We all love Bob Ross, but what do you actually know about him?

Let’s be real.

We all loved Bob Ross’s classic PBS series, “The Joy of Painting,” (which you can find on Hulu, Netflix, and Youtube) where in just a half-hour, he paints an incredibly beautiful and realistic-looking nature scene, usually featuring mountains and trees (and the occasional zinger, like an unexpected oval cut-out or painting over black gesso). He also loved sharing footage of his many beloved creatures, such as squirrels, crows, raccoons, and owls.

So, okay, you know all that already.

But what do you know about Bob Ross, the man? He was never really asked much about his personal life while alive, so he never really talked about it. But growing more private in his later years, his surviving family and friends are very protective of Bob’s personal life, even after his death in 1995 at the age of 53 from lymphoma.

Here’s what we do know (or most-likely know):

  • He divorced and re-married, and had 3 sons (2 from his first marriage, and one from his second).
  • He was a retired Master Sergeant for the US Air Force. With a reputation of being rather bad-ass and feared. He once told the Orlando Sentinel, "I was 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. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it."
  • When he retired from the Air Force, he is said to have avowed that he would never scream again.
  • He was hot! Who knew? His former Military colleagues could barely recognize the transformed Bob, if it weren’t for the missing piece of his index finger that he lost as a young man working with his father (it was usually covered by the palette anyway)
  • He didn't like the 'fro. But to save money after retiring from the Air Force, Bob got a perm. He was a true marketer and knew his ‘do was his iconic look, but he secretly disliked the hairstyle.
  • His mentor and teacher, Bill Alexander, was in an ongoing feud with Bob, claiming that Bob betrayed him and stole his new form of painting, wet-on-wet (which had actually been practiced for centuries), where thick oil paints were applied on top of wet paint, instead of waiting for the layers to dry, as is normally done.
  • He never made a penny from PBS for his iconic show, “The Joy of Painting.” But he made millions from the sale of his painting supplies, video tutorial series, and even a force of Bob Ross-certified national instructors. He was the ORIGINAL content marketer.
  • There are clues throughout the series that Bob was an ordinary man with ordinary problems; he often points out that in order for there to be light, there needs to be darkness; "you’ve gotta have a little sadness so you know when the happy times come around." Amen to that.

So what do those things tell us?

Not much.

He wanted to share his art with viewers, and encourage them to do it, too. He wanted to spread his love of nature and joy of painting with viewers who were either seeking a relaxing escape into their own little world for 30 minutes, or people who wanted to learn how to do it, too.

But, we just don’t know much about his personal life.

I kind of like that he has just enough of himself out there that I could maybe imagine the everyday Bob, but with plenty of mystery so I never really know.  

I hope you see a happy little cloud today.

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