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- Hi I'm certainly glad you could join me today.
You ready to do another fantastic painting with me?
(bright music)
- [Narrator] You recognize his iconic image.
- Who's this?
This is Bob Ross.
This is the most famous painter
in the history of the universe.
- [Narrator] Signature phrases.
- A happy little cloud that floats around it,
just has fun all day.
- [Narrator] And soothing voice.
- Anything that you want you can build here.
This is your world.
- [Narrator] Bob Ross is one of public
television's most beloved personalities.
- The Bob you see on the show,
is the Bob that we all knew even behind the scenes.
- I used to watch Bob Ross all the time.
The thing I remember was his positivity.
He made you want to do that.
- He wasn't only a painter, he was
an entertainer in his own right,
without any flash, his paintings spoke for him
and he kind of took you by the hand and
led you along the way.
- I talk to only one person when I'm filming
and I'm really crazy about that person.
- [Narrator] Some watched for his
easy to learn painting technique.
- When I watch his method, I go it is,
wow how does he do that?
It's amazing and
he makes it look incredibly easy,
but the interesting thing is that when
people actually try to do it, they have success.
- Once you have the technique down,
all you need is a dream in your heart
and a desire to put it on canvas.
- [Narrator] And some we're just
captivated by his calming demeanor.
- And I think maybe that's part of the magic.
I think his voice was part of it, his presence,
his manner, his tone.
I think his sincerity came across,
and I think people relate to that,
they still relate to that.
- Every legend has an intangible
aura or something and I just imagine
whenever you're encompass of greatness
you know people just want to be around it.
- [Narrator] Bob Ross is public
television's most recognizable artist.
- Everybody knows Bob Ross and especially his hair.
- [Narrator] This is the story of a young painter
with a dream to share the joy of painting with everyone.
- My father, he spent most of his time
when he came home from work, watching public television.
He would have us watch Bob Ross,
where we would learn how to paint
and learn how to use our imagination.
- I'm sure the word magic gets used a lot
but I mean it really is like magic.
I mean, he'd mix up this color and
I'm gonna take a little bit of this yellow
and stick it in this black, and you think
what, right.
That's so counterintuitive, and then
takes like a palette knife and gets a little thing and
(whooshing) and there's a tree,
and it's like how'd you do that?
- People continually say I can't draw a straight line,
I don't have the talent, Bob, to do what you're doing.
That's baloney.
Talent is a pursued interest.
In other words, anything that you're
willing to practice, you can do.
- [Narrator] This is Bob Ross, the happy painter.
(bright music)
But before Bob became one of the
most popular artists on television,
Robert Norman Ross was just a
boy from Daytona Beach, Florida.
He was born on October 29, 1942
and grew up in the Orlando area.
Each of Bob's parents helped
shape his life in critical ways.
His father Jack was a builder.
- [Bob] I used to be a carpenter years ago.
My father was a carpenter and he taught me that trade.
I tell you what, it isn't that
easy to make a shed on a barn.
- He lost a finger helping his father.
When there's a pallet shot you can see the missing finger,
but because it was on his left hand and not his right hand,
it didn't affect his ability to hold the brush.
- Lender brushes are very very soft.
My father used to say their tender as a mother's love
and in my case that was certainly true.
I'm very prejudiced but I think I
had the greatest mother there was.
- [Annette] She had the largest influence on him.
She's the one who taught him the love of wildlife.
Second to painting or maybe even more than painting,
Bob loved wildlife.
- [Bob] I think when I was a kid I must
have had every kind of pet imaginable.
I lived in Florida so I had access to a lot of creatures,
but I had a pet snake.
I mean he got out of the cage and was
lost in a house for a long time.
My mother got up and went to the bathroom one night,
he was in there and scared her.
- [Narrator] But Bob's childhood wasn't all that easy.
- [Annette] Bob says that they were not wealthy
and really I think he viewed these wild animals,
anything he could get his hands on
as toys and entertainment.
