Bob Ross (October 29, 1942 – July 4, 1995) was an American painter and television presenter. Born in Daytona Beach, Florida, he spent 20 years keeping medical records for the U.S. Air Force before becoming famous worldwide with his television program The Joy of Painting.
He has a son Steven from his first marriage to Linda. Steven occasionally appeared on The Joy of Painting and is a Bob Ross certified instructor. Bob and Linda's marriage ended in divorce in 1981. Bob married again, this time to Jane. Jane died of cancer two years before Bob. In 1994 Bob married for the third time, this time to Lydia. It was to be only a short marriage, Bob died of lymphoma cancer aged 52.
Ross is best known as the host of the public television series The Joy of Painting, which ran from 1983 to 1995. During each half-hour segment, Ross would instruct viewers in the art of oil painting by painting an entire landscape over the course of the program, usually also providing a running commentary on the process as he worked. He was known in particular for, like his predecessor Bill Alexander, frequently anthropomorphizing the inanimate subjects of his paintings and describing them in such terms as "happy little trees" and "pretty little mountains". Ross acknowledged that the appearances of the landscapes he painted (typically mountains, lakes, and 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 accomplished artists given time, practice, and encouragement, and to this end was often fond of saying, "We don't make mistakes, we just have happy little accidents." Ross later founded his own successful line of art supplies and how-to books, and also offered painting classes taught by instructors trained in the "Bob Ross method". 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 utilized the wet-on-wet oil painting technique, in which paint is applied on top of still-wet paint (as opposed to the more classical method of waiting for each paint layer to dry before applying more paint). Combining this method with the use of large painting knives and fan brushes allowed Ross to paint trees, water, clouds and mountains in a matter of seconds. On the show he often credits Bill Alexander for teaching him this method.
Bob also filmed random wildlife (in particular squirrels) footage, usually in his own garden. This was often featured, even during some of his trickier works.
In an episode of The Joy of Painting, Ross explained his preference for painting landscapes over portraits or people:
"Any way you paint a tree, chances are, somewhere there's a tree that looks like that. Years ago, I tried painting portraits, and I had a hard time. Number one, I couldn't capture the essence of what makes a person an individual. The other thing was, if you paint a landscape, and it doesn't come out just right, somebody else will come along and say, 'Hey, I've seen that place, maybe I used to fish and play there.' If you paint a portrait that has one eye square or something, I guarantee everybody's going to notice it. So I gave up portrait painting. My portrait teacher told me to go paint bushes and trees, because that's where my heart was."
In March 2006, The Bob Ross Inc. announced plans to license rights to develop a Bob Ross video game. At the time, it was reported that AGFRAG Entertainment Group would receive the license and planned on developing the game for PC, the Nintendo DS, and Nintendo's next-generation video game console, the Wii. The Wii was chosen because its Wii Remote is unique in its ability to sense 3D control, allowing the player to use the remote like a paintbrush, aptly suited to The Joy of Painting.
At first, the announcement was believed to be an early April Fool's Day joke. However, it was confirmed by several websites including IGN.com, the official Bob Ross website and the AGFRAG homepage.
On December 5, 2006, it was reported that the game had been canceled. A short while later, however, the company announced that those reports were inaccurate, and that they were looking for another development company, as AGFRAG had left the project.
* Stated that his favorite part of painting was cleaning the brush (specifically, the act of knocking paint off the brush head by rapping it against the easel frame). Bob Ross can be seen smiling and even laughing out loud consistently during this practice as he, in his words, "Beat the devil out of it".
* Appeared in two self-parodying promos for MTV which featured him working on paintings of the MTV logo and describing MTV as "all fluffy white clouds" and "the land of happy little trees".
* Stated in one episode of The Joy of Painting that he did not wear shoes to school until the sixth grade (Series 15, Episode 10).
* Though he never studied at any upper-level design academies or fine arts schools, he did admit that he had attended art school "as a pup" (contrary to the popular belief that he never received any formal artistic training).
* He studied engineering in college.
* Although he adopted and rehabilitated numerous wild animals, Bob Ross did not believe in keeping them as pets. He released every animal back into its natural habitat, despite his loving bond with said critters.
* Bob Ross was a vegetarian.
* Ross was spoofed on the Fox television show Family Guy. In the opening of the second season episode "Fifteen Minutes of Shame," he paints a bush and tells the viewer, "We're just gonna put a happy little bush down in this corner, and that'll just be our little secret. But if you tell anybody that bush is there, I will come to your house and I will cut you!"
* On an episode of the cult series Mission Hill, main characters Andy, Jim and Posey are watching a parody of Bob's show in the same manner one would watch a game show or sporting event. Jim and Andy ask "Palette knife or fan brush?" Posey yells out "Thin it with turpentine!" When Bob pauses on screen wondering what to paint next, Andy chants "A happy little tree" and Bob paints a happy little tree. Andy kisses the screen, proclaiming "I love you man!"
* On the Dana Carvey Show, Ross is portrayed by cast member Robert Smigel painting a double portrait of the Menendez brothers embedded into a frosty mountain typical of Ross's style while saying, "They're going away for a long time; give 'em a tree."
* The Seattle Television show Almost Live spoofed Ross in a holiday skit. Comparing the shades of colors he is using, he remarked that they reminded him of "big, fat Uncle Ed" choking on a turkey.
