The truth that only a few know about Bob Ross
We all recognize the painter who loved to paint happy clouds and believes that there are no mistakes, only "happy accidents". But what do you we really know about this artist? There is a lot of people who don't know about Bob Ross. So, there are plenty of surprises install for you when it comes to the guy with the sweet pipes and even funkier hairdo. He also makes an effort to welcome his new viewers when starting the show, and he is super entertaining.
In the 80s and 90s, Bob painted many PBS stations. Sadly, his untimely death in 1995 was one that shocked us all, and he was only 52 when it occurred. At that time, he was literally exploding on the pop culture scene. He even appeared in modern MTV spot back when MTV was rather hip. "MTV, the end of happy little trees." Today we take a closer look into the life of Bob Ross and have gathered the untold truth that is sure to pique your interest. So, without further ado, let us begin.
Rival of the "wet artists"
If you've ever watched Bob on MTV, this intro will bring back memories: "If this is your first time with us, let me extend a personal invitation for you to drag out your brushes and paints, and paint along with us. I think you'll enjoy it." For those who enjoyed watching Bob, to us, he appeared to be a genuinely happy guy who loved painting happier trees, rivers and clouds. Like all artists, Bob had a specific way of art and style of his own.
His unique method was "wet on wet", where the paint is applied on a still-wet coat to create the finished piece. Ross actually started painting in Alaska, learning this technique from a famous wet-on-wet painter named Bill Alexander. Alexander was a German-born artist who appeared on public television before Ross ever did, back in the 70s.
Ross decided to dedicate an episode of his Joy of Painting program in Season 2 of his mentor and teacher. When starting the episode, he made a statement of dedication, saying: "I would like to dedicate this show to my beloved friend and teacher, who we've all watched and loved for many years on public television, Bill Alexander." Sadly, things grew somewhat sour from then on, and we know how competitive any talented person is when it comes to perfecting their craft and standing out from the rest. By 1991, Ross no longer mentioned Alexander by name.
As for Alexander, he stated: "I invented 'wet on wet'. I trained him, and he is copying me - what bothers me is not just that he betrayed me, but that he thinks he can do it better." Well, we're sure you'll agree with us when we say it's kind of hard to imagine anyone being mad at Bob for too long. He seemed like such a chill guy, but it also goes to show that no matter what line of business you're in, everyone has a rival.
He was a master sergeant
When you look at Bob, he's definitely the last guy you'd expect to be angry at anyone, but he was not always the cheerful guy you saw painting those brightly colored murals. Ross was born in Daytona Beach, Florida, and he made his home in Orlando. In case you're wondering how a Florida man made it up to freezing Alaska, he did it the honest way by joining the military. Bob said: "I spent half my life in the military. and I used to come home, take off my little soldier hat, and put on my painter's hat."
Bob Ross enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 18 and was stationed in Alaska. Ross served 20 years, achieving the rank of "Master Sergeant" before his retirement. During the military, he certainly was not as soft-spoken as we've known him to be on television, and his portrayal is completely opposite but understandable. After Ross left the Air Force, he vowed never to yell and scream again. Ross explained:
"I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work. Shoot, that's the Joy of painting. That truly is the Joy of painting."
His legendary fro
Not only is Bob recognized for his sweet voice and happy clouds, but he is also known for his appearance, by that we're talking about his hairdo. The unusual fro has indeed made him legendary. It's a meme in itself, to be honest. Funny enough, his trademark hairstyle is just a perm. We can definitely see that his trendy style caught the attention of the viewers and how it became his signature "look".
Apparently, he initially got a perm to save money instead of wasting his precious cash on haircuts when it could just grow into an awesome big ball. Unsurprisingly, Bob hated his hair, but what was done could not be undone, and the pinter had to live with this money-saving tragedy. However, his unusual fro became his company logo, and his business partner Annette Kowalski had something to say:
"He could never, ever, ever change his hair, and he was so mad about that. He got tired of that curly hair. Bob believed that we don't make mistakes, we must have happy accidents. So that anything that happens here you can work with it."
Struggling to pay those bills
Ross achieved fame for his PBS show, but it was not enough to pay the bills. Just in case you've forgotten, PBS stands for Public Broadcasting Service as in a nonprofit station. It only got 15 percent of its funding from the government, so it was not really suitable when it came to living expenses, to name a few.