- [Narrator] His mother and father
separated when Bob was very young.
His mother remarried briefly and had another son,
Bob's brother Jim.
- [Bob] When I was a kid I used to sit around and
you know my brother and I we'd look at clouds
and we'd pick out all kind of shapes,
we'd see the mean old which or the
or the Candy Man or whatever.
- [Narrator] 20 years later,
Bob's mom married his dad again,
but they didn't have long together.
Bob's father died soon after they remarried.
School was also tough for Bob.
- Do these little X's, see?
Little X's.
There, that's just the way the teacher
used to grade my paper in school.
She just run across it and go (clicking).
- [Narrator] When he was just 18 years,
old Bob joined the Air force.
- I spent half my life in the military
and I used to come home, take off my little soldier hat,
put on my painter's hat.
- [Narrator] He got married and had a son, Steven.
- He has been painting I think since he was born.
He was about 12 years old before he
realized everybody didn't paint.
- [Narrator] But Bob soon found
himself raising a son on his own.
His first marriage didn't last long.
Bob and his son had a close relationship
and years later after The Joy of Painting series took off,
Steve would occasionally appear on the program
and eventually became a certified Ross instructor, himself.
- Steve travels all over the country,
teaching hundreds and hundreds of people
the joy of painting and I've asked him
to come in today and show you what
he can do in just a few minutes.
So I'm gonna turn it over to Steve
and I'll be back at the end of the show.
Steve?
- Thanks a lot, dad.
- Steve was incredibly talented.
Bob said he talks better than I do
and he paints better than I do,
but Steve never was someone we could convince
to come on and work with the show,
and I always regretted that because
I thought he had enormous talent.
- [Narrator] Bob and Steve lived in Florida
for several years until the military transferred them
to Alaska when Steve was a young boy.
- I had been born and raised in Florida,
and was 21 years old before I ever saw snow.
- [Narrator] Bob remarried and settled down
near Fairbanks, Alaska with his new wife, Jane.
She was a civilian worker with the Air Force.
For more than a decade Bob worked mainly
as a medical records technician at the air base hospital
and cultivated his love of painting.
He was inspired by the snow capped
mountains that surrounded him,
and sold his paintings to tourists.
(upbeat bright music)
- He was a part time bartender,
and he was painting gold pans in Alaska
and selling them in the bar to make money.
- [Narrator] One day the tavern's
television was tuned to a PBS station.
Bob looked up and saw a painting show
hosted by a German man, named Bill Alexander.
- How long can you hide a dream?
How long can you have creative power?
You need that almighty creative power.
- [Narrator] Alexander was painting scenery
that Bob was familiar with, and he was using a
centuries old painting method called alla prima,
which means direct painting or all at once.
The basic premise is that a thin paint
will stick to a thicker paint.
Alexander called it the wet on wet technique.
- Years ago Bill taught me this fantastic technique
and I feel as though he gave me a precious gift,
and I'd like to share that gift with you.
- [Narrator] This method allows you to layer colors of paint
on top of one another and blend them right on the canvas.
Traditional oil painting requires you to
wait for each application to dry before adding a new color,
but the wet on wet technique is more user friendly
because it allows you to paint very quickly
and if you make a mistake you can just blend it away.
- [Bob] Because as you know we don't make mistakes.
In our world we only have happy accidents
and very quickly, very quickly you learn to
work with anything that happens on this canvas.
Anything.
- [Narrator] This painting style was
exactly what Bob was looking for.
- I remember when he was in the Air Force up in Alaska.
We went up there and he was excited about
watching someone on television and he says,
"That's what I want.
"I want to paint before the bubble bursts.
"I want to get my painting on the canvas
"before I lose my idea."
- About 1975 I saw Alexander on television
and like millions of other people I fell in love with him,
and it took me about a year to find him.
I studied with Bill and when I retired from the military
they offered me a position with his Magic Art Company
as a traveling art instructor.
