Based on images of Bob Ross’s paintings available in the Bob Ross Inc. store, I coded all the episodes using 67 keywords describing content (trees, water, mountains, weather elements and man-made structures), stylistic choices in framing the paintings, and guest artists, for a grand total of 3,224 tags. 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.”
Read on for an exhaustive chart and a particularly delightful section on conditional probabilities:
What is the probability, given that Ross painted a happy tree, that he then painted a friend for that tree?
There’s a 93 percent chance that Ross paints a second tree given that he has painted a first.
What percentage of Bob Ross paintings contain an almighty mountain?
About 39 percent prominently feature a mountain.
What percentage of those paintings contain several almighty mountains?
Ross was also amenable to painting friends for mountains. Sixty percent of paintings with one mountain in them have at least two mountains.