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

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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:

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iStock
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The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
iStock
iStock

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Tessa Angus
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Art
Surprising Sculptures Made From Fallen Feathers
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire is a British sculptor with an unusual medium: feathers. Her surreal, undulating works often take the form of installations—the feathers spilling out of a drain, a stove, a crypt wall—or stand-alone sculptures in which antique bell jars, cabinets, or trunks contain otherworldly shapes.

MccGwire developed her obsession with feathers after moving to a studio barge on the Thames in 2006, as she explains in a video from Crane.tv recently spotlighted by Boing Boing. The barge was near a large shed full of feral pigeons, whose feathers she would spot on her way to work. "I started picking them up and laying them out, collecting them," she remembers. "And after about two weeks I had like 300 feathers." At the time, concerns about bird flu were rife, which made the feathers seem "dangerous as well as beautiful."

When not supplied by her own next-door menagerie, the feathers for her artwork come from a network of racing pigeon societies all over the UK, who send her envelopes full every time the birds molt. Farmers and gamekeepers also send her fallen feathers from birds such as magpies, pheasants, and roosters.

The cultural associations around birds are a big part of what inspires MccGwire. “The dove is the symbol of peace, purity, and fertility," she told ArtNews in 2013, "but it’s exactly the same species as a pigeon—which everyone regards as being dirty, foul, a pest.”

The same duality is present in her own work, which she frequently shares on her Instagram account. “I want to seduce by what I do—but revolt in equal measure. It’s really important to me that you’ve got that rejection of things you think you know for sure.”

You can see some pictures of MccGwire's work, and watch the video from Crane.tv, below.

Kate MccGwire's installation "Evacuate"
Evacuate, 2010
J Wilde

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Convolous"
Convolous, 2015
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's installation "Gyre"
Gyre, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Gag"
Gag, 2009
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Writhe"
Writhe, 2010
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Quell"
Quell, 2011
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Taunt"
Taunt, 2012
Tessa Angus

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