The Only Person That Bob Ross Ever Painted On The Joy Of Painting

People can be annoying. We all know this. Some of us — like NPR's Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman, authors of the 2011 book Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us – get so worked up about obnoxious people that they have to get to the bottom of why others can irritate the rest of us so much. Some, such as everyone's favorite TV art teacher Bob Ross, simply ignore other people altogether. The 11-year host of PBS's The Joy of Painting seemed to prefer his "happy little trees" and "majestic mountains" to his fellow human beings.

According to Five Thirty Eight, out of the 381 paintings Ross produced during his history as host of the show, he only painted one person. And it's really just a hint of a person at that: merely the silhouette of a tired cowboy sitting up against a tree next to a glowing campfire. A statistical breakdown of Ross's subjects revealed that 91 percent of his paintings included at least one tree, and 85 percent included at least two trees. The next two categories on the list were also trees: deciduous and coniferous, at 56 and 53 percent, respectively. And finally, coming in at #5, his favorite non-arboreal subject: 44 percent of his paintings contained clouds.

Why Bob Ross primarily painted landscapes

That silhouetted cowboy was painted on episode 10 of the third season of The Joy of Painting, which Bob himself said was filmed on "a crazy day." He said that every TV series needs to have at least one such day, "and this is our crazy day, so we thought we'd do a painting that's really far out." So Bob went absolutely nuts and painted a campfire. And then he had a really wild idea: "Now, maybe there's an old fella sittin' out here warmin' his foots [sic] next to the fire," he says after finishing up the tree that, of course, he said we can make as big or as small as we want.

After he figures out what this little cowboy is up to — "Maybe he's sorta got his foot stickin' up like that" — Ross reveals the secret as to why he (almost) never painted people, despite many fan requests for portraits. He tells how he once studied under "a super, super painter" who ended up becoming "a dear, dear friend" and once gave him some life-changing advice: "Bob, I've got to tell you the truth ... I want you to go and paint bushes and trees, 'cuz that's where your heart is," says Ross, who indeed took the advice to heart. "And that's why I'm here," he concludes, before finishing up the shading on that lonesome little cowboy by the fire.