Robert “Bob” Norman Ross, through his television show The Joy of Painting on PBS, made art accessible to a generation of Americans and Canadians and taught them how to paint. The show ran for 31 seasons, a total of 403 episodes, from 1983 until 1994. Today (October 29, 2012) would have been Mr. Ross’ 70th birthday and Google produced a special doodle in his honor. He passed away at the age of 52 after suffering from lymphoma for several years.
Mr. Ross joined the US Air Force after high school and began his painting career while still in the military. He began developing his quick painting techniques in order to produce more canvases during his short work breaks. Once he progressed to the point where he made more money selling his artwork than working in the military, he left the Air Force to become a full time artist. He studied with German artist and television host Bill Alexander (who hosted The Magic World of Oil Painting for PBS) and fully developed the wet-on-wet painting technique with his mentor.
While serving in the Air Force, Mr. Ross had to take on positions where he shouted at lower ranking individuals and forced them to complete chores, scrub latrines, and screamed if they were late to work. He reported that, once he left the military, he would never scream again. Indeed, Mr. Ross became iconic in American culture for his soft voice and gentle words on The Joy of Painting. The show still has a large internet presence on YouTube. He is still teaching people to embrace art and paint “happy little clouds.”