Where airsoft rifle and BB gun enthusiasts simply fire and leave plastic pellets anywhere they land, an artist named John O’Hearn uses them to create mosaic art.
In fact, Ripley’s Believe It or Not VP of Exhibits and Archives, Edward Meyer, was so impressed with O’Hearn’s art work, he approved the acquisition of a 4′-by-8′ mosaic portrait of Lady Gaga. O’Hearn used a total of 61,509 airsoft pellets in varying colors to come up with Lady Gaga’s portrait, with each pellet servings as pixels to a computer processed digital image.
Other O’Hearn pellet mosaic portraits on display at Ripley’ Believe It or Not Orlando Museum, include those of LA Laker’s James Lebron, and of former Florida Quarterback Tim Tebow. Lebron’s mosaic portrait consists of 62,016 airsoft pellets, while that of Tebow’s consists of 46,308.
How Does John O’Hearn Do It?
John O’Hearn is an artist who first took up sculpture at the University of Florida, and earned a bachelor’s degree Michigan’s Kendall College of Art and Design. Currently, he is the genius behind Ball Mosaic, a company engaged in recreating large mosaic images using a combination of 6 colors of airsoft pellets as pixels.
As a 29-year old start-up in the world of visual arts, he became fascinated with the multi colored airsoft BB pellets. He saw them as suitable alternatives to the pure colored dots of paint used by pointillism artists. At first, O’Hearn dabbled with the technique by manually placing combinations of airsoft pellets into plastic tubes. However, recreating an image whilst placing airsoft pellets into plastic tubes one by one, took him more than a month to complete a standard size mosaic piece.
As a man of many interests, who once took up aeronautical engineering at the Western Michigan University, O’Hearn devoted time to create a machine that will speed up the BB pellet transferring process. He also developed a computer program to serve as control mechanism of the machine; feeding information about color patterns that each plastic tube must create. The rest is history, as O’Hearn’s computerized machine made it possible for him to complete a standard size mosaic image in a week’s time.
The mosaic portraits on display at Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, never fail to amaze visitors once they get to have a closer look. What they initially perceived as a 2 dimensional photograph from afar, was actually a fine piece of pixel art made from thousands of airsoft pellets.