Steve Ross could barely paint in the aftermath of his father's death in 1995. But now, he's back at the easel — teaching a new generation of happy painters.
According to those close to him, Steve Ross, Bob Ross’ son, is a better landscape painter than his father, the legendary host of of The Joy of Painting. But there wasn’t a thing in his life that he didn’t owe to his dad.
Steve Ross inherited many things from Bob Ross, including a love for painting, a passion for nature, and a soothing voice. One of the few differences between them might just be their hair. Where Bob Ross was known for his iconic red perm, Steve sported umber curls with a sprawling mullet.
Steve was a shining light in the life of his father, who radiated pride whenever Steve Ross and Bob Ross appeared together on The Joy of Painting. Steve looked up to his dad, and he went through a tough time when Bob Ross died following a brief battle with cancer.
Depression took a hold of the optimistic Steve, sapping him of all energy to paint. Though it took several years of healing – and a few legal battles over his father’s legacy – Steve is now back in front of the easel carrying on the Bob Ross legacy.
How Steve Ross Learned From His Father
Steven Ross was born August 1, 1966 and followed in his father’s footsteps as a painter, appearing as a guest star on The Joy of Painting.
Tragedy drew Steve and his dad closer. Bob Ross, who worked as a drill sergeant in the US Air Force, raised Steve as a single parent after his mother died when he was still a boy. The two channeled their grief into painting, developing what would be become a lifelong hobby.
It was a hobby that would ultimately determine the course of their entire lives. In 1978, Bob Ross exchanged his Air Force uniform for brush and pallet. He traveled across the country to learn from a professional oil painter, leaving Steve in the care of his second wife, Jane.
After a brief stint serving as an apprentice of the Austrian “wet-on-wet” painter Bill Alexander, Bob Ross began his very own television series. Thanks to his calming demeanor and soothing voice, The Joy of Painting took off like a rocket and never lost momentum.
Bob Ross’ Son On The Joy Of Painting
Steve, who had been painting for as long as he could remember, was there to support his father’s business endeavor every step of the way. Back when The Joy of Painting was still in its infancy, Steve appeared in the final episode of the first season.
In that episode, the teenager can be seen nervously reading questions sent in by fans as his dad filled up a blank canvas with clouds, bushes and trees. It’s the first time Steve found himself in front of a camera with millions of eyes watching. But, it would not be the last.
As Bob Ross painted in his little television studio, Steve traveled all over the country to share his father’s techniques and secrets with everyone who would listen. As a certified Bob Ross instructor, Bob Ross’ son honed his skills and became more and more comfortable speaking in front of large audiences.
The next time he appeared on The Joy of Painting, Steve had grown both in size and in character. He stood tall, taller even than the already towering Bob Ross. Completely in his element, he showed viewers how to paint landscapes that could rival his father’s.
The Turn Away From Painting
Steve had lost his mother when he was young. In 1995, he would lose his dad as well. That year, Bob Ross was diagnosed with lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that gave him only a few months to live.
Just as Bob Ross had left the Air Force to care for Steve’s mother, so too did Steve return to Florida to be with his dad. There, he watched as his normally calm and friendly dad was forced to engage in verbal shouting matches with business partners looking to take over his company after his death.
And when Bob Ross died, Steve sank into a deep depression that stayed with him for several years. He told The Daily Beast that he once considered flipping his car on the highway just to “end the pain once and for all.”
Steve loved painting as much as his father, but because painting was so closely connected to the memory of his father, he could not bring himself to continue. And though he was hounded by journalists looking to hear his side of the story, he avoided the spotlight and turned to a private life away from the media for more than 15 years.
Where Is Steve Ross Now?
It wasn’t until 2019, almost a quarter of a century following his father’s death, that Bob Ross’ son would publicly stand in front of an easel again. Together with Dana Jester, a fellow certified Bob Ross instructor and lifelong friend, Steve decided to do something he never dreamed of doing again: organize a painting workshop.
Steve and Dana picked a nondescript building on the edge of Winchester, Indiana. To their surprise, dozens of painters and hundreds of fans showed up to watch them paint. The event was streamed online and took the internet by storm. The successor of Bob Ross was back.
Since that initial workshop, Steve Ross has held more classes in Tennessee and Colorado. According to Dana’s Instagram, the Bob Ross instructors continue to host classes in Winchester, Indiana, just an hour away from where The Joy of Painting was filmed.
“I didn’t realize that people missed me or wanted to have me do this again,” Steve told The Daily Beast. “I always knew, but what I mean is, maybe I didn’t want to know. Maybe I reserved the right to remain ignorant.”
And when asked how it felt being able to teach painting again Steve answered, “Like the first time I’ve had the sun on my face in a thousand years.”
After reading about the life of Steve Ross, learn about his father Bob Ross, the man behind The Joy of Painting. Or read about the bitter feud over Bob Ross’s estate after his untimely death.