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robert norman "bob" ross (october 29, 1942–july 4, 1995) was an american painter, art instructor, and television host. he is best known as the creator and host of the joy of painting, a television program that ran for more than a decade on pbs in the united states and canada..
Ross utilized the wet-on-wet oil painting technique, in which the painter continues adding paint on top of still-wet paint rather than waiting a lengthy amount of time to allow each layer of paint to dry. From the beginning, the program kept the selection of tools and colors simple so that viewers wouldn't have to make large investments in them. Ross frequently recommended odorless paint thinner (aka odorless mineral spirits) for brush cleaning. Combining the painting method with the use of one- and two-inch brushes as well as painting knives allowed Ross to paint trees, water, clouds, and mountains in a matter of seconds. Each painting would start with simple strokes that appeared to be nothing more than colored smudges. As he added more and more strokes, the blotches transformed into intricate landscapes. Ross dedicated the first episode of the second season of The Joy of Painting to William Alexander, explaining that "years ago, Bill taught me this fantastic [wet-on-wet] technique, and I feel as though he gave me a precious gift, and I'd like to share that gift with you [the viewer]". He estimated having painted between 25,000 and 30,000 paintings in his life.
Ross noted that the landscapes he painted—typically mountains, lakes, snow, and log cabin scenes—were strongly influenced by his years living in Alaska, where he was stationed for the majority of his Air Force career. He repeatedly stated on the show his belief that everyone had inherent artistic talent and could become an accomplished artist given time, practice, and encouragement, and to this end was often fond of saying, "We don't make mistakes; we just have happy accidents."
Ross was well known for other catch phrases he used while painting as he crafted "happy little trees." In most episodes of The Joy of Painting, he noted that one of his favorite parts of painting was cleaning the brush, specifically his method of drying off a brush, which he had dipped in odorless thinner, by striking it against the thinner can and easel. He would smile and often laugh aloud as he "beat the devil out of it." He also used a palette that had been lightly sanded down, which was necessary to avoid catching the reflections of strong studio lighting. At the end of each episode, Ross was known for saying, "so from all of us here, I'd like to wish you happy painting, and God bless, my friend."
When asked about his laid-back approach to painting and eternally calm and contented demeanor, he once commented: "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.
Ross enlisted in the United States Air Force at age 18; he had quit high school in the 9th grade. The Air Force transferred him to Eielson Air Force Base (in Alaska), where he first saw the snow and mountains that later became recurring themes in his artwork. He developed his quick-painting technique in order to be able to create art for sale in brief daily work breaks. Having held military positions that required him to be, in his own words, "mean" and "tough," "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," Ross decided that if he ever moved on from the military, "it wasn't going to be that way any more," vowing "never to scream again."
Ross discovered that he was soon able to earn more from selling his work than from his Air Force position. After leaving the Air Force, he studied with Bill Alexander before becoming famous worldwide with his own television program, The Joy of Painting.
Ross had 2 sons, Bob (Ross gave up parental rights in 1966) and Steven, from his first marriage to Lynda Brown. Steven occasionally appeared on The Joy of Painting and is a Bob Ross–certified instructor. Ross and Lynda's marriage ended in divorce in 1981. Ross's second wife, Jane, died of cancer in 1993, and Ross suffered from lymphoma in his later years. The Joy of Painting was cancelled after its final show, which aired on May 17, 1994, due to Ross's health. He continued to battle lymphoma until his death at home on July 4, 1995. His remains are interred at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Gotha, Florida.