40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees

Trista - July 6, 2019

Bob Ross is finding new posthumous fame thanks to the trend of ASMR videos. His smooth, low voice once mocked for its soporific effect is now once again reaching millions through renewed interest in his cult classic series The Joy of Painting. His “happy little trees” are now adorning notebooks, shirts, and more as the nostalgia of the 80s and 90s makes a full comeback. With over 400 recorded episodes, The Joy of Painting is ideal relaxing binge-watching material. Bob himself loved that his videos helped people relax, so curl up with a blanket, put on some Joy of Painting and dive into these happy little facts about Bob Ross.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross and his squirrel, Peanut. Imgur.

40. He Had a Squirrel Named Peapod

Bob Ross loved all kinds of animals and occasionally featured them on The Joy of Painting. One of his favorite types of animals was squirrels, and he sometimes carried young squirrels around in his pocket while filming the show. The most famous of his squirrel friends was Peapod, a small young male squirrel who hung out in his pocket in multiple episodes.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A fan painting from the Two Inch Brush community site. Two Inch Brush.

39. There Is an Online Database of Bob Ross Paintings

With the renewed interest in both The Joy of Painting and Bob Ross himself, it should come as no surprise that there are numerous websites devoted to the man and his creations. Perhaps the largest of these is Two Inch Brush, a fan site that catalogs all of his paintings in addition to featuring fan paintings done in his style. The site also has advice on finding or buying his paintings, discussion pages, and more. Bob Ross fans unite!

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross with squirrels. Mental Floss.

38. He Wanted to Host a Wildlife Show for Children

Sadly, one of Bob Ross’ major goals in life went unfulfilled due to his untimely death from cancer. Thanks to his love of animals, which started in childhood, Ross wanted to pass that love along to other children through a wildlife TV show. He was in talks to develop a children’s wildlife show, but unfortunately, the project never came to pass. With how great his squirrel cameos were, one can only imagine how great his nature show would have been.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross with a raccoon. Nerdist.

37. Ross Once Had Paintings Stolen

Due to donating most of his paintings to charitable organizations, very few Bob Ross originals have hit the secondary art market. However, during the filming of the second season of The Joy of Painting someone broke into Bob Ross’ van and stole 13 of his reference paintings, which he used during filming to recreate a piece live on air.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A mock-up of a Nintendo 3DS Bob Ross game. VGBoxArt.

36. Nintendo Had Planned Bob Ross Video Games

In perhaps the greatest gaming tragedy since the loss of Project Titan, Nintendo had plans to release The Joy of Painting as a video game on the Wii or DS console. The game would have allowed players to make their own Bob Ross paintings with either motion or stylus controls. One can only hope that the ongoing renewed interest in the show will spur Nintendo to reopen these plans, because who wouldn’t play that game?

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A black and white photograph of Bob Ross. The New Yorker.

35. Bob Ross Was Rarely Asked for Interviews

Some fans have come to believe that Bob Ross turned down requests for interviews, due to how few interviews are out there. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Ross himself stated that he never turned down requests for interviews; they just simply never came. Apparently, news stations didn’t find the smooth-talking, permed painter a newsworthy item, despite the popularity of the show in his own time.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A camera focused on Bob Ross. NPR.

34. The Painter Rehearsed His Lines, Including Happy Little Trees

While his on-camera persona is incredibly chill and relaxed, Bob Ross put a great deal of effort into achieving that air of calm. He would stay up late the nights before filming and talk through and rehearse what he wanted to say while painting, including the comments about mistakes being happy accidents, happy little trees, and so on. He was reportedly a meticulous planner and worked very hard to create his show.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
An art supply store section. Time Out.

33. Some Art Supply Stores Hid His Products

Bob Ross’ legacy has been hounded continuously by art critics who claimed he really couldn’t paint and that his lessons had no value for aspiring painters. Many derided him as a commercial artist who created a product, not art. Thanks to this derision from some art circles, some art supply stores infamously hid his line of art supplies in out-of-the-way corners or back rooms so as not to offend the more critical patrons of their stores.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A painting representing drug addiction. KDLT.

32. Bob Ross Compared Painting to Drug Addiction

In a metaphor that has not aged well, Bob Ross once compared painting, and his role as an instructor of painting, to drug addiction. He once said, “We’re like drug dealers. Come into town and get everybody absolutely addicted to painting. It doesn’t take much to get you addicted.” While it is true that he makes painting look effortless and easy to try, which undoubtedly has inspired many to take up the brush, comparing the art to drug addiction is a bit tacky, at best.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
An alligator in a bathtub. NY Post.

31. As a Child, He Kept an Alligator in a Bathtub

Ever the lover of animals, a young, precocious Bob Ross famously kept an injured young alligator in a bathtub to nurse it back to health. While Bob often talked positively about Alaska and the beauty of snow on The Joy of Painting, he was born and spent most of his youth in Florida where he encountered the young ‘gator.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
The Bob Ross Funko Pop.

