I enjoyed FiveThirtyEight’s statistical analysis of the paintings of Bob Ross.
It’s a novel analysis, and I’m glad it was done. Though it didn’t really produce any big surprises. It confirmed what we already knew.
Ross tended to paint natural landscapes, with no people. Among the paintings in his TV show, 91% had at least one tree and 85% had at least two — yes, Bob wanted his happy trees to have friends.
The big insight in this analysis came not from statistics, but from Annette Kowalski, who founded Bob Ross Inc. with the painter and remains the steward of his work. She said, “The majority of people who watch Bob Ross have no interest in painting. Mostly it’s his calming voice.”
Taking that idea one step further, Bob’s calming voice reflected a simple persona. Bob’s voice was calming partly because of his tonality, but also because his words were so predictable. There was little mystery with Bob, at least in his TV persona. Including the consistent application of his painting technique, you always knew what to expect. Calming, like a visit to a spa.
Perhaps that’s why a comprehensive statistical analysis of his paintings — a reflection of his predictable persona — revealed so little.
(Photo: Bob Ross Inc. via Wikipedia.)