Bob Ross, Television’s Favorite Artist

You’ve seen him before. He’s the soft spoken guy painting happy clouds, mountains and trees in about twenty-six television minutes, using big housepainting-type brushes and cooing soothing “you can do its” to the audience. His Joy of Painting program is the most recognized, most watched TV art show in history.

The artist – Bob Ross – a virtual cult-like figure among varying age groups all around the world, is about more than just painting, however. Millions of viewers agree that his quiet, nurturing disposition is a form of therapy for the weary, and his respect for nature and wildlife (popular guests include lovable baby squirrels and birds) has helped environmental awareness.

landscapeA native of Orlando, Florida, Bob Ross began painting at the age of 18 when he joined the Air Force and was stationed in Alaska. He took various art courses at universities and colleges, and after seeing Bill Alexander on television, he developed and personalized his very own quick and unique Bob Ross Wet-on-Wet Technique ®.

In 1981, Bob began touring the U.S. to teach his painting style, when one of his students was profoundly struck by his charisma in the classroom. “I saw and felt magic happening,” Annette Kowalski explains, “and asked myself, was there a way to share this joy with everyone?” A business partnership was formed – the Bob Ross Company – an active, thriving behind-the-scenes organization that today celebrates over 25 years of operation.

The first of his low-budget, unrehearsed and unedited “Joy of Painting” programs aired in 1982; twenty-five years and 403 shows later, “The Joy of Painting” is still the most popular, most watched art show, if not “how-to” program, on television.

“The Joy of Painting” is carried by nearly 450 public television stations throughout the United States, accessing more than 93.5 million households, and is broadcast in foreign countries as well; Japan, Mexico, The Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Turkey, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Costa Rica and Canada, with inquiries emerging from other countries too.

The response is overwhelming; literally hundreds of letters and email messages pour in each week from viewers of all ages, from around the globe. The rehabilitating powers of the Bob Ross method of painting have been put to use in many programs for youth, senior citizens, handicapped persons, and the like throughout the country. Bob is proud of the fact that while art has traditionally been accessible to only a select few, his technique is for everyone.

hibiscusThe paints, brushes and other equipment for this technique was devised by Bob Ross, and there is a wide range of instructional materials, including books (over 5 million in print), packets, videos, an art club and interactive web site. A new Ross-style flower painting technique was launched based on giant public demand, followed by a wildlife technique in keeping with the Ross “easy-does-it” approach. Almost 3,000 traveling certified instructors teach daily local Bob Ross painting classes in the United States and in other countries.

People Magazine, USA Today, The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Far Side, TV Guide, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications have printed stories about Bob Ross. He’s been the guest on the Joan Rivers Show, the Phil Donahue Show, Regis and Kathy Lee, CBS This Morning, The Today Show and others.

But there may be more to “The Joy of Painting’s” enormous popularity than meets the eye. Many of Bob’s most faithful viewers are not painters at all. They are relaxing and unwinding with Bob’s gentle manner and encouraging words, captivated by the magic that takes place on canvas.

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Just what is the Bob Ross Wet-on-Wet Technique ® ? “Wet on wet” refers to the method of applying wet paint on top of wet paint, omitting the traditional wait for each layer to dry. Using special firm oil paints and starting with a wet-based canvas, paints are glided across the canvas with a large brush or palette knife – making clouds, mountains and trees appear in seconds.


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