A statistical analysis of the work of Bob Ross

FiveThirtyEight:

I analyzed the data to find out exactly what Ross, who died in 1995, painted for more than a decade on TV. The top-line results are to be expected — wouldn’t you know, he did paint a bunch of mountains, trees and lakes! — but then I put some numbers to Ross’s classic figures of speech. He didn’t paint oaks or spruces, he painted “happy trees.” He favored “almighty mountains” to peaks. Once he’d painted one tree, he didn’t paint another — he painted a “friend.”

I can’t paint a straight line with a ruler but watching Ross was absolutely mesmerizing. This analysis is interesting from a numbers point of view but it doesn’t capture or explain the wonderful presentation style Ross had.



  • Franko65

    The timbre of his voice made for quite a relaxing show. Hard to imagine the man getting angry. Basically the whole show was, in addition to pique one’s interest in painting, to put the viewers in a “happy place”. :)

    • http://www.yourmaclifeshow.com/ Shawn King

      I think the soothing voice was 95% of the magic for me.

      • lucascott

        Bob’s whole schtick was to get folks to stop thinking so hard about what they were doing. To relax and enjoy it. To think less about the literal object and more about the colors and shapes. Thus the very effective soothing voice and the happy talk

      • James Hughes

        He should have co-hosted a show with Mr. Rogers!

    • http://strange-birds.org strangebirds

      Totally agree – it’s similar to Mr. Rogers or the DisneyCollectorBR (YouTube of unwrapping Disney toys that’s wildly popular with young kids). Even pacing and Inflection doesn’t change much but is kind and gentle. It’s both soothing and trust-inducing.

      • James Hughes

        I just saw this after posting my Mr. Rogers comment. : )

  • Moeskido

    I’ll bet that most adults who say “I can’t draw a straight line” had very little trouble drawing stuff when they were kids. But it probably took only one adult to discourage most of them.

    Anyone who can help those grown-up people feel more at ease about making art is doing very important work. Bob Ross was terrific at this.

    • http://www.yourmaclifeshow.com/ Shawn King

      “drawing stuff when they were kids.”

      Perhaps but I don’t remember ever trying to draw anything when I was a kid.

      • Lukas

        You didn’t have drawing class in school?

        • http://www.yourmaclifeshow.com/ Shawn King

          Oh God no. Poor school district.