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Acclaimed and exhibited artist, painter of the Champion Portrait series and portrait maker of your favorite wrestling stars as seen on the likes of WWEAuctions.com and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Rob Schamberger joined “Multi-time Award Winning” the Rack Thursday Night. In a nearly 25 minute interview, he discussed how he got started and how we got connected with WWE, his work being displayed at WrestleMania and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, his feelings to having work sold through WWE Auctions, who were his favorite wrestlers, what is his favorite medium to use: watercolor or acrylic, what is the biggest complement he’s gotten for his work, teaming with Mick Foley for his work with RAINN, the use of social media and how it has affected his art for the positive, his tips for other up-and-coming artists, his thoughts on the upcoming WrestleMania XXX card and so much more.
How did he come about working with the WWE: “It’s actually my first official WrestleMania with them (WWE), but I started about three years ago. I was looking at doing something different with my art; I’d been working primarily with comic books and illustration and it didn’t ever quite fully happen, you know; I’d still have a day job and everything. I just wanted to do something different and I realized that no one had ever done a serious collection of portraits of wrestlers. So then I thought, ‘Oh, it’d be cool to do every one of wrestling’s world champions going all the way back to George Hackenschmidt and that's all where it kind of started.
Then, there was Kickstarter about three years ago, where I raised $20,000 dollars in a month to pay for studio space and everything to help make that break into doing art full-time and then just built off it from there and it’s been a wild ride.”
His work being featured through the WWEAuctions.com site: “They actually came to me; Jim Ross had told them that that it would be a good fit for us to do business together, which is neat. I might actually be the last person that Jim Ross brought into the WWE; kind of a neat lineage to be part of. But we started talking about half way through last year and towards the end of the year we launched our first auctions together, right around Black Friday time and we’ve been doing it fairly consistently since then. It’s been phenomenal, I mean I have my own page on WWE.com and I don’t even have to take bumps in the ring.”
When did he start to like professional wrestling: “I got into it when I was 18. Like every other 18-year-old who lives on his own, I was at my parent’s doing laundry on a Monday Night and my step-father who’d been a fan back in the 60’s and 70’s was flipping through the channels and landed on Ric Flair doing a promo on Nitro, this would have been about 1998, and I was just hooked right then. The next week, I was just looking for wrestling, because at the time I didn’t know the difference between the shows or anything, and I landed on RAW and back in 1998 they were just killing it; everyone was firing on all cylinders and I’ve been a fan since.”
Why he chose wrestling as a subject for his art: “I wasn’t finding a whole lot of success with other subject matters, since what I ran into with, say, comic books is that there are other really talented comic book artists out there and made all the connections and put all the work and practice into honing their craft and I was just never going to be the guy to draw Batman; so I thought ‘Ok, so well, I’ll focus on my gallery work.’ And I was doing pretty well with that; I was doing like pin-up like stuff but at the end of the day, I was just another guy doing pin-up stuff. And no matter how good I got, I would never be Jennifer Janesko or any of those guys, you know, doing really well in that genre. So, I was looking around for work to do saying, ‘What can I do?’ and yeah, wrestling fit perfectly.”
Who were his favorite wrestlers when he started watching: “Well, obviously, when I first started watching it would have been Austin and the Rock, you know; especially the Rock at this time. Also, Chris Jericho and right around then was when Edge debuted with WWF, at the time, and pretty much watched his whole career. The really neat thing is through doing his painting when I did my big Champions Collection portrait of Edge, he really liked it and we started talking and we’ve become pretty friendly since then, which I wouldn’t have pictures back in 1998 when I was watching ‘rasslin at my folks place.”
Why he chose wrestling as a subject for his art: “Yeah, it’s been great. Like Edge, for instance; he and Beth (Phoenix), the gym that they have in their house is decorated with various paintings of mine. When I did the Kickstarter and announced that I was going to do every World Champion a lot of people jokingly asked me ‘Oh, so are you going to do David Arquette?’ and I said ‘Yeah, man. I’m going to do them all.’ So, just on a whim, I tweeted out to David ‘Hey, when I get to yours, which kind of outfit are you going to want?’ And for some reason, he took a look at my stuff and really liked it and he’s got his portrait hanging up in his living room, which is pretty dang neat. I was at the PPV with the Triple Cage where he was defending his title (Slamboree 2000) and everything; it was here in Kansas City. So yeah, all these people that I has watched as a fan and just as a spectator, now they’ve got some of my stuff and that’s pretty neat.
