Roy Behrens

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Roy Richard Behrens (/ˈbɛərənz/; born 1946) is Emeritus Professor of Art and Distinguished Scholar at the University of Northern Iowa. He is well known for his writings on camouflage in relation to art, design and creativity as detailed in Camoupedia and additional books and essays on the subject.


Behrens has written extensively on the interface between camouflage and art, including on the theories of the artist Abbott Handerson Thayer, who argued that the male wood duck's conspicuous plumage was disruptively patterned, rather than sexually selected.[1] (Painting Male Wood Duck in a Forest Pool by Thayer, 1909)

Roy R. Behrens was born to Chester H. Behrens and Eleanor E. Behrens in 1946 in Independence, Iowa. He gained his bachelor's in art education degree at the University of Northern Iowa in 1968. He rose to the rank of sergeant[2] with the United States Marine Corps from 1969 to 1971. He gained his master of art education degree at Rhode Island School of Design in 1972.[3]

He taught graphic design, illustration, and design history at the University of Northern Iowa from 1972, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee[3] from 1977, at the Art Academy of Cincinnati[2] from 1987, and, again, at the University of Northern Iowa from 1990 until his retirement in 2018. He has written several books and numerous papers. For twenty years, beginning in 1985, he published a quarterly magazine called Ballast Quarterly Review (the title is an acronym for Books Art Language Logic Ambiguity Science and Teaching), self-described as a "periodical commonplace book."[4][5] Over the years, he has written numerous articles for Leonardo[6] and various books and journals.

He is the author of Camoupedia,[a] a book[8] and blog[9] on camouflage. The camouflage researcher Isla Forsyth describes this work as an "extensive study into modern military the British and US military throughout the First and Second World Wars, exploring the contribution of art and science, and the ways in which, via modern and contemporary art, camouflage has been appropriated by contemporary culture".[10] Mike Leggett, reviewing the book in Leonardo, wrote that "the outcome of enthusiastic research it is, but an entertaining summary of the field it also manages to be."[11] Michael A. Martone calls Behrens "a wonderful writer and artist ... whose work on camouflage and art is important to me. He publishes an amazing 'zine called Ballast on visual and verbal punning."[12]

Behrens is married to the artist Mary Snyder Behrens,[13] with whom he is founder and co-proprietor of Bobolink Books.[2]



  • (1977) (with Jerome Klinkowitz) The life of fiction. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0252006432.
  • (1981) Art & camouflage: Concealment and deception in nature, art and war. North American Review / University of Northern Iowa. ISBN 978-0915996070.
  • (1984) Design in the visual arts. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-0132019477.
  • (1986) Illustration as an art. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-0134514284.
  • (2002) False colors: Art, design and modern camouflage. Bobolink Books. ISBN 978-0971324404.
  • (2005) Cook book: Gertrude Stein, William Cook and Le Corbusier. Bobolink Books. ISBN 978-0971324411.
  • (2009) Camoupedia: A compendium of research on art, architecture, and camouflage. Bobolink Books. ISBN 978-0971324466.
  • (2012) Ship shape: a dazzle camouflage sourcebook. Bobolink Books. ISBN 978-0971324473.
  • (2016) Frank Lloyd Wright and Mason City: Architectural heart of the prairie. History Press. ISBN 978-1467118606.

Selected essays[edit]