30. There Is a Bob Ross Action Figure

Funk Pop, famous for making large-headed animated versions of countless superhero and geek culture television shows and movies, made a Bob Ross Funko Pop that features the permed artist holding a palette. The toy was released in 2017.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Inside the Bob Ross Museum. Wall Street Journal.

29. There Is a Bob Ross Museum in Florida

His native Florida is host to an entire Bob Ross museum. The Bob Ross Art Workshop is in New Smyrna Beach and features a wide range of Ross’ original paintings. The Workshop also hosts numerous training events throughout the year where participants can learn to paint in Ross’ famed wet-on-wet oil painting style.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross and his son, Steve. Hello Giggles.

28. Bob Ross Had a Son, Who Also Paints

Avid viewers of The Joy of Painting will no doubt remember that Bob Ross’ son, Steve, made several appearances on the show throughout the years. He painted in his father’s style and brought a slightly more risque, double-entendre-laden style to his smooth, calm voiceover. After his father’s death, Steve intentionally went underground and is untraceable on social media. It is believed that he still paints, based on statements from family friends.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross and his paintings. The Vintage News.

27. He Donated Many Paintings to Charity

Ever a kindhearted person, Bob Ross donated the vast majority of his roughly 30,000 original paintings to charitable organizations. Due to his generosity, very few of his originals ever enter the secondary art market. In fact, it’s largely unknown how much one of his originals would sell for since most are in museums, private homes, or still retained by charities.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross with a palette. Wall Street Journal.

26. Many Artists and Art Critics Hated Bob Ross

Despite bringing a love of painting to many, numerous art critics absolutely loathed Bob Ross and thought he was actively destroying art. He was called a charlatan, a commercial artist, and worse by critics throughout the years who thought he was simply selling his own product through mass-produced art while doing nothing to teach students how to develop their own unique styles and talents.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A Japanese broadcast of The Joy of Painting. Japanese Level Up.

25. Japan Loved His Show

As with many pop culture trends, The Joy of Painting found a massive resurgence of popularity in Japan. The show was so popular in Japan that it actually aired twice a day. When Ross visited Japan, he was mobbed by devoted fans who were immensely excited to see the artist in person. Interestingly, while Ross is most famous and beloved in the United States for his soothing voice, the show was dubbed into Japanese. It must have been a tall order to find a voice actor who could emulate Ross’ calming style.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
An opening clip from The Joy of Painting. Newsweek.

24. Bob Ross Could Film an Entire Season in Two Days

The wet-on-wet oil painting technique is incredibly quick to work with, thanks to not having to wait for the rather long drying time of the oil paints. With a practiced hand, like in Ross’ case, this meant paintings could be churned out with incredible speed. Ross supposedly was able to film an entire season of The Joy of Painting in only two days! With an average of 13 episodes per season, this means Ross was capable of recreating up to seven oil paintings per work day, as well as remembering all of the commentaries he wanted to make for each painting. Incredible!

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross and his manager, Annette Kowalski on The Joy of Painting. YouTube.

23. One of His Students Became His Manager

Annette Kowalski signed up for a painting class wanting to see Ross’ mentor. She was initially disappointed when Ross himself took over the course, but she quickly became impressed with his style and demeanor. She saw a star in Ross and offered to become his manager. Working together, they were able to build a multi-million dollar business of Bob Ross art supplies. While Ross was very particular about his business, Kowalski states she wishes to have him back alive more than anything.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A pan painted by Bob Ross. Mental Floss.

22. He Started Out Painting on Pans

While in the Air Force, Bob Ross fulfilled his love of painting (and desire for extra pocket money) by painting on pans that he would sell locally for a pittance. Some of those gold pans can still be found, with some selling for several thousand dollars online. While they predate The Joy of Painting by over a decade, some of his characteristic style can already be seen, as well as his common theme of Alaskan snowscapes.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A Bob Ross snow scene. Etsy.

21. Bob Ross Loved Alaska and Snow

Bob Ross was born and raised in Florida, but when the Air Force brought him to Alaska, he truly felt at home. Ross talked a great deal about his love for Alaska and snow on The Joy of Painting, and that love can be seen in many of the snowy winter paintings he completed on the show. His earliest works, painted on gold pans that he sold for pocket money, also extensively feature snowy Alaska scenes.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross’ “Florida’s Glory.” Two Inch Brush.

20. He Was Born In Florida

Bob Ross was born in 1942 in Dayton Beach Florida. His father, a Cherokee carpenter and his mother, a white waitress, raised him in Orlando, Florida. Ross dropped out of school after the 9th grade to join his father in the carpentry business but eventually enlisted in the US Air Force which moved him out of Florida. He spent a good deal of his later adult life back in Florida, and his remains are interred in Gotha, Florida.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
The YouTube logo. YouTube.

