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With that out of the way, lets talk about the little we do know definitively about Bob Ross’ life and how he became the cultural icon he is today.
Whatever the case, it would seem Ross flawlessly executed the so called “Steve Martin” method to success- “Be so good they can’t ignore you“.
After meeting with Kowalski and her husband, Ross was convinced to leave the and set up his own teaching business.
Kowalski was so sure of success, that she sunk her life savings into the venture with Ross and his wife making a similarly daring contribution.
While working for the company, Ross’ hypnotic, soporific voice and gentle, prodding style that emphasised that there were “no mistakes, just happy accidents” caught the attention of a lady called Annette Kowalski who later admitted that she was simply “mesmerised” by Ross’ personality.
After a few lessons with Ross, Kowalski became convinced that if she could somehow “package” the experience of painting with him, she and Ross could make a fortune.
This is partially because, for some reason, nobody ever really asked Bob Ross to do any interviews and he only gave a handful of them over the course of his life. In fact, Ross was so hard to find that PBS once lost track of him, though it would seem few, if anybody, noticed, until Ross called to let them know he’d moved to Orlando after the fact.
In fact, in one of the surprisingly few quotes from the man himself that don’t come from his show, he stated “I never turn down requests for interviews. As a result of Ross’ love of privacy, coupled with the apathetic attitude of interviewers back then, details about his life are notoriously hazy and difficult to nail down to the point that even the book, “.
The version recounted in the aforementioned PBS biopic of his life states that Ross filmed a commercial for the network with his former mentor, Bill Alexander, promoting his art classes that just so happened to catch the eye of the right executive.
Another otherwise reputable version of the story states that Kowalski filmed one of Ross’ 30 minute lessons and sent it to the network, who liked it enough to greenlight a pilot.
During his 20 year tenure with the Air Force, Ross developed a taste for painting after attending an art class at the Anchorage U. In Ross’ own words: hosted by artist, Bill Alexander.
Alexander touted a style of painting dating back to the 16th century called, alla prima (an Italian term meaning “first attempt”) that allowed him to churn out a painting in little under a half an hour.
As a child, Ross entertained himself by caring for injured animals, much to the chagrin of his parents who soon became used to coming home to find an injured alligator in their bathtub or an armadillo running around Ross’ room.