  • (1987) “The life and unusual ideas of Adelbert Ames Jr.” Leonardo (MIT Press). Vol 20 No 3, pp. 273–279.
  • (1988) “The theories of Abbott H. Thayer: father of camouflage” Leonardo (MIT Press). Vol 21 No 3, pp. 291–296.
  • (1994) “Adelbert Ames and the cockeyed room” Print (New York). Vol 48 No 2 (March / April), pp. 92–97.
  • (1997) “The gift of gabberjabbs” Print (New York). Vol 51 No 1, pp. 64–72. Full text online
  • (1998) “The artistic and scientific collaboration of Blanche Ames Ames and Adelbert Ames II” Leonardo (MIT Press). Vol 31 No 1, pp. 47–54.
  • (1998) “On Max Wertheimer and Pablo Picasso: gestalt theory, cubism and camouflage” Gestalt Theory: Journal of the GTA (Vienna). Vol 20 No 2, pp. 109–118. Full text online
  • (1998) “Rudolf Arnheim: The little owl on the shoulder of Athene” Leonardo (MIT Press). Vol 31 No 3, pp. 231–233.
  • (1998) “Art, design and gestalt theory”” Leonardo (MIT Press). Vol 31 No 4, pp. 299-303.
  • (1999) “Adelbert Ames, Fritz Heider and the Ames chair demonstration” Gestalt Theory: Journal of the GTA (Vienna). Vol 21 No 3.
  • (1999) “The role of artists in ship camouflage during World War I” Leonardo (MIT Press). Vol 32 No 4, pp. 53–59.
  • (2000) “Revisiting Gottschaldt: embedded figures in art, architecture and design” Gestalt Theory: Journal of the GTA (Vienna). Vol 22 No 2, pp. 97–106. Full text online
  • (2002) “How form functions: on esthetics and gestalt theory” Gestalt Theory: Journal of the GTA (Vienna). Vol 24 No 4, pp. 317–325. Full text online
  • (2005) “Architecture, art and camouflage” Lotus International (Italy). Issue 126, pp. 74–83.
  • (2010) “Ames demonstrations in perception” in E. Bruce Goldstein, ed., Encyclopedia of perception. Vol 1. Sage Publications, pp. 41–44. ISBN 978-1412940818.
  • (2010) “Camouflage” in E. Bruce Goldstein, ed., Encyclopedia of perception. Vol 1. Sage Publications, pp. 233–236. ISBN 978-1412940818.
  • (2011) “Nature’s artistry: Abbott H. Thayer’s assertions about camouflage in art, war and zoology” in Martin Stevens and Sami Merilaita, eds., Animal camouflage: Mechanisms and function. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0521152570.
  • (2013) “Now you see it, now you don’t: camoufleurs, conjurers and pickpockets” in H. Rothstein and B. Whaley, eds. The art and science of military deception. Artech House. pp. 217–237. ISBN 978-1608075515.
  • (2013) “Art, design and brain research: non-scientific thoughts about neuroesthetics” in Gestalt Theory: Journal of the GTA (Vienna) Vol 35 No 2 pp. 169–182.
  • (2014) “Abbott H. Thayer’s vanishing ducks: surveillance, art and camouflage” in MAS Context (Chicago) 22, pp. 164–177. Full text online
  • (2015) “Khaki to khaki (dust to dust): the ubiquity of camouflage in human experience” in Ann Elias et al., eds., Camouflage cultures: beyond the art of disappearance. Sydney University Press. ISBN 978-1743324257.
  • (2016) “Setting the stage for deception: perspective distortion in World War I camouflage” Aisthesis: Pratiche, linguaggi e saperi dell’estetico (Firenze, Italy). Full text online
  • (2017) “Camouflage” in Viction Workshop, Camo mania: New disruptive patterns in design. Victionary, pp. 209–222. ISBN 978-9887774648.
  • (2018) “Seeing through camouflage: Abbott Thayer, background-picturing and the use of cut-out silhouettes” Leonardo (MIT Press). Vol 51 No 1, pp. 41–46.
  • (2018) “Chicanery and conspicuousness: social repercussions of World War I camouflage” UNIversitas (University of Northern Iowa) Vol 13. Full text online
  • (2018) "Under the big top at Sims' circus: ship camouflage behind the scenes in World War I" Bobolink Books Full text online
  • (2018) "Disruption versus dazzle: prevalent misunderstandings about World War I ship camouflage" Bobolink Books Full text online
  • (2019) "Optical science meets visual art: the camouflage experiments of William Andrew Mackay." Bobolink Books Full text online
  • (2019) "Ship shapes" in Patek Philippe: The International Magazine. (Geneva, Switzerland) Vol 4 No 7, pp. 10–15.


  1. ^ Not the same as the military camouflage pattern website, Camopedia.[7]


  1. ^ Behrens, Roy (2014) “Abbott H. Thayer’s vanishing ducks: surveillance, art and camouflage” in MAS Context (Chicago) 22, pp. 164-177.
  2. ^ a b c Throsby, Margaret (19 August 2013). "Professor Roy Behrens". ABC. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b Rothstein, Hy; Whaley, Barton (2013). The Art and Science of Military Deception. Artech House. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-60807-551-5.
  4. ^ "Roy R. Behrens". University of Iowa. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  5. ^ "Roy R. Behrens". Amazon. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  6. ^ "Roy R. Behrens". Leonardo. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  7. ^ Camopedia 4 February 2018
  8. ^ "Dazzle Camouflage". Bobolink Books. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  9. ^ Behrens, Roy R. "Camoupedia". Camoupedia. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  10. ^ Isla Forsyth (2017). Second World War British Military Camouflage: Designing Deception. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 2. ISBN 978-1-4742-2261-7.
  11. ^ Leggett, Mike (June 2010). "Camoupedia—A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage by Roy R. Behrens". Leonardo. 43 (3): 297–298.
  12. ^ Martone, Michael (2005). Unconventions: Attempting the Art of Craft and the Craft of Art : Writings on Writing. University of Georgia Press. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-8203-2779-2.
  13. ^ "Mary Snyder Behrens: New Work". Abe Books. Retrieved 20 February 2018.

External links[edit]