For many (regardless of if they realize it), watching a PBS Joy of Painting with Bob Ross episode is akin to ego loss — an individual who during each “class” seemed utterly selfless, calming, soothingly optimistic, brilliant without needing credit, purely present with each moment.
Now that Ross has passed, his family and friends manage his estate. Their inventory includes 1000s of his paintings worth probably millions. Interestingly and anti-capitalistically, they don’t sell his work because, “that isn’t what Bob would want” (they do sell art supplies and classes). In fact, the employees claim selling his works hasn’t even crossed their minds. This short New York Times documentary is compelling:
A few interesting Bob Ross facts, via Biography.com:
- Ross was in the Air Force. While stationed in Alaska the majestic mountains became inspiration for his paintings. Postcards also proved inspirational, as his later home on Florida offered very different scenery than Ross’s artistic focus.
- Artist William Alexander had a painting show before Ross. The two eventually worked together and Ross became the heir apparent. Ross describes Alexander as a mentor/teacher, and at one point Alexander was filmed symbolically handing his brush to Ross. Reportedly, the two had a falling out as Ross became successful.
- Ross’s popularity can perhaps be primarily attributed to his pleasant voice, at least more so shan his artistic teaching. Few viewers actually paint along with Ross (although some do).
- His line of paints has proved financially successful, even today, twenty years afters his passing. The provide the primary revenue stream for his legacy company, Bob Ross Inc.
- Ross was missing a finger, from a woodworking accident in his youth.
- Ross’s afro-ish-hairstyle had its roots in fiscal-responsibility — it was originally a perm so as to require fewer haircuts. As his show became popular and his hairstyle became his signature, he grew to dislike it but kept it due to its marketability. In his later years, he wore a Ross-style wig as he went through cancer treatment.