- [Narrator] Bob's wife Jane and his son Steve
stayed in Alaska for a couple more years
until Jane was eligible for retirement.
- So she allowed Bob to leave Alaska with $1,000
and told him to either go out and
make his fortune or come back home.
He promised her, "I'll go and do this,
"if it doesn't work I'll come back home
"and do domestic stuff and be a good husband and father."
And so she stayed in Alaska and waited.
- [Narrator] Although he was leaving the land of snow
covered mountains, they left an indelible mark on Bob.
- I lived in Alaska for about a dozen years
and it has some of the most beautiful
mountain scenery there that I've ever seen.
Absolutely gorgeous.
- [Narrator] That breathtaking scenery
would serve as his inspiration for the rest of his life
and would eventually become Bob's signature subject.
He took that thousand dollars and set out
to try and spread the Joy of Painting.
Bob was teaching Bill Alexander
classes all over the country.
He happened to land one in his native state of Florida
and that's how he met Annette Kowalski,
in one of his painting workshops,
and Bob's life would never be the same.
- I had just lost a child and was still in mourning.
My husband would have done anything
to pacify me and make me happy.
So he said, "Okay, I'll drive you to Florida,
"which is the only place you can
"take a Bill Alexander class."
So I called the Alexander Company in Oregon
and they said, "Yes, we have some classes in February."
Unfortunately Bill Alexander has retired
and there's this guy named Bob Ross
who's teaching his classes and I was so unhappy.
- [Narrator] Annette enrolled in a seminar
that was five full days of painting.
- [Annette] During that five days, I became aware
of an effect that Bob was having on these students.
Very calming effect, very quiet.
I had never seen anything like it I was mesmerized by him.
- She kept insisting that there was some
something there that had to be packaged or bottled
and that's what I was hearing almost every single night
as we had dinner and I think that was the driving force.
- [Annette] So the last day that we
were in Florida on a Friday night,
we went to a local hamburger joint
and we invited Bob to join us, and he agreed.
I said to Bob, "I sure wish you would come
"to Washington DC and teach a class."
So he said, "Okay, okay. I'll do that."
- [Narrator] So Bob quit working for the
Alexander Magic Company and formed a partnership
with Walt and Annette Kowalski,
who were living in Northern Virginia.
Teaching their own painting classes sounded like a good idea
but getting people to enroll wasn't easy.
No one had ever heard of Bob Ross.
- [Walt] We tried to get Bob into a shopping mall
and demonstrate and in turn try to recruit students
for the classes that would occur maybe three days later.
- [Annette] We didn't have much success,
even though we ran expensive newspaper ads
and paying all the salary, and no students.
- [Narrator] They thought maybe the classes
weren't filling up because people
were working during the day.
So Bob decided to offer an evening class.
- One man came to our evening class,
and I said, "Bob we're not gonna
"stay here teach this one man."
And he said, "Oh yes."
And at the end of the class the man said,
"I'm so impressed with you.
"The idea that Bob would take the time
"to teach just me to paint,
"I'd like to make you a proposition.
"I'm a business man," which was his
way of saying I have a lot of money.
"I would like to offer you a million dollars,"
and in return he wants 40% of what we do
for the rest of our lives.
- [Narrator] They turned down that offer
and decided to keep pursuing their dream on their own terms,
teaching painting classes in art stores and shopping malls,
but they had meager attendance and mounting expenses.
One of the ways Bob tried to save money
was by getting his straight hair permed.
- [Annette] He thought that if he got his hair permed
he wouldn't have to pay for haircuts,
and he could save the thousand dollars Jane had given him.
- He was the best man in our wedding
and one day a number of years later
my kids were looking through our photo album.
They kept saying who is this man in these wedding pictures?
I said, "Well you know who that is."
I said, "Well that's uncle Robert."
They said, "Nah-ah."
(laughs)
And I said, "Yes, it is."
And they said, "Well he don't have curly hair here.
I said, "That came later."
- [Annette] Probably one of the most important
things Bob said to me was,
"If you do what you love, the money will come.
