Ross painting a portrait at his easel

Courtesy Bob Ross Inc.

The Origins of Bob Ross

Before his television show, The Joy of Painting reached the air, Bob Ross had a twenty-year career in the U.S. Air Force. Towards the end of his career in the Air Force, he took his first painting lesson, which would change the trajectory of his life forever.

His love for painting eventually led him to study a technique called “wet-on-wet” painting–the technique he would later teach on his show–from the famous painter William Alexander. Ross became one of Alexander’s painting instructors, teaching Alexander’s method to amateur painters. It was at one of these painting classes that Ross ran into Annette Kowalski, and from there, the Bob Ross we know today was born. 1

Together Kowalski and Ross created the show The Joy of Painting, which first aired in 1983. The show nearly didn’t make it past its first season. But, over 400 episodes later, and millions and millions of avid fans spanning generations, the legacy of Bob Ross has been cemented in the world of art.

His popularity lately has left a lot of Bob Ross fans wanting a genuine Bob Ross painting of their own.

As it turns out, the answer to “Where can I buy a Bob Ross painting?” has a fascinating answer.

We’ll let this wonderful piece from The New York Times tell you more. Stick around and you’ll be hit with a wave of nostalgia and joy that will leave you with a smile on your face all day!

If you want to see more from The New York Times YouTube channel, jump over and check out their full library. You can also read the companion article they wrote to this piece. It’s a great snapshot of Bob Ross’ work and legacy.

The Legacy of Bob Ross

Many of us have a memory of Bob Ross playing in the background of our lives. Maybe we tried painting along with him from time to time, or our favorite grandparent had him on after school.

I am particularly fond of a memory that happened after my grandfather’s funeral when my many cousins and I returned to my grandmother’s house and we turned on The Joy of Painting. It was then that we discovered Bob Ross was beloved to every one of us and was a favorite after school program to watch with our grandfather. It was a beautiful moment that bonded us together as happy clouds and trees were painted in the background.

Image: Bob Ross holding a baby racoon

Courtesy Bob Ross Inc.

Why do we love his work so much? How is it that he has now captivated a world of online viewers too?

There’s nothing fancy about the studio he paints in. Many of his shows are repetitive. And yet, we remain captivated by the way in which his calm voice plays against the quickness of his brush strokes. In 30 minutes he can start with a blank canvas and take us to entirely new worlds. Along the way encouraging us to find beauty in mistakes, be bold with our choices, and do what makes us happiest.

Whether or not you are painting along with him, his words of encouragement bolster the audience. That joy, that kindness is timeless, and it still rings through today. It’s a wonderful reminder that there is still space for joy and happiness in the world. There is still space for people to be kind and to share their passion with the world.

If you don’t remember what an episode of The Joy of Painting is like, jump over to the Bob Ross YouTube channel, it’s really a treat! Over there you’ll find many of his shows available to watch for free! Really, though, go take a minute to watch one. You’ll be reminded that joy is out there in the world.

Oh, and if you want to take a little Bob Ross joy with you every day, go follow his company on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Or, you can always give the Bob Ross headquarters a call at 1(800)BOB-ROSS.

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

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Notes:

  1. Biography.com Editors. “Bob Ross.” Biography.com. A&E Networks Television, 12 Apr. 2019. Web. 24 Sept. 2019. <https://www.biography.com/artist/bob-ross>.
  2. The New York Times. “Where Are All the Bob Ross Paintings? We Found Them.” YouTube. The New York Times, 12 July 2019. Web. 24 Sept. 2019. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDs3o1uLEdU>.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

COO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Liesl is a camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV