Bob Ross was (and still is), without a doubt, a national treasure, one that continues to bring joy to people all over the world. This amazing artist left a legacy behind of painting tutorials that took the internet by storm, now being streamed on a daily basis, and gaining an increasing amount of fans ever since the release of his TV series, The Joy Of Painting.
His gentle demeanor and soft voice, love for animals and "happy little trees" in his paintings, lead to him amassing an incredible amount of viewers, most not even watching him to learn how to paint, merely to listen. Bob Ross helped many get through incredibly hard times, and for that, everyone loves him. If you weren't watching him to relax or feel better when you were down, you were watching him to learn how to paint just as stunningly as he used to. And that's the legacy he left behind.
We look back at Bob Ross' life and career to show you 20 weird facts you probably never knew about the national treasure that is Bob Ross.
20 He Was A Sergeant Serving In The Air Force
Most people don't know the kind soul behind the "happy little trees" in The Joy Of Painting used to be an Air Force master sergeant, having retired after spending 20 years serving in the United States army. Before he was teaching how to paint for an audience of millions, he was the one teaching others what to do in the toughest of situations.
19 He Disliked His Signature Haircut
After his days in the Air Force, he decided to devote his days to his true passion: teaching art. However, it was hard to gain a steady income at the beginning, so he found ways to cut on expenses, such as on his hair. He permed his hair and let it grow so he would save money on haircuts during the remaining years. He was quite unhappy about his haircut though, growing to dislike it, but it became a huge part of his brand, so he decided to keep it.
18 He Was Missing A Finger
You probably didn't notice this before, but Bob Ross is missing his left index finger. This happened, unfortunately, as a teen, while working as a carpenter with his father. He normally held the palette in his left hand so it was very hard to notice his missing finger during episodes of The Joy Of Painting.
17 He Completed 403 Episodes Of "The Joy Of Painting"
403 episodes is... well, it's a lot! The Joy Of Painting was such a success (and still is) that it ran for longer than Dallas, with 357 episodes, Murder She Wrote, with 264 episodes, and even Grey's Anatomy, with over 248 episodes. Now, the show is constantly being streamed on multiple platforms due to everyone's love of the show, Bob Ross, and his soothing voice.
16 He Had A Squirrel Named Peapod
Bob Ross loved animals so much, which was easy to see by his both inherent appreciation for nature and his gentleness when bringing animals to the studio to film. He once even had an alligator living in his bathtub. However, one of the most well-known critters to the audience was his squirrel, Peapod, who sometimes made an appearance in episodes of The Joy Of Painting. A cute addition to an already calming and soothing show!
15 He Is Believed To Have Completed 30,000 Paintings In His Lifetime
Now, that's a lot of paintings! We don't doubt it at all, especially due to the fact that he didn't just paint during the more than 400 episodes of his show, but also in his spare time and while teaching art lessons for years. However, he never even sold his paintings for money– that was never something he was looking for. All he wanted was to bring happiness and to teach people.
14 He Didn't Make Money From His TV Series
The Joy Of Painting was more of a marketing tool to advertise his teaching lessons, rather than a way to make money. That's why Bob Ross never really made any money from his TV show. He did the shows for free, never making a dime for it, and that's one of the many reasons why the internet loves him so much.
13 Him And His Mentor Were Rivals
Bill Alexander was Bob Ross's mentor and one of his major inspirations, but the artist wasn't so thrilled with Ross's success. “He betrayed me," Alexander told The New York Times. "I invented 'wet on wet.'" He added that Bob Ross was just copying him and how affected he was "that he thinks he can do it better."
12 90% Of His Audience Didn't Even Paint
Although The Joy Of Painting was a show designed to teach people how to paint just as stunningly as Bob Ross himself, 90% of his audience didn't watch him to learn how to paint. Instead, they watched him due to his soothing voice. Many to feel better during hard times, most of them due to how much it helped them to focus or calm down.
11 He Made 3 Copies Of Each Painting He Created On His TV Show
You may not know this, but for every painting you see on The Joy Of Painting, Bob Ross made 3 almost exact copies of each painting. The first copy was normally hidden off the screen, one during the episode, and one after, where an assistant would stand behind him and snap photos of every single stroke of the brush for his how-to books.
10 He Kept Animals In His Shirt Pockets
We already know Bob Ross was an avid animal lover, and his squirrel, Peapod, would often appear on the show. However, Peapod wasn't the only animal that would show up in Ross's shirt pocket. He had birds and other squirrels, and there have been times when deer have made an appearance on the show. There was even Hoot, an owl. It was always delightful to see Ross interacting with his furry friends, even feeding them while they sat peacefully in his shirt pocket.
9 No One Knows The Exact Amount His Paintings Are Worth
We don't know much about the exact value of Bob Ross's paintings, but we know just how beloved he was, as an artist and person– and we do believe that could have translated in the price of his paintings. However, there are no real public records of Ross's painting sales, so it's impossible to estimate just how much the stunning paintings are worth.
8 He Received 200 Fan Letters A Day
Yes, he was that loved by his audience! In addition to the attention his students already provided, The Joy Of Painting earned Ross even more fame, to the point he was receiving 200 letters a day. However, if even one regular fan stopped writing, he would call the fan to check if they were okay. During winter holidays, he would gift paintings of his to fans who have touched him with their stories. It's impossible not to love this man.
7 He Donated Most Of His Paintings
When Ross died of lymphoma in 1995, you'd think at least some of his paintings would've been sold by him, but that's not the truth. His paintings were donated during his time on The Joy Of Painting, in order to be sold off to raise money for charity. He didn't make a dime on his stunning creations.
6 He Used To Have Anger Issues
We know him for his gentle and kind voice, but Bob Ross used to be quite the yeller. "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,” Ross once said, talking about his work serving the Air Force as a sergeant. It's impossible to keep one's head perpetually cool and not inevitably yell in such a pressure-filled, dangerous environment.
5 His Manager Was A Former Student Of His
It wasn't Alexander, his rival and mentor, that put him on the right path to success, it was actually one of his students, Kowalski. She was a woman who took a five-day instructional course with Bob Ross in 1982 and was enamored with his calming voice. She became Ross's manager, helping him break a deal with PBS for The Joy Of Painting, and getting him his own line of art supplies.
4 He Could Film An Entire Season In 2 Days
We already established he did the show for free, but you might be wondering how considering filming over 400 episodes can't be cheap. Well, as it turned out, Bob Ross could film an entire season in two days– about 13 episodes– which cut down expenses quite a lot. Still, it's incredible how he was able to accomplish that. Way to go, Bob Ross!
3 Fellow Artists Didn't Love Him As Much As His Audience
Although he is a pop culture phenomenon and beloved by his audience, the same can't be said by fellow artists. "It is formulaic and thoughtless,” sculptor Keith Frank said, speaking about Ross's work of presenting art as therapy. Abstract Expressionist Richard Pousette-Dart said he was horrified with art instruction on television, adding that, "They are just commercial exploiters, non-artists teaching other non-artists."
2 Nintendo Planned A Series Of Bob Ross Video Games
Nintendo actually had plans to create a series of video games based on the phenomenon that was The Joy Of Painting. Although the idea would be incredibly exciting to know how it would be put into action, the project ended up running into problems very early on, so we will never know what could have been.
1 He Had Hoped To Develop A Children's Show About Wildlife
In the early 1990s, Ross wanted to share his love for animals by creating another TV show, this time targeted at kids, intending on going out into nature to teach the younger generation about wildlife. This show would be called Bob's World, but, unfortunately, we would never see it take off due to him passing away in 1995.