The Chemistry of Bob Ross

Let’s have a happy little accident or two and talk about the chemicals that make up pigments

Organic Live
7 min readSep 26, 2022

I am an unabashed level 99 Bob Ross fanboy.

I can’t get enough of his quips — you know, “criss-cross strokes,” “two hairs and some air,” and “happy little accidents.” Even without those soft-spoken one-liners, Bob Ross was the PBS equivalent of a motivational speaker whose message went far beyond the realm of oil painting and the TV studio. I think that’s probably what fueled his popularity. His overflowing optimism and overwhelming encouragement continue to motivate audiences to this day, especially since his media has transitioned to livestreaming every weekend on Twitch and a dedicated YouTube channel.

Then, there’s the drama of how his family (namely his son) was frozen out of the family enterprise by the Kowalskis — a whole other saga that is covered by numerous documentaries (please don’t sue me!). That facet of the legend throws more fuel on fire as far as expanding the myth of Bob Ross.

Recently, I did an article about the chemistry of the color of life — the science behind coloration of blood. I briefly touched into the realm of Bob Ross by talking about a permanent staple of the Bob Ross palette, phthalo blue, and how it is related to hemoglobin and the group of atoms responsible for the red color called a heme group.

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Organic Live

I’m a former chemistry assistant prof that is out to prove that chemistry is both interesting and entertaining