"Don't think about money,
"just do what you like."
- To me the first step of accomplishing anything
is to believe that you can do it.
- [Narrator] But they needed a next move,
a turn in the right direction.
So Annette called Bill Alexander
and asked him to make a commercial
with Bob promoting his classes.
I hand over that almighty brush to our mighty man, Bob.
- Thank you very much, Bill.
We've had so many cards requesting classes in this area that
we've decided to set one up here and
we will have a class going in the near future.
We'll produce some almighty painters.
- [Narrator] But the commercial wasn't
recorded on a standard size tape.
It needed to be converted to a format
that television stations could air.
So they took the commercial to their local
public television station in Northern Virginia, WNVC.
- When they saw Bob painting on this tape,
they got very excited and they came to us
and said, "Wow this guy is wonderful.
"Would you agree to do a television series?"
And we said would we ever (laughs).
- [Narrator] They came up with the idea for a
show and called it The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.
- Hi, I'm Bob Ross and for the next 13 weeks
I'll be your host as we experience The Joy of Painting.
- [Narrator] At the beginning of the show,
Bob would start with a blank canvas
and finish less than a half hour later
with a completed oil painting.
- [Annette] Bob told me that he
went through every brush stroke
in his head when he was in bed at night
of how he would execute that painting on TV.
- [Narrator] Every element of the show was thought out,
from Bob's standard long sleeved dress shirt and jeans
to the soothing tone of his voice.
- [Annette] He said, "Annette, these television
"programs could go on for years."
Little did he know.
"I want to be sure and wear something
"on television that looks as good 30 years
"from now as it does now."
I think the hair he was a little sorry about,
and he couldn't change that because
we had made a logo out of it.
- He hated his hair but it was his trademark
and he had to do it, and it really really bothered him.
- I talked to him about it a couple of times
and said you know, "Have you thought
"about changing your hair?"
And he said, "No, this is my trademark,"
and he had decided that's what he would look like
and people loved it.
- What a signature look.
Yeah, I mean, it's like fantastic.
- [Narrator] Even the simplicity of the set was no accident.
- It was just a black curtain environment.
Bob and his easel, three cameras.
I ran the camera that Bob talked to.
- Richard's been with me
since the first series
and as you can see Richard has finally got smart
and he now wears a raincoat.
He got tired of all his clothes being painted.
- Bob's original idea was to have this elaborate set
that looked like a trapper's long cabin, whatever,
and this was the original intent,
but it finally dawned on Bob that
he would not create the intimacy with the viewer
with all of that in the background.
- He liked the intimacy of the small space
and it allowed him to feel the kind of intimacy
and to sound intimate and be intimate with us, the audience.
- [Annette] He said he pretends
like he's talking to one woman in bed.
- I talk to only one person when I'm filming,
and I'm really crazy about that person.
It's a one on one situation that I think people realize that
and they do feel that they know me
and I feel that I know them.
- [Narrator] Bob wanted to publish a how to book
to go along with The Joy of Painting program.
- WNVC said, "I'm sorry we can't publish the book,
"if you want a book you're gonna have to publish it,"
and it was going to cost thirty thousand dollars.
So Walt mortgaged our house
and we published Bob's first book.
- [Narrator] The book had the same step by step
approach of his television program.
They would go on to produce a book for
every series of The Joy of Painting,
and Bob would dedicate each one to
someone meaningful in his life.
- [Annette] Bob gets all the credit for these books.
After he filmed a painting in front of the cameras,
we would then go back home and
he would repaint that painting,
and I would stand behind Bob with
my Canon 35 millimeter camera and he would make me
take about 50 photographs, the whole time he was painting,
and those were the how to photos
that he wanted in that book.
- [Narrator] Series one aired on many public
television stations on the East Coast
but the audience was small.
- And the time you sit around worrying about it
and trying to plan a painting you could
have completed a painting already.
