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  • - Hi I'm certainly glad you could join me today.

  • You ready to do another fantastic painting with me?

  • (bright music)

  • - [Narrator] You recognize his iconic image.

  • - Who's this?

  • This is Bob Ross.

  • This is the most famous painter

  • in the history of the universe.

  • - [Narrator] Signature phrases.

  • - A happy little cloud that floats around it,

  • just has fun all day.

  • - [Narrator] And soothing voice.

  • - Anything that you want you can build here.

  • This is your world.

  • - [Narrator] Bob Ross is one of public

  • television's most beloved personalities.

  • - The Bob you see on the show,

  • is the Bob that we all knew even behind the scenes.

  • - I used to watch Bob Ross all the time.

  • The thing I remember was his positivity.

  • He made you want to do that.

  • - He wasn't only a painter, he was

  • an entertainer in his own right,

  • without any flash, his paintings spoke for him

  • and he kind of took you by the hand and

  • led you along the way.

  • - I talk to only one person when I'm filming

  • and I'm really crazy about that person.

  • - [Narrator] Some watched for his

  • easy to learn painting technique.

  • - When I watch his method, I go it is,

  • wow how does he do that?

  • It's amazing and

  • he makes it look incredibly easy,

  • but the interesting thing is that when

  • people actually try to do it, they have success.

  • - Once you have the technique down,

  • all you need is a dream in your heart

  • and a desire to put it on canvas.

  • - [Narrator] And some we're just

  • captivated by his calming demeanor.

  • - And I think maybe that's part of the magic.

  • I think his voice was part of it, his presence,

  • his manner, his tone.

  • I think his sincerity came across,

  • and I think people relate to that,

  • they still relate to that.

  • - Every legend has an intangible

  • aura or something and I just imagine

  • whenever you're encompass of greatness

  • you know people just want to be around it.

  • - [Narrator] Bob Ross is public

  • television's most recognizable artist.

  • - Everybody knows Bob Ross and especially his hair.

  • - [Narrator] This is the story of a young painter

  • with a dream to share the joy of painting with everyone.

  • - My father, he spent most of his time

  • when he came home from work, watching public television.

  • He would have us watch Bob Ross,

  • where we would learn how to paint

  • and learn how to use our imagination.

  • - I'm sure the word magic gets used a lot

  • but I mean it really is like magic.

  • I mean, he'd mix up this color and

  • I'm gonna take a little bit of this yellow

  • and stick it in this black, and you think

  • what, right.

  • That's so counterintuitive, and then

  • takes like a palette knife and gets a little thing and

  • (whooshing) and there's a tree,

  • and it's like how'd you do that?

  • - People continually say I can't draw a straight line,

  • I don't have the talent, Bob, to do what you're doing.

  • That's baloney.

  • Talent is a pursued interest.

  • In other words, anything that you're

  • willing to practice, you can do.

  • - [Narrator] This is Bob Ross, the happy painter.

  • (bright music)

  • But before Bob became one of the

  • most popular artists on television,

  • Robert Norman Ross was just a

  • boy from Daytona Beach, Florida.

  • He was born on October 29, 1942

  • and grew up in the Orlando area.

  • Each of Bob's parents helped

  • shape his life in critical ways.

  • His father Jack was a builder.

  • - [Bob] I used to be a carpenter years ago.

  • My father was a carpenter and he taught me that trade.

  • I tell you what, it isn't that

  • easy to make a shed on a barn.

  • - He lost a finger helping his father.

  • When there's a pallet shot you can see the missing finger,

  • but because it was on his left hand and not his right hand,

  • it didn't affect his ability to hold the brush.

  • - Lender brushes are very very soft.

  • My father used to say their tender as a mother's love

  • and in my case that was certainly true.

  • I'm very prejudiced but I think I

  • had the greatest mother there was.

  • - [Annette] She had the largest influence on him.

  • She's the one who taught him the love of wildlife.

  • Second to painting or maybe even more than painting,

  • Bob loved wildlife.

  • - [Bob] I think when I was a kid I must

  • have had every kind of pet imaginable.

  • I lived in Florida so I had access to a lot of creatures,

  • but I had a pet snake.

  • I mean he got out of the cage and was

  • lost in a house for a long time.

  • My mother got up and went to the bathroom one night,

  • he was in there and scared her.

  • - [Narrator] But Bob's childhood wasn't all that easy.

  • - [Annette] Bob says that they were not wealthy

  • and really I think he viewed these wild animals,

  • anything he could get his hands on

  • as toys and entertainment.

  • - [Narrator] His mother and father

  • separated when Bob was very young.

  • His mother remarried briefly and had another son,

  • Bob's brother Jim.

  • - [Bob] When I was a kid I used to sit around and

  • you know my brother and I we'd look at clouds

  • and we'd pick out all kind of shapes,

  • we'd see the mean old which or the

  • or the Candy Man or whatever.