19. His Show Lives On Thanks To YouTube

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, everyone can go back in time to the 1980s and 90s and see virtually all of The Joy of Painting on YouTube, free of charge. There is a dedicated Bob Ross channel that hosts hundreds of the over 400 filmed episodes of the series. One can quickly queue up an entire season, and binge watch the delightfully relaxing program.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross’ gravestone. Mental Floss.

18. He Died At Only 52

Tragically, despite the popularity of his show and his desire to host a children’s nature show, Bob Ross’ life was cut short by cancer at the young age of only 52. Only two years after his second wife’s untimely death from cancer in 1992, Ross developed lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, which spread quickly and forced him to retire from The Joy of Painting in 1994. He died on July 4, 1995.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross on The Joy of Painting. Page Six.

17. Bob Ross Was Glad People Could Fall Asleep To His Show

While some creators would doubtlessly be offended to hear that people were using their art to fall asleep, Bob Ross was reportedly delighted that people were finding relief from insomnia and stress by watching his show. A former military man who understood anxiety and being tightly wound, Ross was happy to spread some calm and relaxation in the world.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
The Bob Ross museum. YouTube.

16. He Made Around 30,000 Paintings

Bob Ross made three versions of every painting that appeared on The Joy of Painting: a reference copy for him to work from during his live recreation, the on-air version itself, and a more detailed version that was intended to be used by his instructors in Bob Ross Painting classes. Given that he filmed over 400 episodes, that’s well over a thousand paintings alone not counting ones from his youth, personal pieces, and so on. He was truly prolific!

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A calming Bob Ross mobile app. Calm.com / Daily Mail.

15. His Painting Inspired a Netherlands Radio Show

Of all the Bob Ross spin-offs and marketing cash-ins which include foreign language airings of The Joy of Painting, a proposed but unfinished Nintendo video game series, and a new board game, perhaps the strangest is the Netherlands radio show. On the show, someone (not even Ross himself) would do a Bob Ross-style wet-on-wet painting while listeners followed along to only audio. Making a show about a profoundly visual art into an audio-only program is interesting, to say the least.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A still from The Joy of Painting. YouTube.

14. Bob Ross Made 403 Episodes of The Joy of Painting

Beating many popular and long-running television programs, The Joy of Painting clocks in at an incredible 403 aired episodes. While it can’t quite match up to 654 current episodes of The Simpsons, it certainly puts Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad in their places. However, given that each season only two around two days of filming, the considerable number of episodes likely wasn’t too terribly hard on the prolific painter.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A Bob Ross painting featuring a cabin. Pinterest.

13. He Tried to Avoid Signs of People In His Work

It quickly becomes apparent when watching The Joy of Painting that Bob Ross studiously avoided inserting any evidence of human inhabitation into his work. While many of his paintings may feature a shed or outbuilding, these are almost always included with black windows and no sign of smoke coming out of the chimney, even in paintings that are set in snowscapes at night. Ross wanted nature to speak for itself, and intentionally avoided those signs of human life.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A Bob Ross painting with happy little trees. Pinterest.

12. So Many Trees

If it seems like “happy little trees” are overstated when it comes to Bob Ross, you would be mistaken. His work, in fact, encompasses thousands of happy little trees. Analyses of his paintings have counted the number of trees and put the estimate, just from those he painted on The Joy of Painting at over 27,300 decorated trees. Given that he reportedly painted over 30,000 paintings in his lifetime, only can only guess at how many happy little trees are out there in the universe.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A still of The Joy of Painting. Convicts NYC.

11. He Received Hundreds of Fan Letters a Day

Given his apparent love of animals and painting, and his calm, upbeat demeanor, it should perhaps come as no surprise that Bob Ross had legions of devoted fans. In Japan, he was swarmed by thousands of fans when he made a brief visit. In the US, the artist received upwards of two hundred fan letters every single day. In many of the episodes, Ross can be heard mentioning a fan he received a letter from, indicating that he read many of them and took their messages to heart.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Peapod the squirrel in Bob Ross’ pocket. Two Inch Brush.

10. Bob Ross Kept Small Animals In His Shirt Pockets, Especially Squirrels

While Peapod the Pocket Squirrel was perhaps the most famous, Ross kept numerous small animals in his shirt pocket throughout the 403 episodes of The Joy of Painting. Peapod was a rescued squirrel that Ross fed on a dropper as a young animal and raised to a healthy adult. Baby birds, raccoons, and other animals occasionally joined Ross on the show and served as the inspiration for a children’s show that he wanted to host about nature.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Another beautiful Bob Ross painting. Two Inch Brush.

