How Bob Ross' Military Career Led To His Calm TV Persona

Bob Ross did more than paint landscapes on canvas; his brushstrokes directly touched the deepest parts of his viewers. Few celebrities could pull in viewers from every generation with little more than a pallet and an amazing personality. Watching The Joy of Painting lifts our spirits. The images are ones you can paint at home and, through Ross' encouragement, you fall in love with the act of painting itself. Next thing you know, every cloud is a "happy little cloud," every mistake is a "happy little accident," and all of your friends who don't watch Bob Ross will want to punch you in the face. Or, hey, you simply watch the show because it makes you feel good, but nobody with a soul dislikes watching Ross paint.

Ross wasn't the soft-spoken, pinnacle of non-toxic masculinity that he was when he taught the world to paint the Alaskan mountains. He hadn't always given his encouragement so freely. In fact, the road to his TV persona was paved through an institution that depended on quite the opposite: the military.

From hardened demeanor to "happy little trees"

Try to imagine an alternate universe where Bob Ross stands behind you, slapping your hand every time you mess up a brushstroke, calling you a "maggot!" as he instructs, and forces you to drop and give him 20 because you weren't sitting straight enough. That Bob Ross existed. Of course, he wasn't teaching people how to paint at the time. Rather, Ross was enlisted as a master sergeant in the United States Air Force.

Ross admitted during an interview with the Orlando Sentinel that he was "the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work." He says the job itself forces you to behave that way. He had to be mean. A screaming Bizarro Bob Ross might haunt your dreams but, thanks to all that is good and holy, he made a commitment never to behave like an outraged meathead again once he was out of the armed forces. According to Ross, he "was fed up with it," and he vowed to give up the whole screaming. He took on painting full-time and — voila! — the Bob Ross we know and love was born. So, your dreams are safe for now. Happy little dreams.