- [Narrator] And the quality of the audio and video
was so poor that the first series of The Joy of Painting
was never aired again, and the book that
goes along with it is a rare find.
The partnership with WNBC dissolved.
- I think we'll call that finished
and I want to thank you very very much for watching us.
I hope to see you again in the near future.
- [Narrator] Bob would have to look
for a new home on public television.
With series one of The Joy of Painting under his belt,
Bob forged ahead teaching painting classes
across the country and looking for a new
television station to partner with.
- Our dream was to move this inland to the Midwest.
Walt was tracking where Bill Alexander's
program was popular.
Those were the cities that we
wanted to hit with our classes.
Phil Donahue was very big in those days
and he was coming out of Chicago.
We wanted to run commercials on the Phil Donahue Show,
but where would we get a commercial?
- [Narrator] Once again he turned to public television.
This time in Muncie, Indiana,
just across the state line from Chicago.
- In 1981 funding for Public Television got really bad
and a committee was formed in Congress
called The Temporary Committee For Alternate Funding,
we called it TCAF, and out of that committee
there became a legislation that allowed for
10 public television stations to actually sell commercials.
WIPB was one of those stations.
Well I was sitting in my office which happened
to be the upstairs bedroom of this television
studio which was an old house,
I look out the window and this VW bus pulls in the driveway
and we're thinking okay and this bushy haired man gets out
and this lady with him and they come walking up to the door.
He says, "Well hi.
"My name's Bob Ross and we're doing a demonstration
"and some classes at your mall down the street,
"and was wondering if you could give any publicity to us?"
And I looked at our production manager and I said,
"Have we got a deal for you."
- [Narrator] WIPB be produced a commercial
promoting Bob's painting classes
and aired it before and after Bill Alexandra's program.
Walt and Annette also bought
airtime on the Phil Donahue Show.
All that advertising paid off.
The class was such a success that Bob thought about making
WIPB be the permanent home of The Joy of Painting,
so he went to see the general manager.
- He said, "Well we we'd like to talk
"to you about an idea we have."
And I said, "What's that?"
He said, "Would you would you go to lunch with me?"
And I said sure so we took him to lunch.
He said, "How about making a painting series?"
- We did the first one and he made the painting
in basically 26 minutes and 46 seconds
and so we said well my goodness.
How many of these can you do and
he says how many you want to do?
I said, "Well you realize we could
"do 13, we'd have a series."
So believe it or not in like a three day period
we knocked out 13 programs.
- [Narrator] The next step was to get
The Joy of Painting picked up around the country.
So they submitted the series to a national distributor
to see if there was enough interest from
other stations to carry the program.
- It went up for a vote and basically
Bob and Annette and I and a couple of others
were in our office, we were actually
watching this vote tally,
and by golly you know it was a hit.
They said oh yeah we'll take it.
They designed a marketing campaign
turning over Bill Alexander's technique
and his legacy to Bob Ross.
- I hand over now that almighty brush
to a mighty man and that is Bob Ross.
Congratulations.
- Thank you very much, Bill.
We look forward to seeing you right here on this channel
for The Joy of Painting each week.
- [Narrator] Now with a national audience,
Bob was on the hook to produce a
new program series every quarter.
The production schedule was grueling.
- We did the whole 13 programs that would be
in a typical quarter, in one week here at WIPB.
Bob would show up on Sundays,
he'd place the paintings actually around the studio
in which we're sitting right now,
and he'd pick out the order in which
he was going to produce them,
and we would do the opens and closes of the shows,
all of them on Monday,
and then we'd do probably two or three programs on Monday.
Then Tuesday we'd usually do eight or nine,
and Wednesday we'd do what was left,
and look at them again on Thursday
and if we had two we did retakes.
- The show was generally shot straight through live to tape.
Occasionally if there was a technical problem
or something like that they would go back
and do an edit but he was producing those paintings
as you saw it on television.
- [Annette] He was very proud of that,
that there's no trickery going on.
And I should mention here that those
paintings were not all that spontaneous.
