American painter Robert Norman Ross was born on October 29th, 1942 in Dayton Beach, Florida. Better known as Bob Ross later on, he left school in the 9th grade and worked with his father as a carpenter. In 1961, Ross enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a medical records technician. After becoming master sergeant, he served as first sergeant in a clinic at an Air Force base in Alaska. Ross began to paint during daily work breaks while on service. After being in the military for twenty years, Ross retired from the Air Force in 1981.
Ross returned to Florida and began to study under German painter Bill Alexander, who was the host of a TV show called The Magic of Oil Painting (1974-1982.) Alexander was known for the technique he used, “wet-on-wet,” which allowed him to complete a painting in thirty minutes. Ross mastered this painting technique while still stationed in Alaska, where he would paint its landscapes and sell his paintings there. Ross joined the “Alexander Magic Art Supplies Company,” becoming a travelling salesman and tutor. During his travels, a student of his in Florida convinced him to start his own company, as it would be successful, and she lent him the resources to help create his own company.
In 1983, Bob started to host his own TV show, The Joy of Painting, as a sort of continuation of Alexander’s previous show. The episodes featured Ross teaching his painting technique and completing a painting per episode. Sometimes, guest stars would come and demonstrate their own painting techniques. The show ran on PBS until 1994, for a total of 31 seasons of thirteen episodes each. Even now, several channels and networks continue to include the show in their daily programming. Thanks to the TV show, Ross was able to promote and expand his business, Bob Ross Inc., into a profitable company. It offered art supplies, class recordings and later on classes by other artists.
In 1991, Ross filmed a second TV show, limited to one season, called Bob Ross: Beauty is Everywhere, with a format that was nearly identical to that of its original show. In 1995, Ross made his final television appearance in an episode of children’s series The Adventures of Elmer and Friends. On July 4, 1995, in Orlando, Florida, Ross died due to complications from lymphoma—an illness he had been fighting for some time but had kept hidden from the public—at the age of 52. Although he had a brief career as a painter, his name and legacy live on and continue to teach and inspire even to this day.