If the only thing you know about Bob Ross is his signature permed hair and the phrase “happy little trees,” you’re not alone. The TV personality, best known for his 1980s PBS series The Joy of Painting, didn’t sit for many interviews, though his soothing voice and casual life wisdom have stood the test of time.
Born Robert Norman Ross in 1942, Ross first encountered painting when he was serving in the United States Air Force. While based in Alaska, he would squirrel away pockets of time to paint after attending a class at the Anchorage USO club. He took particular interest in German painter Bill Alexander, the host of The Magic of Oil Painting, who used a technique called “wet-on-wet.” This technique allowed an artist to complete a painting in 30 minutes or less.
Ross studied with Alexander in Florida after he retired from the Air Force in 1981, and soon began dreaming up the creation of his own company, Bob Ross Inc. It took off with the premiere of The Joy of Painting in 1983. Each half-hour episode featured Ross instructing viewers on a different scenic painting, often depicting snow, mountains, and yes, happy little trees. Curiously, none of Ross’s paintings ever included humans; even cabins he painted into the scenery didn’t have any smoke coming out of the chimneys. In all, the series ran for 11 years, with the final episode airing about a year before Ross’ death in July 1995.
Ross’ legacy as a gentle lover of art and nature has found new life in recent years. His likeness has been spotted on TV shows like Family Guy, The Simpsons, and The Boondocks, and videos of his show have garnered huge followings on Twitch, where users have found a relaxation benefit (not unlike ASMR) to his calm voice and simple words. Here are 25 quotes that encapsulate Ross’ gentle spirit, and his belief that you “can make this world as happy as [you] want it.”
We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.
There’s nothing wrong with having a tree as a friend.
I can’t think of anything more rewarding than being able to express yourself to others through painting. Exercising the imagination, experimenting with talents, being creative; these things, to me, are truly the windows to your soul.
Talent is a pursued interest. Anything you’re willing to practice, you can do.
The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.
Now then, let’s come right down in here and put some nice, big, strong arms on these trees. Tree needs an arm too. It’ll hold up the weight of the forest. Little bird has to have a place to sit. There he goes.
There’s nothing in the world that breeds success like success.
I guess I’m a little weird. I like to talk to trees and animals. That’s okay though; I have more fun than most people.
You, too, can paint almighty pictures.
Find freedom on this canvas.
We artists are a different breed of people. We’re a happy bunch.
Every day is a good day when you paint.
They say everything looks better with odd numbers of things. But sometimes I put even numbers — just to upset the critics.
Water’s like me. It’s lazy. Boy, it always looks for the easiest way to do things.
In painting, you have unlimited power. You have the ability to move mountains. You can bend rivers. But when I get home, the only thing I have power over is the garbage.
Be so very light. Be a gentle whisper.
If we’re going to have animals around, we all have to be concerned about them and take care of them.
Go out on a limb — that’s where the fruit is.
Let's build us a happy, little cloud that floats around the sky.
No pressure. Just relax and watch it happen.
It’s so important to do something every day that will make you happy.
Just let go — and fall like a little waterfall.
You have to allow the paint to break to make it beautiful.
However you think it should be, that’s exactly how it should be.
We don’t really know where this goes — and I’m not sure we really care.
Photo credit: wipb/ YouTube