There was always a finished painting hanging
off camera that Bob was referring to.
- Tell you what let's get crazy today.
- And he would say all these
funny things like let's get crazy
but he knew where he was going.
He knew where he was going, but he's taking
you on that ride with him, you know.
He's keeping you entertained and
painting all at the same time.
- [Annette] But Bob insisted that nobody
ever see the finished painting
because sometimes he didn't have time to do
everything that was in that painting.
And he would have to leave out a big tree
or a bush or a boat.
- [Narrator] There is one exception
to Bob's thoughtful planning,
he did series two completely off the top of his head.
- One night somebody broke into our motor home
two days before we were to start taping,
and they stole all 13 of the reference paintings.
And that was the most spontaneous series that Bob ever did.
- [Narrator] This new partnership with
the PBS station in Muncie, Indiana
was the right move for Bob.
He would go on to produce the remaining 30 series
of The Joy of Painting there.
That's almost 400 episodes.
- There's a lot of super people
that put a lot of work into making this happen.
It's not done just by coming up here
and painting a little picture.
There's a lot of people here in the studio
that work very hard to bring you a nice production.
They really do a good job.
- It was always fun to work with Bob.
It was always a week that I think we
looked forward to when he would come back.
- Bob had a wonderful sense of humor
and so our days were spent more or less
telling jokes and goofing off,
and then when it came time to be serious
and do the show you know then the Bob you
see on the show is the Bob that we all knew
even behind the scenes.
- [Narrator] And when the work was done,
Bob and some of the WIPB team would scour
local antique shops for forgotten treasures.
By 1984 The Joy of Painting could be
seen in most parts of the country,
but some stations still weren't carrying the program.
While Bob was teaching classes in upstate New York,
he gave every one of his students the home
phone number of the local PBS station manager
to convince him to carry Bob's show.
- [Bob] Give your station a call.
I don't know, let them know what you want to see,
and when they need some help give him a hand.
- [Narrator] Bob's wife Jane came down from Alaska
to work with Walt on the business side of things.
- Jane was very much involved.
She did the secretarial work and the office work.
- We were forever supplying Bob and Annette
when they were on on the road teaching classes,
and that's when we were in the basement of our home.
- I was in college when they started this,
you know crazy thing and
came home one day for Thanksgiving or something
and the house was just transformed it was no longer home.
It was like a warehouse and a shipping dock.
- [Narrator] At this point Bob and Annette
were on the road teaching painting classes nearly non stop.
- As Annette and I have traveled around the country
teaching people we have made so many fantastic friends
that have been with us for so long now,
and that might truly be The Joy of Painting
is the friends that you make doing it.
- [Narrator] But all that travel was necessary
for the sake of the business,
because teaching painting classes
was at the core of what they did.
- [Annette] I think we all had a good relationship
with our spouses, all of us did,
but Jane allowed Bob to go out
and do what he wanted to do.
- My wife Jane, she's stood behind us
and kept this thing going,
and it takes a special lady to live with a crazy man.
- It wasn't fun for them,
it wasn't necessarily a lot of fun for us,
but the encouragement was there from Jane
and certainly I was going to all lengths to
satisfy my wife as well.
- [Narrator] The Oprah Winfrey Show called
and asked if Bob would agree to appear
and I said, "Oh, yes.
"Should I bring the easel and the canvases and paint?"
They said, "Paint?
"No, we're just looking for couples that are
"in business together but don't live together."
- [Narrator] Without the opportunity to paint
Bob turned down the guest appearance
on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
- [Annette] To Bob it was all about painting.
It's always been about painting with Bob.
- [Narrator] But the stress of turning this
dream into a reality wore on them,
and many times Annette, Walt, or Jane
talked about throwing in the towel.
- Fortunately there was never a consensus.
Not all four of us agreed at the same time,
so it just sort of, we were on a shift.
Those who objected or wanted to quit were in favor,
and then the others would switch over
and decided let's cash it in.
