“In this half-hour program, artist Bob Ross paints on canvas a beautiful oil painting.” Such is the to-the-point plot synopsis for The Joy of Painting that IMDb offers. It may seem short, but much like Bob’s teachings – the beauty is in the simplicity. These fifteen words perfectly encapsulate the gentle premise of Ross’ program, which would continue unchanged for over a decade.
With a remarkable 403 episodes in the can, Bob Ross would bring The Joy of Painting to adoring masses from 1983 up until his last episode in 1994.
As every entry was, this final episode of Joy of Painting was filmed in Muncie, Indiana in Bob’s quaint studios of choice. Titled “Wilderness Day,” Ross’ final bout of painting for the public aired on this day in 1994: May 17.
“Step into the natural beauty of an overgrown colorful meadow and enjoy the peace and soft tranquility you get from Bob Ross’ painting technique,” reads the official synopsis for “Wilderness Day,” which, oddly, is about as much fanfare as the episode was given, as Bob Ross didn’t expect for his show to end that year.
Tragically, Ross was suffering behind the scenes. He kept his diagnosis secret from the public, but the beloved painter had an aggressive form of lymphoma. It would eventually claim his life just one year after his final Joy of Painting episode on July 4, 1995.
Bob Ross’ Untouchable Legacy of Kindness
Ross’ death left the world stunned, as only his family and close friends knew he was deathly ill. The 31st season of his beloved show aired on PBS from 1993 to 1994 without any note of its time coming to a close.
Perhaps this is best, though. The remarkable legacy of Bob Ross isn’t one of suffering, but rather of perseverance, the importance of the arts, and above all: kindness.
The man we knew as Bob Ross was, believe it or not, the product of the United States Air Force. Fascinatingly. Ross served for the USAF in Alaska as a drill sergeant.
And as one would expect after watching The Joy of Painting, Bob Ross absolutely detested having to be so “mean.”
“The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it,” he said during his television days. Once Ross retired from service, he would vow never to yell again.
From this, the world got Bob Ross: soother extraordinaire. And Ross got to live out the rest of his live doing exactly what he was born to do: spread kindness to the world.