Bob Ross Didn't Actually Make Any Money From His Beloved TV Show, 'The Joy of Painting'

Very few artists can capture the hearts of many the way Bob Ross did. The painter was one of the most revered artists of all time, and his TV show, The Joy of Painting on PBS, proved that.

The artist never made any mistakes, just ‘happy accidents’ and made painting look so easy that anyone could do it.

Although Ross died more than two decades ago, his legacy lives on to this day through his art and show. Although his show was top-rated and aired for many episodes, Ross never made any money from The Joy of Painting. So how did he make his money? Find out.

Ross success came in his later years in life

The famous painter was born Robert Norman Ross in October 1942. As a teenager, the star loved and cared for injured animals such as snakes, alligators, and squirrels. He dropped out of high school and started working with his father as a carpenter.

While there, Ross lost part of his index finger, but fortunately, the incident didn’t affect his ability to create art later on in life. He enlisted in the US Air Force in the ’60s, when he discovered oil painting.

After leaving the military, he started attending various art schools and also went under the tutelage of Bill Alexander to perfect the wet-and-wet technique. This technique allows the artist to create paintings in a significantly short amount of time by applying one layer on top of another.

It wasn’t long until Ross started giving classes to his peers about painting and the technique and eventually landing his show. Annette Kowalski discovered Ross in a classroom in Florida and partnered with him informing Bob Ross Inc.

 The pair met when Kowalski’s husband pushed her into taking Ross’s class to cope with her son’s death. She had agreed to take the course only because Alexander had retired from teaching. Kowalski also helped Ross become a public figure.

‘The Joy of Painting’ and the phenomenon it became

The Joy of Painting debuted on PBS in 1983. The show followed Ross as he created landscape paintings while urging his viewers to join him in sketching “happy little trees” and “happy little clouds.” Although not many of his viewers painted along with him, many tuned in to hear his inspiring messages and listen to his gentle humor, calm voice, and chill demeanor.

His company, Bob Ross Inc., even estimates that not more than 3% of viewers did the paintings. Ross would always make painting look easy by playing the skill down and claiming “there wasn’t anything to it.” He’d then pull out a brush and declare that it was time to “get crazy.”

His former business partner Kowalski once said that although Ross made the paintings look fun and simple, there was more to it that wasn’t “as spontaneous as they look.” The Joy of Painting ran for more than 300 episodes and ended in May 1994.

The show only ended after producers declared that Ross had taken a break to “focus on his health.” Unfortunately, the artist died the following year from lymphoma.

Ross never earned anything from ‘The Joy of Painting’

The Joy of Painting might have been a hit, but Ross actually never got a dime for it. According to The Hustle, the artist did the show for free. However, his company, Bob Ross Inc., used the platform that came with the PBS show to sell art supplies, paintings, conduct workshops, sell merchandise, and instructional videos.

During his lifetime Ross developed more than 30000 paintings which, when put in direct comparison with the prolific painter Picasso, is almost three times more. At the time of his death, Ross was worth an estimated $10 million.

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