- [Narrator] But Bob's persistence kept them all going.
- [Annette] Well he never wanted to quit.
- No, he was probably one of the--
- And I was the one who most wanted out.
- [Narrator] His complete dedication to painting
and teaching others to paint was the driving force.
What ultimately led to Bob's unprecedented success
hosting a painting program, was his unwavering belief
that anyone could learn to paint.
- You often hear that to be an artist
you have to be blessed with your own talent.
I think Bob's really reversed that notion,
anybody can paint.
He said just a little bit of practice
and anybody can paint.
- You know just recently I was
doing a demonstration in a mall,
and I had a man come to me and he said,
"Bob I could never paint because I'm color blind,
"all I can see is gray tones."
So I thought today we'd do a picture in gray
just to show you that anyone can paint.
- That's the miracle of Bob Ross.
He starts very simply and it just
layer and layer and he builds, and anyone can do it.
- [Narrator] That was part of the magic,
Bob's unyielding encouragement.
He said all you need is a desire to take that first step.
- I remember putting my knife out for
the first time and just shaking.
From where I came from with absolutely no background in art,
not knowing anything about brushes, paints, canvases,
I didn't know anything and I actually sat down in
front of the canvas and did something.
I was amazed that what I could do.
- It's brought painting to the, or the ability
to create something to the average person,
and you know they know they're never
gonna be a famous artist, I think, maybe they will be.
But when they sit down they just
get into their own world and it's a nice place to get.
- [Narrator] Bob nurtured the confidence of his
viewers and for many people painting
gives them a feeling of accomplishment
and that's part of the joy that Bob was trying to spread.
- There is joy in that in painting
and creating something and being proud of it,
and you can see the looks on people's faces
when they're proud of their painting.
It's like they just can't believe they did that.
- You feel so important when you're doing that.
You know when you're putting that paint on that canvas,
you are doing something that up until that moment
was in a couple of tubes and a blank canvas sitting there.
I mean it wasn't doing anything for anyone,
and you're taking those same exact things
and with just a little bit of energy
you've taken this and made it into a creative
and a wonderful thing.
- [Narrator] But the fact that a first timer can
achieve immediate success using the wet on wet technique
is part of the criticism.
Traditional artists chastise the method
as being overly simplistic.
And some say his landscapes use color
combinations not found in the natural world.
- Most people think that art is something
that's very complicated that you have to go to school
for a hundred years to learn,
and we try to teach them that
that you can do a very good painting
with very little instruction,
a lot of happiness,
and teach them how to create.
- People don't believe that he had any real talent,
that he just put paint on a canvas.
In actuality, he does everything that
traditional artists do.
He just doesn't talk about it.
He just doesn't talk about it.
He doesn't say, he doesn't use the word perspective,
he'll say make the color light in the distance.
- I think the hardest part with painting is
is knowing the balance you know,
where the foreground and the background
and not putting things in the middle
and of course when you watch what he does
as a professional, you realize that
he does all of that for you,
but he's not telling you okay these are the rules,
you don't do this and you don't do that.
He just automatically does it.
- [Narrator] But Bob never let the critics get to him,
because it was not his goal to be regarded as a great artist
or even to teach others to be.
- You say out loud your work will never hang in a museum.
Bob!
- Well maybe it will but probably not this morning.
- Because why, Bob? What's the deal here?
What are you telling us?
- Well I'm trying to teach people
a form of art that anybody can do.
This is art for anyone who's ever
wanted to put a dream on canvas.
It's not something, it's not traditional art,
it's not fine art, and I don't try to tell anybody it is.
- [Narrator] His goal was to get people
to experience the joy of painting,
and he did that by removing the fear of failure.
- [Walt] I think that's probably the main ingredient
of Bob's technique, that he dismissed that
sort of fear of beginning.
- I think that you have to believe in yourself
and you need the confidence belief to carry on.
- I'd probably say he's done more for art
than anyone in the history of art.
He's got more people involved just because of his nature
and he told them they could do it and they can.
