Why Bob Ross Permed His Hair (Even Though He Hated It)

YouTube
YouTube

The soft halo of hair sported by Bob Ross was so perfectly in tune with his gentle persona that it almost seemed too good to be true—because, in fact, it was.

The story behind the hair isn’t one of a style choice or contrivance dreamed up by TV execs. That was not the Bob Ross way. It has to do with two things we all know something about: saving money and personal branding.

Back in the early ‘80s, Ross was embarking on his new career as a painter and instructor after serving in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years. His mentor, Bill Alexander, was preparing to retire and asked Ross to take over his classes. Ross agreed, and set out to tour the country on his own in a motor home, traveling and teaching people the Alexander “wet-on-wet” technique. He told his wife Jane that he’d try it out for one year, and if he didn’t make enough money, he would return to Alaska.

Success didn’t come easy—or at all—during his time on the road. As a way of penny-pinching, Ross decided to save money on haircuts by getting his locks permed. That clever, if unorthodox, method of saving probably wouldn’t have stood the test of time if it weren’t for an emerging brand in need of some merchandise.

“When we got a line of paints and brushes, we put his picture on,” Bob Ross Company co-founder Annette Kowalski told me. “The logo is a picture of Bob with that hair, so he could never get it cut. He wasn’t always happy about that.”

Still, Ross was no fool and kept the ‘fro around because he too knew that it was good for business. He would go on to maintain his trademark bushy hairdo for the rest of his life. Today, it's hard to imagine Ross straying at all from his signature simple button-up and well-maintained curls, but a look back on episodes of The Joy of Painting does reveal some small, amusing deviations.

Even more amusing: A look at the man before all the hair, via Uproxx:

Meet the Artist Who Has Been Sketching New York City Subway Stations for 40 Years

art2002/iStock via Getty Images
art2002/iStock via Getty Images

The aesthetic appeal of New York City's subway system is often hidden behind a layer of grime or simply ignored by commuters. Philip Ashforth Coppola has been admiring those finer points of public transit for more than 40 years.

The New Jersey-based artist began sketching and researching the subway’s interior in 1978, Atlas Obscura reports. His pen drawings are in black and white, but Coppola notes the exact colors and the historic significance behind each. The beaver plaques at the Astor Place station, for example, represents real estate mogul John Jacob Astor, who first made his fortune in the fur trade.

“I’ve spent a lot of years on it,” he says in the 2005 documentary One Track Mind (also the title of his 2018 book). “But I haven’t accomplished that much.” The former art student is selling himself short: Coppola has drawn at least 110 of the city’s 472 stations, resulting in 2000 sketches spanning 41 notebooks.

In an interview with WNYC, Coppola admitted that he wasn’t a train enthusiast as a child. “When I was a kid, I liked to draw pictures and tell stories or write them down,” he says. “That sort of ... filed into this new adventure.”

Coppola sees the drawings as a way to preserve the subway system's overlooked details. “The idea is to make a record of what we’ve got, before more of it is lost," he says.

Even irritable commuters realized the significance of his endeavors. “People were just thunderstruck when they saw [Coppola’s] artwork,” says Jeremy Workman, the documentary's director. “It reminded them of art they had seen themselves and maybe didn’t notice. We thought that was a powerful message: Reminding people of the beauty that’s right in front of their eyes.”

You Can Rent a ‘Lisa Frank Flat’ in Los Angeles on Hotels.com

Hotels.com
Hotels.com

If you went to elementary school in the 1980s or 1990s, chances are there was at least one piece of Lisa Frank gear in your classroom. The artist's aesthetic helped define the decades, and wide-eyed, technicolor animals still hold a special place in the hearts of millennials. Now, you can live out your childhood dream of having a room that looks like the inside of your 3rd grade backpack: a penthouse suite inspired by Lisa Frank is now available to book in Los Angeles.

The Lisa Frank Flat, a collaboration between Lisa Frank and Hotels.com, screams nostalgia. Each room pays homage to the settings and characters in the artist's vast catalog. The bathroom is painted to look like an underwater paradise, with shimmering dolphins swimming in a pink and blue sea. The kitchen is stocked with snacks from your childhood—like Gushers, Pop-Tarts, Pixy Stix, and Planters Cheez Balls—and painted in bright, rainbow animal patterns that will reflect how you feel when your sugar rush peaks.

Lisa Frank bathroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank kitchen.
Hotels.com

In the bedroom, the colors are toned down only slightly. A light-up cloud canopy and a rainbow sky mural create a soothing environment for falling asleep. And if seeing Lisa Frank around every corner makes you feel inspired, there's a place for you to get in touch with your inner pop artist. The desk comes supplied with pencils, folders, and a notebook—all branded with Lisa Frank artwork, naturally.

Lisa Frank bedroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank desk.
Hotels.com

Interested in basking in the glow of your childhood hero for a night? Online reservations for the Lisa Frank Flat at Barsala in downtown Los Angeles will be available through Hotels.com starting October 11 and lasting through October 27. You can book your stay for $199 a night—just don't forget to pack your Trapper Keeper.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER