The quiet and calmly-spoken artist is most well known for his painting show that has re-discovered success in recent years, but was he ever in the military?
Bob Ross was in the military. He served a massive twenty years of his life in the United States Air Force, something he claims inspired his painting later in life.
Read on to learn more about Bob Ross’ surprising military background.
Air Force to Artistry
It may seem surprising to some that the softly spoken artist Bob Ross ever served in the military. The shock may rise further when they realize he served for two decades of his life. Bob Ross is renowned for his patient, calm and gentle manner. These aren’t the first attributes we assign to a military figure.
Born in 1942, at the height of World War II, Bob Ross would join the United States Air Force by the age of eighteen. He enlisted as soon as he was able, in 1961, but didn’t ever see combat. He rose through the ranks and ultimately became a master sergeant.
In his profile on military.com, Bob Ross is quoted as saying: “I was the guy who made you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work.” It’s hard to imagine Bob Ross screaming at anyone, or anything.
It was in the Air Force that Bob Ross discovered his love for painting. Reportedly, he developed a style of painting that would allow him to create art extremely quickly. Also in his profile on military.com, he explained: “I used to go home at lunch and do a couple while I had my sandwich. I’d take them back that afternoon and sell them.”
His talent was undoubtable, and he pursued the artistic venture after retiring from the Air Force. When he was almost forty years of age, he released “The Joy of Painting”. In this show, he’d calmly teach viewers how to paint like he did, using his rapid style.
In his lifetime, it’s alleged he created tens of thousands of paintings. In his television show, he’d paint three copies of the same image for each episode. After he passed away, many of his paintings were lost or hidden.
In 2019, over one thousand Bob Ross originals were found in a warehouse in Virginia, United States. They were collected by the Smithsonian, and proudly placed on display.
A Great Man
While Bob Ross’ show released four hundred episodes, he never took a penny for them. Instead, he used the show to tactfully promote his line of painting equipment and materials. In total, he amassed a fifteen million dollar enterprise by the time of his death.
He dedicated his later life to helping others, developing a ‘loveable hippie persona’. Although, at the start, there were some who doubted him. Some established artists were ‘insulted’ by Bob Ross’ insistence that anybody could learn to paint. Ross refused to give comment to these critics, however.
Truly, Bob Ross tried to make painting as accessible as possible. In one episode of his show, Ross explains that a viewer said he couldn’t paint because he was colorblind. In response, Ross painted an entire landscape using just greys. You can see this episode in the video below.
Bob Ross’ style of art was breathtakingly simple, but always had incredible results. He drew influences from nature and his surroundings. During his time in the Air Force, he was stationed in Alaska. This is reportedly where a lot of his landscapes were drawn from.
When he passed away in 1995, it was a relatively quiet affair. However, his videos would resurface in the late 2010s, storming back with great success. The internet helped spread his message and ability once again.