- [Narrator] Bob even acknowledged those criticisms
in a spoof he did as an HBO filler to run between movies.
Bob interrupts a formal art class
when he comes to paint the house.
When the class takes a break,
Bob gives it a try using his own tools.
With each series of The Joy of Painting
Bob's familiar image and soothing voice
filled more and more homes across the country.
- I think our first series we managed
fifty stations around the country,
and probably for the next two or three years
we didn't rise much beyond seventy five
of the public channels and then sort
of exponentially we went to 300.
- It's on almost every station in the country still.
It's like 95% of stations which is the highest
of any of the art programs.
- [Narrator] But most people who watch The Joy of Painting
are just watching, the Bob Ross Company
estimates that only around 3% of the show's audience
actually paints along with him.
Millions and millions of people watch him all over the world
and only a small percentage actually paint.
They watch him because they just enjoy him.
- I hear people to this day say you know I
watched that just so that I can hear his voice.
- My method of viewing Bob Ross was definitely
turn on the TV and watch and listen and just be captivated.
I couldn't possibly lift a brush while Bob Ross
was talking and working because
you just get so sucked into what he's doing.
It was amazing because his subject
matter didn't vary too much, but it never got old.
It never cease to amaze me.
- Every day I just come home from school and I
like I really unwind when I watch his show.
He's just like semi enchanting.
He really puts like a good feeling into my heart.
It's fantastic.
- [Narrator] The secret to Bob's success was Bob himself.
His warmth and gentleness were sincere
but once he got in front of the camera
he was well aware that his personality was part of the show.
- His manner, he just seemed like
the happiest guy in the world.
I think that for me was
very powerful seeing him and his happiness.
The things that he used to say
and the ways that he would always talk about
the world and you can see the way he saw the world.
- You just get swept off into this magical world
where you're taken out of the present moment
and you're taken into a fantasy reality,
and yes it's his but it can become your own.
- [Bob] You can make up stories,
because this is your world and in your world
you can have any fantasy that you want.
- [Narrator] Bob cultivated a relationship with his
viewers by engaging them in a one sided conversation.
- If you think about what Joy of Painting was,
it's TV death, right?
It's a dude
speaking softly
and painting a picture,
but it's one of the most beloved shows ever.
- The instinct when you go on television,
you see that red light go on,
you know it's (babbling), entertain the people.
The worst thing could happen to me was a moment of silence
and all of a sudden comes along Bob Ross.
Who's gonna put in a white cloud here you know,
I remember thinking how'd this guy get a show?
- [Narrator] And although Bob was speaking slowly and calmly
he was painting rapidly.
- Bob Ross for as mild as he was
he painted like a bulldog.
I mean he really like got in there was just,
I mean he worked that canvas, he worked that painting,
he expected a lot out of his materials and he got it.
- There's things you pick up watching him
like the way to do a pine tree with the fan brush
where you just you know go straight up, get the little
trunk and then you do little pieces
all the way down with the fan brush
and it's so fast and the next thing you know he
takes a brush and he does a couple of
swirls with gray and black and white and they're rocks.
It was like so quick what he was doing and
it's fascinating to watch.
- [Narrator] Bob had a passion for life.
- And of course he had a Corvette
and he loved that Corvette.
- [Narrator] And a passion for wildlife.
He was known for having small animals
or critters as he liked to call them on his show.
- [Jim] This was not something we were happy with
or encouraged but we allowed him to do it
because Bob was Bob.
- We had lots of creatures on the show,
and squirrels of course became his trademark.
He really loved squirrels and he had Peapod.
- That's the one that just became famous
and Peapod lived in his house with him for about two years
and finally he said you know he really
needs to be out in the wild and so he released him.
- [Narrator] Bob was committed to
rehabilitating injured or orphaned animals,
and he would build elaborate cages for them.
- Actually I lived a couple blocks from him
and every now and then he'd say,
"Oh I made you a cage today."
And he would have made me one of these enormous