* In the "Riley Wuz Here" episode of The Boondocks (originally "Joy of Graffiti" after Ross's show), a parody of Ross appears as a deranged art teacher from whom Riley is forced to take lessons after he is caught vandalizing a neighbor's house.
* On the UK Channel 4 series Peep Show Ross is frequently referred to as "God" by both Mark and Jeremy throughout the series.
* The comedy program Hard Core TV (which aired in the United States on HBO in the early 1990s) included a spoof called The Joy of Tattooing. It featured a Ross-like character tattooing people with colors like Suffocation Blue and Gang Green.
* The May 22, 2006 episode of Attack of the Show included a trailer for a nonexistent movie called The Bob Ross Code (a spoof of The DaVinci Code). It discusses how Bob Ross left clues in his painting concerning "Happy Little Twees."
* Nickelodeon's Doug once fantasized about being a painter resembling Bob Ross.
* Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez has a character called Bob Atroz (atroz meaning "atrocious"). His sketches consist of Bob teaching how to paint and saying things about the "happy trees" and "happy clouds" while cursing, all in a soothing voice. In these sketches, Derbez speaks English and viewers hear a "translation" in Spanish that isn't totally accurate and tones down some of the things Bob said.
* In Road Trip, a motel clerk (Andy Dick) watches The Joy of Painting behind the reception desk, and attempts to imitate Ross using a ballpoint pen and a pad of paper.
* An episode of MADtv in which Michael McDonald, acting as Ross, tells the story of being arrested for setting his house on fire during a nervous breakdown through a series of drawings.
* In an episode of Dilbert the characters watch a similar show called "Painting with Rusty Shanks", who is a clear parody of Ross, and they try to paint along. Shanks teaches them to paint a taupe octagon, repesented by an orange dot. The show opens with "Last week, I taught you how to paint shrubbery using your own head as a brush", a comical reference to his fine head of afro-like hair.
* On the Canadian television show This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Gavin Crawford periodically spoofs Bob Ross, in which he is depicted as actually a psychotic killer.
* The mexican edition of Mad Magazine featured a comic about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looking for a substitute for Michelangello, intervewing various artist-based turtles, finally settling for a Bob Ross-like one that claimed "We are a happy group".
* Rob Bartlett's "Not-for-Profit" TV Special also parodied Ross. In it, he is seen as painting a picture in a way that a kid under the age of 10 could paint, and also wrecks the picture, while a drunk couple watches the events on TV.
* Gym Class Heroes have a song titled "To Bob Ross With Love" on The Papercut Chronicles, in which they thank Ross for "all the happy little trees." They also have a song titled "Happy Little Trees."
* Folk singer Ben Wilson wrote and recorded a song entitled "Bob Ross Indefinitely " for his 2005 album "Songs for Naked People."
* The German band Blumfeld mentions Ross in their song "Strobohobo." The lyrics say "Oblomov is painting with Bob Ross."
* The Brooklyn, New York band Sacred Monkeys of Bali had a song titled "Bob Ross." It can still be heard on the Internet.
* The Barba brothers of New York, New York created a music video tribute entitled "Why I Don't Paint People," in which Bob Ross inspires others through dance and song. This musical parody is currently available online.
* Avante garde hip hop group cLOUDDEAD mention Bob Ross in the lyrics of their self-titled album in the song 'And All You Can Do Is Laugh (Part 1)'.
* Andrew Morency of the Sheckies recorded a song titled "Bob Ross" in his first band Abnormal Adolescents
* The Dutch band Cafebar401 recorded a song titled "Bob Ross on Drugs" on their self-titled album, in which the singer claims "You know how I feel like I’m Bob Ross. On drugs...".
* Christian Alternative rock group Poor Old Lu have a song titled "Peapod" on Mindsize, which features samples of Ross talking about "Peapod, the pocket squirrel."
* Dana Carvey spoofed Ross in a deleted scene of his movie The Master of Disguise, appearing briefly painting the evil henchmen chasing him while murmuring, "Oooo... Isn't that refreshing?"
* The Brothers Chaps pay homage to Ross on their popular Homestar Runner website. On the "toons" page, passing the mouse cursor over a video tape on the shelf shows the character Marzipan in full Ross gear, painting with one of his trademark knives. This is documented in the Homestar Runner Wiki.
* Ross is an unlockable character in the video game Celebrity Deathmatch.
* One of Gary Larson's "Far Side" cartoons depicts a tree that has fallen through a house onto a woman who was obviously painting a landscape while watching a Bob Ross-esque show. The Ross character (who is drawn with his afro but no facial hair) is saying: "And always make your trees look like happy trees."
* In the DVD horror/comedy Andre the Butcher aka Dead Meat, Sheriff Cooper Terry Mross enters a hunting lodge searching for escaped convicts. He spots a landscape painting on the wall and mutters to the attractive homeowner, "...reminds me of that painter guy on TV, Bob Ross. The white guy with an afro..."
* Comedian Patton Oswalt joked about Bob Ross (and his mentor, Bill Alexander) on his album Feelin Kinda Patton, calling Ross a "Human Quaalude".
* The ska band Five Iron Frenzy released shirts for their Electric Youth Tour in 2001 featuring Bob Ross and Abraham Lincoln, with Bob Ross saying to Lincoln, "Abe, you're so money and you don't even know it."