  • - [Narrator] 20 years later,

  • Bob's mom married his dad again,

  • but they didn't have long together.

  • Bob's father died soon after they remarried.

  • School was also tough for Bob.

  • - Do these little X's, see?

  • Little X's.

  • There, that's just the way the teacher

  • used to grade my paper in school.

  • She just run across it and go (clicking).

  • - [Narrator] When he was just 18 years,

  • old Bob joined the Air force.

  • - I spent half my life in the military

  • and I used to come home, take off my little soldier hat,

  • put on my painter's hat.

  • - [Narrator] He got married and had a son, Steven.

  • - He has been painting I think since he was born.

  • He was about 12 years old before he

  • realized everybody didn't paint.

  • - [Narrator] But Bob soon found

  • himself raising a son on his own.

  • His first marriage didn't last long.

  • Bob and his son had a close relationship

  • and years later after The Joy of Painting series took off,

  • Steve would occasionally appear on the program

  • and eventually became a certified Ross instructor, himself.

  • - Steve travels all over the country,

  • teaching hundreds and hundreds of people

  • the joy of painting and I've asked him

  • to come in today and show you what

  • he can do in just a few minutes.

  • So I'm gonna turn it over to Steve

  • and I'll be back at the end of the show.

  • Steve?

  • - Thanks a lot, dad.

  • - Steve was incredibly talented.

  • Bob said he talks better than I do

  • and he paints better than I do,

  • but Steve never was someone we could convince

  • to come on and work with the show,

  • and I always regretted that because

  • I thought he had enormous talent.

  • - [Narrator] Bob and Steve lived in Florida

  • for several years until the military transferred them

  • to Alaska when Steve was a young boy.

  • - I had been born and raised in Florida,

  • and was 21 years old before I ever saw snow.

  • - [Narrator] Bob remarried and settled down

  • near Fairbanks, Alaska with his new wife, Jane.

  • She was a civilian worker with the Air Force.

  • For more than a decade Bob worked mainly

  • as a medical records technician at the air base hospital

  • and cultivated his love of painting.

  • He was inspired by the snow capped

  • mountains that surrounded him,

  • and sold his paintings to tourists.

  • (upbeat bright music)

  • - He was a part time bartender,

  • and he was painting gold pans in Alaska

  • and selling them in the bar to make money.

  • - [Narrator] One day the tavern's

  • television was tuned to a PBS station.

  • Bob looked up and saw a painting show

  • hosted by a German man, named Bill Alexander.

  • - How long can you hide a dream?

  • How long can you have creative power?

  • You need that almighty creative power.

  • - [Narrator] Alexander was painting scenery

  • that Bob was familiar with, and he was using a

  • centuries old painting method called alla prima,

  • which means direct painting or all at once.

  • The basic premise is that a thin paint

  • will stick to a thicker paint.

  • Alexander called it the wet on wet technique.

  • - Years ago Bill taught me this fantastic technique

  • and I feel as though he gave me a precious gift,

  • and I'd like to share that gift with you.

  • - [Narrator] This method allows you to layer colors of paint

  • on top of one another and blend them right on the canvas.

  • Traditional oil painting requires you to

  • wait for each application to dry before adding a new color,

  • but the wet on wet technique is more user friendly

  • because it allows you to paint very quickly

  • and if you make a mistake you can just blend it away.

  • - [Bob] Because as you know we don't make mistakes.

  • In our world we only have happy accidents

  • and very quickly, very quickly you learn to

  • work with anything that happens on this canvas.

  • Anything.

  • - [Narrator] This painting style was

  • exactly what Bob was looking for.

  • - I remember when he was in the Air Force up in Alaska.

  • We went up there and he was excited about

  • watching someone on television and he says,

  • "That's what I want.

  • "I want to paint before the bubble bursts.

  • "I want to get my painting on the canvas

  • "before I lose my idea."

  • - About 1975 I saw Alexander on television

  • and like millions of other people I fell in love with him,

  • and it took me about a year to find him.

  • I studied with Bill and when I retired from the military

  • they offered me a position with his Magic Art Company

  • as a traveling art instructor.

  • - [Narrator] Bob's wife Jane and his son Steve

  • stayed in Alaska for a couple more years

  • until Jane was eligible for retirement.

  • - So she allowed Bob to leave Alaska with $1,000

  • and told him to either go out and

  • make his fortune or come back home.

  • He promised her, "I'll go and do this,

  • "if it doesn't work I'll come back home

  • "and do domestic stuff and be a good husband and father."

  • And so she stayed in Alaska and waited.

  • - [Narrator] Although he was leaving the land of snow

  • covered mountains, they left an indelible mark on Bob.

  • - I lived in Alaska for about a dozen years

  • and it has some of the most beautiful

  • mountain scenery there that I've ever seen.

  • Absolutely gorgeous.

  • - [Narrator] That breathtaking scenery

  • would serve as his inspiration for the rest of his life