Whether your New Year’s resolution involves taking up painting, managing stress, cultivating a more positive outlook, or building a business empire, the late television artist Bob Ross can help you stick it out.
Like Fred Rogers’ Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood, Ross’ long-running PBS show, The Joy of Painting, did not disappear from view following its creator’s demise. For over twenty years, new fans have continued to seek out the half-hour long instructional videos, along with its mesmerizingly mellow, easily spoofed host.
Now all 403 episodes have been made available for free on Ross’ official Youtube channel. That covers all 31 seasons.
It’s said that 90% of the regular viewers tuning in to watch Ross crank out his signature “wet-on-wet” landscapes never took up a brush, despite his belief that, with a bit of encouragement, anyone can paint.
Perhaps they preferred sad clowns or big-eyed children to scenic landscapes of the sort that would not have looked out of place in a 1970’s motel…. Or perhaps Ross, himself, was the big draw.
Like Mister Rogers, Ross spoke softly, using direct address to create an impression of intimacy between himself and the viewer. Twenty years in the military had soured him on barked-out, rigid instructions. Instead, Ross reassured less experienced painters that the 16th-century ”Alla Prima” technique he brought to the masses could never result in mistakes, only “happy accidents.” He was patient and kind and he didn’t take his own abilities too seriously, though he seemed like he would certainly have taken pleasure in yours.
Ross’ Land of Make Believe was a character-free natural world, in which many of the same elements appear over and over. According to Five Thirty Eight culture editor Walt Hickey’s statistical analysis, trees reigned supreme. The real life landscapes he observed as first sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Clinic at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska became his lifelong subject, and by extension, that of untold numbers of home viewers.
His devotees may be content just seeing “happy little trees” and “pretty little mountains” bloom on canvas, but in an interview with NPR, Ross’ business partner, Annette Kowalski, suggests that he would not have been.
The gentle, forest-and-cloud-loving host was also an ambitious and highly focused businessman, who used TV as the medium for his success. Every folksy comment was rehearsed before filming and he stuck with the permed hairdo he loathed, rather than scrapping what had become a highly visual brand identifier.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Watch all 31 seasons of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting here, or right here on this page. Official Bob Ross painting kits are widely available online, or source your own using a cobbled together supply list.
We will continuing adding seasons to this list as they become available.
Watch Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting, Seasons 1-3, Free Online
Mr. Rogers Goes to Congress and Saves PBS: Heartwarming Video from 1969
Stream 23 Free Documentaries from PBS’ Award-Winning American Experience Series
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her resolution is to spend less time online, but you can still follow her @AyunHalliday.
Bob Ross’ Joy of Painting show on PBS Nashville, TN is one of the most enjoyable show on TV. This week it is not scheduled. I’m broken hearted to think his show has been replaced! I absolutely adore him!
I was looking for a Tuesday sept 18 episode. On Ketc St. Louis. I would like to see it. Episode?
BOB ROSS GAVE ME THE COURAGE TO GO TO ONE OF HIS PAINTING CLASES. I REALLY ENJOYED THIS CLASSES AND MY FAMILY LOVED MY PAINTINGS. HE BROUGHT COLOR INTO MY LIFE SOMETHING I COULD DO IN MY SPARE TIME HAVING 4 CHILDREN. I WENT TO OTHER CLASSES WITH MANY OTHER PAINTERS AND LEARNED FROM THEM. BOB DID THAT FOR ME. NOW AFTER MANY YEARS OF NOT PAINTING I WANT TO GET BACK TO BOB ROSS AND WARCH HIS LATE EPISODES WHICH I HAVEN’T SEEN. I AM NOW 81 YEARS OLD. SO THANK YOU FOR HAVING THE LATE EPISODES FOr ME TO PAINT WITH BOB.`
Just starting oil painting, been working with acrylic,
And chalk pastels. I also do seashell sculptures. I am excited about starting oil using Bob Ross technics.
I’m interested on the painting that aired on Feb 11 2021 where he did squiggly painting first on black then used contact form and painted small scene