Famous Floridians: Bob Ross

JoAnn Ryan

I absolutely suck at painting. For real. But I love, love, love to watch Bob Ross paint. Watching Bob Ross paint is like seeing magic happen right before your eyes. When he was finished, it felt as though you could walk right into whatever scene he was creating and visit that picturesque pond or barn in the woods. Or that little house in the forest with the light on: Evening's Peace.

This was his true gift, painting places you'd want to be, like Golden Glow, one of my favorites. Or Mountain Summit, Ocean Sunset, Golden Rays of Sunshine.

All full of color and love, he was often criticized for his idealistic style and seemingly simple technique. However, how many of us have thought: hey, "I can do that"? Just because it did look so incredibly simple. And how many of us bought all the supplies and sat down to paint only to find that, hey, it's not at all as easy as it looks?

Another one of his amazing abilities was to make it all look so deceptively easy. But also, to make us all want to paint.

Plus, when he spoke his voice was so very soothing. I suppose this is why he remains popular more than 25 years after his untimely passing from cancer. In a complex and confusing world, he offers solace. Slow down and enjoy the simple beauty of nature and creation, is what Bob Ross taught us all to do.

Oh, and I also love that just about the time I'm thinking: "Ok, he's surely going to mess this painting up bad!" All of a sudden it pops, and you have this dazzling work of art. That's the magic part. He would simply say it was "a happy little accident" as he continued to paint his "happy little trees."

By the way, all the links above go to the YouTube versions of the original show on which these very paintings were created. Feel like having a Bob Ross binge today? If you have the joy of working at home like I do, try leaving on his shows while you work. Keep the sound at an ambient level and glance at it intermittently. I just find it soothing and great for creativity.

I believe I've watched every single episode of his show, Joy of Painting, at least that I could find. With 31 seasons, that's a lot.

Here are few interesting tidbits on this famous Floridian.

  • Just a Florida boy: Bob Ross was born in Daytona Beach in 1942 but was raised in Orlando. Later in life he lived in Alaska, which led to a recurring theme of mountain scenes in his work. He loved painting the ocean as well, and on occasion a cactus or a palm tree.
  • Military life: He served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years and retired with the rank of master sergeant. When he retired, he vowed to never yell or raise his voice again.
  • Not greedy: All of his paintings from the show were donated to PBS stations. He derived his income from his line of art supplies and instructional books.
  • Hard work and dedication: He typically painted three copies of his paintings. One he would complete before the show and keep off camera as a guide for the painting he would complete on the show. A third he would paint in more detail for his instructional books.
  • Best friends: His biggest fans were his little squirrels, who often loved to keep Bob company while he painted. The most infamous was Peapod, the pocket squirrel.
  • What about that hair? His signature white man 'fro was not natural. It was a perm he'd done early on to save money on haircare, or so he said. He didn't like it that much, or so he said, but kept it because his fans loved it.

Are you a Bob Ross fan? Do you have a favorite painting?

More on Bob Ross and sources for information:

BobRoss.com, Bob Ross on Biography.com, Bob Ross - Wikipedia

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Orlando, FL
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