5 Things You Didn't Know About Bob Ross

1. Military Career

Ross enlisted in the United States Air Force at 18 years old and served as a medical records technician.He eventually rose to the rank of master sergeant and served as the first sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Clinic at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, where he first saw the snow and mountains that later became recurring themes in his artwork. He developed his quick-painting technique to create art for sale during brief daily work breaks.

Having held military positions that required him to be, in his own words, "tough" and "mean", "the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work", Ross decided that if he ever left the military, he would never scream again.

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2. Straight Hair


While Bob Ross was very well known for his friendly and calm persona his most striking feature had to be his hair. But fact is, Bob had naturally straight hair and only got it permed to save money. Rumour has it that he even hated his 'fro but had to keep it because it had become his trademark.

"He got this bright idea that he could save money on haircuts," his longtime business partner Annette Kowalski told NPR. "So he let his hair grow, he got a perm, and decided he would never need a haircut again."

3. Third time's a charm

While Bob made it seem that the paintings he did during the tapings of 'The Joy of Painting' were done very spontaneous and full of 'happy little accidents' this was in fact not the case. In reality Bob painted the same picture three times:

The first copy always hid off screen, and Bob referred to it while the cameras rolled. He painted a third copy when filming finished. This time, an assistant would stand behind him and snap photos of each brushstroke. These pictures went into Bob’ “How to” books.

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4. Bob the Celebrity


After the success of 'The Joy of Painting' Bob had a number of appearances on nationally televised talk shows and was also regularly being spoofed on MTV and HBO. This trend continues until today.

While there is a story that Bob was once invited to the Oprah Winfrey show that we couldn't verify, Bob was invited onstage  at the Grand Ole Opry in 1987 by country star Hank Snow. Bob being an old country fan accepted the invitation and gave Hank a private lesson afterwards.

5. He did it for free

Bob Ross never recieved a penny for his television show 'The Joy of Painting'. However, Bob was a smart businessman and used the show as an advertisement for his own line of painting supplies. And boy, did he make a happy buck with it!

His company Bob Ross Inc. went on to become a $15 million empire of how-to books, videos and, most of all, Bob Ross art supplies. 

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© Felix Auer, 2017