If you are a beginner artist or experienced, you must have familiar with the name of Bob Ross. You must have watched at least one video of this amazing artist. Today, in this post, I would like to talk about the wonderful landscape artist.
Who is Bob Ross?
Bob Ross was an American painter, art instructor, and host of The joy of painting. He was born in Daytona Beach, Florida in October 1942. He dropped out of high school in the 9th grade. While working as a carpenter with his father, he lost part of his left index finger, which did not affect his ability to later hold a palette while painting.
When he was 18 years old, he joined the United States air force in 1961. He developed his quick painting technique during brief daily work breaks.
Bob Ross's artistic journey
During his 20-year Air Force career, Bob Ross developed an interest in painting after attending an art class at the Anchorage U.S.O. club. He found himself frequently at odds with many of his painting instructors, who were more interested in abstract painting.
Ross was working as a part-time bartender when he got to know about The magic of Oil Painting show by German painter Bill Alexander. Bob studied the method he was using and began painting and started selling his paintings.
He returned to Florida, studied painting with Alexander, joined his "Alexander Magic Art Supplies Company" and became a traveling salesman and tutor. Annette Kowalski, who had attended one of his sessions in Clearwater, Florida, convinced Ross he could succeed on his own. She, along with Ross and his wife, pooled their savings to create his company, which struggled at first.
He ran the show from 11 January 1983 to May 17, 1994. the BBC re-ran episodes during the Covid 19 pandemic while most viewers were in lockdown at home. During each half-hour segment, Ross would instruct viewers in the quick, wet-on-wet oil painting technique, painting a scene without sketching it first, but creating the image directly from his imagination, in real-time. He explained his limited paint palette, deconstructing the process into simple steps.
With help from Annette and Walt Kowalski, Ross used his television show to promote a line of art supplies and class recordings, building what would become a $15million business – Bob Ross Inc. – which would ultimately expand to include classes taught by other artists trained in his methods. Following Ross's death, ownership of the company was passed to the Kowalskis.
Ross painted an estimated 30,000 paintings during his lifetime. Despite the unusually high supply of original paintings, Bob Ross's original paintings are scarce on the art market, with sale prices of the paintings averaging in the thousands of dollars and frequently topping $10,000. The major auction houses have never sold any of Ross's paintings, and Bob Ross Inc. continues to own many of the ones he painted for The Joy of Painting, as Ross himself was opposed to having his work turned into financial instruments. In contrast to more traditionally famous artists, Ross's work—described by an art appraisal service as a cross between "fine art" and "entertainment memorabilia"—is most highly sought after by common fans of The Joy of Painting, as opposed to wealthy collectors. The artwork circulating among collectors is largely from Ross's work from before he launched the television show.
Ross painted three versions of almost every painting featured on his show. The first was painted prior to taping and sat on an easel off-camera during filming, where Ross used it as a reference to create the second copy which viewers actually watched him paint. After filming the episode, he painted a more detailed version for inclusion in his instructional books. The versions were each marked on the side or back of the canvas: "Kowalski" for the initial version, "tv" for the version painted during the TV show, and "book" for the book version.
Famous phrases he used to say are:
"let's add some happy little trees"
"hit the bucket"
"beat the Devil out of it"
When asked about his relaxed and calm approach, he said, "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."
The landscapes he painted, typically mountains, lakes, snow, and log cabin scenes, were inspired by his years in Alaska, where he was stationed for the majority of his Air Force career. He repeatedly said everyone had inherent artistic talent and could become an accomplished artist given time, practice, and encouragement. Ross would say, "we don't make mistakes; we just have happy accidents."
The death of Bob Ross
A cigarette smoker for most of his adult life, Ross expected to die young and suffered from several health problems over the course of his life. He died at the age of 52 on July 4, 1995, in Orlando, Florida, due to complications from lymphoma. His routine exposure to paints and solvents may have exposed him to chronically high levels of benzene and ethylbenzene possibly contributing to his lymphoma.
His remains are interred at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Gotha, Florida, under a plaque marked "Bob Ross; Television Artist". Ross kept his diagnosis a secret from the general public; his lymphoma was not known outside of his circle of family and friends until after his death.