Dead Person You Should Know: Bob Ross

Robert Norman Ross, known to his cult-like following as Bob Ross, was a televised American painter who is most famous for his show The Joy of Painting, in which he instructed amateur painters in his specialized techniques of the trade, while adding a fun, relaxed, and easy-breezy atmosphere to the making of his “pretty little trees.”  

Bob Ross was an artist. Recreating landscapes and scenes he had witnessed throughout his life, Bob used a technique thought to be inspired by Michelangelo himself. Ross’s process is called “wet on wet oil painting,” which is very similar to the frescoes used for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. While Michelangelo would lay down a fresh layer of plaster, Bob Ross would start each painting by lightly covering the canvas with a layer of Titanium White paint, so as to make blending easier and to use less paint than one normally would when working directly on a naked canvas. This idea has become quite popular since his death in 1995, and has spawned, where you can purchase anything from painting supplies to DVDs and coloring books of the master himself.

 The most surprising element of Ross is his life before The Joy of Painting. Though he may not seem like a military man, he received the honorable rank of Master Sergeant in the twenty years he served. If you know anything about Bob or have at least heard him speak, you’re probably wondering how such a sweet, soft-toned, and soothing voice could have been in the army; well, it wasn’t. Ross claimed that after he left service, he vowed not to yell anymore because of the negativity it brought to his life. In one of his episodes – which was filmed shortly after the passing of his wife, Jane Ross -  he says, “Gotta have opposites; dark and light, light and dark in painting. It’s like in life. Gotta have a little sadness once in a while so you know when the good times come. I’m waiting on the good times now.” Though he may be written off by some as a hippie who likes to paint, I think it’s better to view Bob Ross as an old soul - one that, through unique experiences that shaped him into the amazing person he was, tried every day to better the lives of others – even if he could only do it through showing them how to paint a mountain peak. He once said as encouragement to painters lacking drive or inspiration, “Look around. Look at what we have. Beauty is everywhere—you only have to look to see it.” Whether you’re just doodling in the margins or crafting a masterpiece, Bob Ross and his love of life and art can inspire us all. 

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