It was apparent that Ross was not "rolling in dough", even though he was a PBS star, but he had to have made something out of it, right? Well, no actually. Ross said that he never got paid for his Joy of Painting program. Not a single penny. He said: "People see you on television and they think you make the same amount of money that Clint Eastwood does. But this is PBS. All these shows are done for free."
So, how on earth did he make his money then? Well, it turns out that he earned a living by teaching, selling books, and of course, his paintings. On top of that, he even sold videos of his painting system which were really three-hour workshops that went into more detail and style. He quoted: "Shake it off, hehe, and just bet the devil out of it."
Those happy little statistics
In 2014, the statistical website FiveThirtyEight finally answered the paradox that has every kept moral man up at night... What exactly did Bob Ross paint? The show Joy of Painting aired 403 times but Ross only painted 381 times, and since the other episodes featured guests, we don't have much more to work with. There is something that Bob truly liked, and that was trees.
Yes, if you remember his pictures, you'll remember that he loved to paint trees. A whopping 91 percent of his paintings contained at least one tree. And, if Ross painted a tree, there is at least 93 percent chance he'd paint a second one. Ross believed that trees should not be lone. He stated: "A nice way to make a happy evergreen... let's give him a friend." Well, this certainly makes sense and we love seeing plantations of these beautiful natural structures.
Out of all the trees he painted, he's only included palm trees two percent of the time. We don't blame him though, because living in Florida, you see palm trees everywhere and he was probably sick of them. Many people found surprisingly that his "happy little clouds" are only seemed to be feature 44 percent of the time. Something else that Bob said was: "And we'll go right up in here, and maybe... and maybe there's a happy little cloud that lives right there, all you do is just tap."
It seemed that one thing he hated more than palm trees were people. In the entire collection of his work, only one out of 381 featured person. Ok, it was not completely clear, but it was a silhouette of a lonely cowboy against a tree. "In technical terms, that is known as laziness." Now that's a lot of happy trees! Bob loves engaging in his audience and explains while painting: "Maybe these sons of a gun... there you go! Go right off the top of the canvas here."
When you come to think of it, honestly, the reason Bob Ross became so popular wasn't due to his sudden interest in wet-on-wet painting. He had a unique look, and his soothing voice instantly transported people to their "happy place". When painting, Bob was also sort of a storyteller. He'd always talk while painting and entertained his viewers. For example, he'd say: "The chickens grew up, and they became my friends."
Now, there surely is something about watching a guy paint clouds or trees with a hypnotic voice like his. Ross said in one of his interviews: "We've gotten letters from people who say they sleep better when the show is on." No, it's not because his voice is so boring that you simply can't help but fall asleep, it's actually due to a thing called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or in short, ASMR, yes that was mouth-full.
Apparently, hearing Bob's voice seemed to have a calming effect on people, or tingling sensation. Likewise with animals. Funny enough, those sounds are associated with our sensual tendencies. We'll let you decide for yourself. All you have to do is sit alone in a dark room and concentrate on the sound of Bob's voice and see where it takes you.
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If you've ever considered the level of fame when it came to Ross, you certainly would not put it in terms on a global scale, would you? Somehow, this happy guy with an angelic voice has gathered a massive following, and it spread globally, specifically, Japan. The Japanese television station NHK aired his show twice a day for many years. Of course, they were not able to pull off the calm and soothing voice that Bob had.
The family palette
Bob's show had one frequent guest, his son Steven. With the way Steve looked, he certainly looked like he belonged in a rock-band instead of painting with his dad. But he had a surprising technique of his own. These days, Steven does not have much to do with the Ross empire and left shortly after his dad passed. We can't really blame him though.
Not all kids follow in their parent's footsteps. Steven and his half-brother, Morgan, still create artwork but keep a low profile. He spends most of his time making double entendres, so we can see why he wants his privacy. We'll certainly never forget The Joy of Painting.
What did you think about this hypnotic artist and his life story? Did you know that he was a sergeant? Do you love his work? Let us know in the comments section below and share this with your happy cloud loving artist friends and family. Remember to keep up-to-date with us for more exciting arty-facts.