His involvement with WrestleMania XXX this year : “This is such a cool opportunity that WWE has given me here; my display is going to be right inside the front doors for Axxess at the Convention Center. I’ll be set up right outside the Superstore. We’re going to have over 100 paintings on display for people to be able to purchase. I’ll also be doing live art there for all four days and this isn’t just for the Axxess sessions; like the doors open around 11:00 am or noon each day and that part is free to the public and yeah, I’ll be doing a giant 8’x4’ painting there that I’ll be working on all four days; there’s more details about exactly what is going to be on that painting, but it’s going to be really, really cool. A lot of the watercolors you’ve seen me put up lately are one’s I’ve made getting ready for the show, so there will be a lot of bigger pieces as well and even some of the Champions pieces I’ll even have there.”
His upcoming project in conjunction with Mick Foley: “Yeah, this is another one of those things that I couldn’t quite believe came together as easily as it did. Turns out, Mick has been a fan of my work for a while but he didn’t know about me; he just recognized the paintings he saw. But he’s just so busy and has so much information coming in over time, he never knew who the artist was doing this stuff. When I saw the raffle fundraiser that we was doing for RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network), I really wanted to be a part of that, because giving back to those less fortunate and to various causes is very important to me. Through my art last year, I was able to raise $10,000 for various charities and it’s something I also wanted to do this year; thank you to all the people who made that happen.
I saw he was doing that, so I e-mailed him and introduced myself and said I’d like to donate a painting of the winner’s choice; well, actually at first I said I’d donate a painting of him (Mick) and he came back saying ‘Well, if somebody wins this and I might not be their favorite wrestler, so let’s keep it open to them.’ So, I’ll do a portrait of whoever their favorite wrestler is; along with all those other awesome prizes in there: the trip to WrestleMania and the Hall of Fame, JR’s show, I think there’s even a Disney World prize in there and you get a tour from Scotty 2 Hotty.
He was so energetic about it, so excited; as soon as I e-mailed him, I went to bed shortly after because I think it was during RAW that I e-mailed him and when I woke up he’d already tweeted it out before we’d even fully spoken together, he was so excited to have this be part of it. Yeah, it was just so neat and he’s as genuine and cool of a guy as everyone tells you he is.”
On his work being a permanent part of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame: “Yes, giant, giant honor. It’s such a great organization and the physical building itself in Waterloo, IA is incredible. There’s a bucket list of things that true wrestling fans need to experience: WrestleMania, of course, the Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion in Las Vegas and I put the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony up there as well. It’s one of the most meaningful things that I’ve done and they responded so well to my art; this year will be the third year that I’ve displayed there and last year they started displaying some of the stuff permanently and it’s in their collection now. I’m also going to be doing new stuff with them going forward as well. Kyle Klingman, who runs the museum, is a great, great guy and a great friend to wrestling as a whole.”
What is the biggest compliment his work has gotten so far: “There has been a few family members of wrestlers that have passed away that have reached out to me, you know to have me do a painting or to sell a painting that I have done and they tell me how important that was to them to see it and some of them will even, like at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame last year, where I did a piece on one of the guys being inducted and his family started tearing up when they saw it and that was important.
Probably the number one thing would be last year I did a fundraiser show for the Make a Wish Foundation where I was able to fully adopt a kid’s wish, so I paid for him to go to Disney World and to be in a position to do that and through my art was an incredible experience that I want to have over and over again.”
You can follow Rob through his Twitter (@robschamberger), his Tumblr (robschamberger.tumblr.com) or visit his homepage (http://robschamberger.com) for all the latest on him and projects as well as a gallery of his work; you can also see and bid on Rob’s work through wweauctions.com. You can also see Rob as part of WrestleMania with WrestleMania Axxess week; go to wwe.com or Ticketmaster.com for tickets and a list of events associated with Axxess. You can also win a chance to get a work from Rob through Mick Foley’s RAINN Charity raffle, go to www.rainn.org/raffle for a listing of prizes and for your chance to purchase raffle tickets for a great cause!
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