9. There Are No Public Records of How Much His Paintings Are Worth

Bob Ross donated the vast majority of his paintings to charity, so very few make their way to the private market. The most commonly seen Bob Ross originals are the gold pans he painted scenes on in the 1970s while serving in the Air Force, which has sold for several thousand dollars each. Original paintings have only occasionally come to market, and none have been recorded to have sold, leaving a giant question mark as to the true value of Bob Ross originals.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross holding a baby bird. Reddit.

8. The Artist Was Missing Part of His Finger

Bob Ross dropped out of school after the 9th grade to join his Cherokee father in the carpentry business. As many woodworkers and carpenters know, it is not a terribly finger-friendly industry, and the young Ross quickly learned just that when he lost part of the index finger on his left hand. Thankfully, this injury did not affect his ability to hold a palette, and he was able to paint as though he had no harm at all.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
A Bob Ross painting. Reddit.

7. He Made Three Copies of Each Painting

Every painting featured on The Joy of Painting exists as three separate copies. The first is a simple reference copy that Ross worked from while doing live art for the aired episode. The second copy is the actual painting created on the show itself. Finally, a far more detailed version that was intended to be used by Bob Ross Method instructors in their classes and teaching materials is the third copy. With 403 episodes, this means that Bob Ross created over 1,200 paintings for The Joy of Painting alone.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross’ instructor, William Alexander. Pinterest.

6. His Former Instructor Became a Rival

Bob Ross learned the wet-on-wet painting style from an instructor named William Alexander who developed an art supply and art education business around the technique. Alexander became a mentor to Ross, who quickly took to the method, and helped him to become a fellow instructor of the art style. When Ross’ show on PBS took off, allowing him to make a significant and successful art supply business of his own, Alexander felt very slighted and taken advantage of by Ross.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross paints. Amazon.

5. He Made Money Through His Art Supply Business

While many people would likely imagine that 403 aired episodes of a television show would make one a great deal of money, they would be wrong in Bob Ross’ case. The entirety of his earnings came through the sales of his Bob Ross art supply company and the certified Bob Ross instructors who trained in his method in order to teach wet-on-wet classes to aspiring artists. His business was very successful, become a multi-million dollar company.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
PBS Logo. Wikimedia.

4. PBS Didn’t Pay Him a Cent

PBS indeed scored a great deal with Bob Ross. Whether through the cleverness of his manager, Annette Kowalski or their own thrift, PBS somehow landed Bob Ross without having to pay him a cent. Literally. Bob Ross did not get paid one cent by PBS for the 403 episodes of The Joy of Painting that aired on the network. Instead, he entirely earned his money from the associated Bob Ross linen of art supplies and art classes that became popularized through the show.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Another breathtaking landscape by Bob Ross. APT Worldwide.

3. Most of His Audience Never Painted

Despite the entire premise of The Joy of Painting is that the audience would follow along, it is estimated that only about 10% of all viewers ever actually attempted to follow one of Bob Ross’ paintings. Instead, most viewers simply tuned in to enjoy the relaxing narrative of Ross and enjoy watching the ease with which he painted his iconic landscapes.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross in the Air Force. Pinterest.

2. The Artist Was an Air Force Sergeant

While it may seem impossible, given his incredibly kind and relaxed demeanor, Ross was once a sergeant in the US Air Force. He spoke of the person he was during his service, saying that he 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.” He reportedly vowed after he left the Air Force, to never raise his voice again.

40 Fun Facts About Bob Ross and His Happy Little Trees
Bob Ross with and without his famous perm. Playbuzz.

1. Bob Ross Hated His Perm

The iconic hairdo that largely defines Bob Ross’ public image through The Joy of Painting actually started due to a bit of laziness and thrift. Not wanting to have to spend the time or money on getting frequent haircuts to maintain his short hair, Ross decided to give a perm a spin and did a boxed perm at home. While he quickly fell out of love with the afro-like hairstyle the perms gave him, his fans already strongly associated it with the program and he was forced to maintain the style for the rest of his life to appease fans.

 

Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

“35 Happy Little Facts About Bob Ross” Alvin Ward, Mental Floss. October 29, 2018.

“12 Neat Things You Didn’t Know About Bob Ross” Lauren Piro, Good Housekeeping. October 30, 2015.

“You Can Find Every ‘Joy of Painting’ Painting in This Searchable Bob Ross Database”. Nathaniel Ainley. Vice. November 26, 2019

“25 Shocking Facts About the Real Bob Ross Behind Those ‘Happy Little Trees” Ciera Cypert, Twenty Two Words. n.d.

“12 Weird Things You Didn’t Know About Bob Ross” Tamar Altebarmakian, Ranker. n.d.

“How Bob Ross Became Everyone’s Favorite Art Teacher”. Alexxa Gotthardt. Artsy. Feb 15, 2018

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