Here's your inarguable fact of the day: Bob Ross was and is a national treasure. He spent 11 years spreading the "Joy of Painting" to PBS viewers mesmerized by the flicks of his wrist on canvas (and, well, people who just wanted to take a nap, see below), and remains an today. But there was much more to the man than his soothing, soft-spoken voice and cheery landscapes.
1. He discovered his penchant for painting while serving in the Air Force.
In ninth grade, Ross dropped out of high school, and at 18 he enlisted in the Air Force. Based in Alaska, he took his first painting class in Anchorage, and was "" immediately — but it would be awhile before art became his full-time gig. It was . He said "the job requires you to be a mean, tough, person. And I was fed up with it." Talk about a total 180 — after his military days, Ross essentially made a career out of never being mean or raising his voice again.
2. He didn't love his signature haircut.
After his Air Force days, Ross devoted himself to a career teaching art lessons — a pursuit that didn't leave him so flush in the beginning. So he permed his hair and let it grow to save money on haircuts. Eventually he grew to dislike the look, but it was such a part of his brand, that he kept it up — and even to maintain his frizz when he was treated for cancer.
3. He was missing a finger.
As a teen, while working as a carpenter with his father, his was a casualty of the job. But, since he held the palette with his left hand to paint, you need to look closely to spot it.
4. His paintings with cabins almost never had chimneys.
In , Annette Kowalski, Ross's business partner, revealed that while Ross loved painting the Alaskan landscape, he never wanted any signs of people in his artwork. (Though eagle-eyed FiveThirtyEight readers have that he didn't always adhere to this rule — they spotted some chimneys in earlier episodes, like this one, below.)
5. Ross completed 403 (!) episodes of The Joy of Painting.
To put that in perspective, Dallas only ran for 357 episodes, Murder She Wrote ran for 264, and Grey's Anatomy (which has basically been on forever) has only so far aired 248 episodes.
6. People loved Ross's calming demeanor and painting style so much, Holland found a way to work it into a radio (radio!) show.
We feel like we have to say that again: A radio show. About watching (hearing?) a man paint. And Ross himself wasn't even the subject of the show — a Ross-certified instructor while a DJ played the latest hit tunes. In between songs, the DJ would ask inquire how the painter's "happy little trees" were coming along.
7. He had a squirrel named Peapod.
Ross loved animals, and was often drawn to creatures that needed help – even an , which his mother once found him tending to in the bathroom of their Florida home.
8. Ross believed that he completed about in his lifetime.
And he didn't sell any of the ones he made on the show. Instead, many around the country, which would auction them off as fundraisers.
9. He didn't make a cent from his TV series.
It's hard to believe, but the shows acted more as an advertising vehicle for Ross's line of painting kits and art lessons (his company was worth $15 million in 1991, reported the ). So he — and since he could bang out an entire season in just a couple of days, it didn't cost him much in time spent either.
10. Ross loved that his show was actually putting people to sleep.
Many fans would be embarrassed to admit that they'd flip the television to Bob when they wanted to take a little snooze, but the media director for Bob Ross, Inc. once revealed to the that Ross didn't mind at all.
11. He was only 52 when he died.
Sadly, it was lymphoma that took his life. But his fame is still so pervasive that the headquarters of Bob Ross, Inc. (which still sells Bob Ross painting tools), will get phone calls from fans meekly asking about "rumors" that he died, according to the .
12. You can still watch him paint whenever you want!
The Joy of Painting still appears on TV in certain markets, but the miracle of the Internet means we'll always only be a few clicks away from good ol' Bob. His company recently uploaded many episodes onto Youtube — even .