The Pop Culture Icon Bob Ross and his painting Career

During Ross's stay in Alaska, he was working as a part-time bartender when he discovered a TV show called The Magic World of Oil Painting, hosted by a German painter named Bill Alexander.  After studying with Alexander, Ross discovered that he was soon able to earn more from selling his work than from his Air Force position. Ross then retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service with the rank of Master Sergeant and became famous worldwide for hosting The Joy of Painting.

Before the show launched, Ross tried to promote his painting technique but met with little interest. He also had to find ways to cut back on spending, so he decided to have his hair permed just to save money on haircuts. The perm hairstyle was not comfortable for Ross, but it ultimately became an iconic feature of his image.

The show had its first run from January 11, 1983, to May 17, 1994, but still continues to appear in reruns in many broadcast areas and countries, including the PBS-oriented Create. During each half-hour segment, Ross would instruct viewers in oil painting using a quick-study technique from the imagination that used a limited palette of paints in each work and broke down the process into simple steps.

Ross later founded his own successful line of art supplies and how-to books, and also offered painting classes taught by instructors trained in the "Bob Ross method", building a $15 million business.  In a 1990 interview, Ross mentioned that all his paintings were donated to PBS stations and that his earnings came from sales of his 20 books and 100 videotapes (the total to that date), as well as profits from some 150 Bob Ross–trained teachers and a line of art materials sold through a national supplier. Ross also talked about the donated paintings on the show Towering Glacier (#2341), where he said that they were to help the station out.

 Ross also filmed wildlife footage, squirrels in particular, usually from his own garden. Small animals often appeared on his show, even during some of his trickier works, as he would often take in and look after injured or abandoned squirrels and other wildlife.