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Bob Ross: why ‘The Joy of Painting’ is so beloved, nearly three decades on

bob ross

There’s no denying that Bob Ross is one of pop-culture’s most revered artists. From the start of his iconic show The Joy of Painting up until now, he has been able to influence pop culture as very few artists have done before. He’s not so much a meme as he is a conduit of the internet’s quest for wholesomeness. The founding father of ASMR, he has brought about the world we know today unlike anyone else has done before him.

We look into why has the Joy of Painting grown into the success story that we know today and why Bob Ross is still beloved decades on.

bob ross

Background

Born in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1942, a young Robert Norman Ross grew up with a love for animals. In his teenage years, the painter cared for injured animals in his neighbouring area, including snakes, squirrels, and armadillos. These animals would go on to feature in some of his most renowned works.

Leaving high school at the age of 15, Ross worked in carpentry alongside his father until an incident led to him losing part of his index finger. At 18, the artist joined the United States Air Force, where he worked as a medical records technician. It was during his work breaks and time in the Alaskan wilderness that he first experienced the snowy mountain landscape that came to be his artistic bread and butter. It was during this time that Ross developed his calming demeanour, swearing to never raise his voice after leaving his role as a master sergeant.

“You’ve seen Bob Ross before. He is the soft-spoken guy painting happy clouds, mountains, and trees in about 26 television minutes.”

bob ross

The Joy Of Painting

Premiering back in 1983, The Joy of Painting has been a cult-favourite since its origins. Despite passing away nearly two decades ago, the demigod of pop-culture’s popularity seems to only be increasing over the years. Fans have been donning Ross’ famous ‘do and blue button-up for Halloween for decades, and many movies and TV shows have paid tribute to the artist as well.

“You’ve seen Bob Ross before. He is the soft-spoken guy painting happy clouds, mountains, and trees in about 26 television minutes, using big house painting-type brushes and encouraging audiences with his gentle reminder, ‘you can do it,’” Ross’ Youtube page reads.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the show’s producers announced that The Joy of Painting would stream for free, online. Grab your brushes and let Bob smoothly guide you through one of his stunning scenic works, or you can just pop in your headphones and do some light meditation while listening to his dulcet tones:

The Art of Bob Ross

Ross’ skills as a painter grew throughout his 20-year career in the Air Force. An opponent to the abstract styles of the ‘60s and ‘70s, it wasn’t until discovering Bill Alexander’s The Magic of Oil Painting that Ross discovered his artistic niche. The German oil painter championed a 16-century style known as “alla prima”, or “wet-on-wet”, the fast and efficient technique that the then-military sergeant would go on to popularise.

Painting images of the surrounding Alaskan landscape on novelty gold-mining pans, it wasn’t long before the profits made from his artworks would outweigh Ross’ military salary.

bob ross
Photo: Bob Ross

Leaving the Air Force in 1981, Ross went on to study under Alexander and join his Alexander Magic Art Supplies Company as a salesman and tutor. Although the specific origins of The Joy of Painting are unclear, it is believed that the show was greenlit by PBS after Ross, his wife Jane, and his colleague Annette Kowalski moved away from the company to start Ross’ own solo project.

Where To Watch The Joy of Painting

ATTENTION: You can now watch all 12,000+ minutes of Bob Ross’ famed TV show for free on Youtube. Premiering back in 1983, The Joy of Painting has been a cult-favourite since its origins. Despite passing away nearly two-decades ago, the demigod of pop-culture’s popularity seems to only be increasing over the years. Fans have been donning Ross’ famous ‘do and blue button up for Halloween for decades, and many movies and TV shows have paid tribute to the artists as well.

What better time to partake in the Joy of Painting than now? You can grab your brushes and let Bob smoothly guide you through one of his stunning scenic works, or you can just pop in your headphones and do some light meditation while listening his dulcet tones.

“You’ve see Bob Ross before. He is the soft-spoken guy painting happy clouds, mountains, and trees in about 26 television minutes, using big house painting-type brushes and encouraging audiences with his gentle reminder, ‘you can do it,’” Ross’ Youtube page reads.