Anyone that knows the works of artist Bob Ross will remember him for the beautiful landscapes he used to create in a matter of minutes and in what seemed like complete ease. Those that remember the man himself will never forget his hair.
It stood upright around his head — like a fuzzy afro. Many thought it reflected his true and gentle persona. But what many also didn’t know was that the hair was actually a perm.
It all began when Ross retired after serving in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years. His mentor, Bill Alexander, who was also retiring, asked Ross if he could take over his classes for him. Ross agreed and started going around the country in a motorhome teaching people the Alexander way of painting called the “wet-on-wet” technique.
The whole venture was planned to be for just one year, after which, as he told his wife, he would return to Alaska if he hadn’t made enough money.
The money didn’t pour in as expected, and as a way of cutting costs, he decided it was a good idea to have his hair permed so he didn’t have to pay for haircuts. That simple decision created a brand that would turn into part of his identity for the rest of his life.
Bob Ross Company co-founder Annette Kowalski said, “When we got a line of paints and brushes, we put his picture on. The logo is a picture of Bob with that hair, so he could never get it cut. He wasn’t always happy about that.”
In fact, the hair was uncomfortable for Ross and he hated it, but he kept it anyways because it had become part of his identity and also because once he had had his image recorded on his show, “The Joy of Painting,” there was no going back.
Ross had been diagnosed with lymphoma in the early 1990s and was forced to put down his paint brush and retire. The last episode of his show aired in 1994, and he died in 1995 at the age of 52.
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