Happy 70th birthday, Bob Ross

Bob Ross and the happy raccoon

Bob Ross holds a special place in my heart. As a kid, I used to watch his program The Joy of Painting on PBS with my grandmother in Watertown, SD. When my parents and I would come to visit, they would drive into town to run some errands and leave me with her. I would plop down in front of the TV and suck on butterscotch discs while she painted along with him. She painted charming Bob Rossesque paintings, nature scenes, mountains, evergreen trees, happy clouds. When she ran out of canvas, she’d tear a scrap of wallpaper off of the wall or she’d take cardboard from one of the many cases of Coca-Cola she kept on hand, flip it to the blank side, and paint on that. It didn’t matter the materials, just as long as she had something to paint on. It was a beautiful thing.

There’s something about his voice that makes everything that’s wrong with the world seem like a sigh, like just another one of those things, like it’s all going to be okay. One of his most famous quotes is, “We don’t have mistakes here, we just have happy accidents.” I love him for that, too. I also love him because he worked at PBS practically for free for over a decade (The Joy of Painting ran from January 11, 1983, to May 17, 1994) until his lymphoma progressed too far for him to continue the show. He donated most of his paintings to PBS, and he made his money off of his line of instructional videos and painting supplies that are still sold today.

Bob Ross popularized the wet-on-wet painting technique, which he learned while living and working on an Air Force base in Alaska, where he spent most of his Air Force career. The wet-on-wet technique allowed him to paint with oil paints without the tedious wait for the paint to dry. He painted on top of the wet paint, which also allowed him to create a masterpiece every 30-minute episode.

He believed that art was for everyone, not just for a select few, “Traditionally, art has been for the select few. We have been brainwashed to believe that Michaelangelo had to pat you on the head at birth. Well, we show people that anybody can paint a picture that they’re proud of. It may never hang in the Smithsonian, but it will certainly be something that they’ll hang in their home and be proud of. And that’s what it’s all about.”


Have a happy day, everyone. I hope you East Coasters are safe.




  • Laura says:

    I always watched Bob Ross when I was sick. He made me feel better.

  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    There is something so hypnotizing about his voice and the way he transforms blank canvas into a seascape or a landscape, and even though all his paintings end up kind of the same and seem to belong in hotel rooms in Nebraska, whenever that show’s on I’ll sit and watch all of it, perfectly happy and hypnotized.

  • Joshua Moody says:

    Bob Ross is truly the Julia Childs of painting.

    I knew someone when I was kid, the husband of my piano teacher, actually, a super sweet guy, he’d known me all my life, had been in fact the only male that could hold me when I was a baby without me crying. He did Bob Ross paintings and they were phenomenal. He’d only started in his 60s but he was better than Ross himself. He did it until Parkinson’s prevented him from doing more. Thanks for posting this, it caused me to remember him.

  • Pete Sheehy says:

    About 12 years ago I was dating a woman with a 6 year old daughter who loved to draw and paint. They shared a one bedroom apartment, and when I would spend the night, the mom and I would sleep on a futon in the den and the little girl would sleep in the bedroom. On weekends she frequently woke before us, and would quietly slip into the den and turn on the TV with the volume way down to watch cartoons. Her mom and I would pretend to be asleep until we actually fell back asleep (at least I know I did). One morning, after falling back asleep, I was awoken by the child’s violent intake of breath, the kind of sound you associate as a precursor to the blood curdling scream from a kid who has accidentally cut themselves buttering their toaster waffles with a serrated steak knife. Her mother and I shot bolt upright in bed and said, “What happened!?” What happened was she had run across Bob Ross for the first time in her life, and the fact that a dude could whip out treescapes and mountains like it was nothing simply took her breath away. I’ll never forget that moment.

  • Cathie Smathie says:

    Love this post :) And thanks for adding the re-mix video…now I’ve finally got around to watching it.
    happy birthday, Bob!

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