The Joy of Painting: Bob Ross’s Influence and Inspiration

By Matthew O’Toole, Opinion Writer

“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than being able to express yourself to others through painting.”

This famous phrase is just one of many from the late, great talented Bob Ross. Bob Ross was an amicable painter who graced many a television back in the 1980s and 1990s on the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS). Known for his talent at painting landscapes, his soft tone, friendly personality, and perhaps most famously, the happy little trees and bushes that he added into his art, Bob Ross earned himself a widely acclaimed half-hour program called The Joy of Painting. It allowed the viewer to either enjoy watching the creation of a landscape portrait or follow along with their own canvas, paints, and brushes.

Mr. Ross constantly stressed the notion that “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” He meant to convey the fact that things happen for a reason, and whether or not they are considered good or bad, they can turn out to be part of a greater plan or future outcome. For example, paint accidentally splotched onto a canvas might be seen as a disaster to an artist. To Bob Ross, these were never setbacks, rather, he made use of them as opportunities to further his skill or turn them into one of his famous “happy little bushes/trees,” thereby enhancing his landscape portraits.

Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting was not merely an art show to the masses. Ross himself was a humble, kind, and joyful person to watch, listen, and relax to whenever his show graced the living rooms of his viewers. Most importantly, however, he was a man with many an inspirational message, always encouraging his viewers not just in terms of building their talents as painters, but in building their various talents as individuals.

Two of Bob Ross’ most famous quotes convey this message of talent building and inspiration: first, “I believe talent is just a pursued interest. Anybody can do what I can do” and second, “the secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it.”

In the first quote, Mr. Ross discourages any sort of fear that a person might face in trying to do something new or different. While there are some who are naturally talented at something, such as a sport, here Ross shows that just by trying to do pursue a hobby or objective, one can become better and gain talent. Perhaps most importantly, he encourages his audience by relating to them when he says that anything he can do, they can do too.

Just as in his previous quote, Ross encourages his audience once again in the second quote, reminding them that as long as they are dedicated and have a healthy amount of confidence in themselves, they can accomplish anything.

Bob Ross served as not only a great landscape painter and television show host, but as a great inspiration to many through his affable personality and encouragement to his friends and viewers. The Joy of Painting is not just about painting, it truly is about the celebration and joy of the inner talent and abilities each person has, whether they know it or not.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 21st print edition.

Contact Matthew at


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