An Interview With Rob Schamberger

This is actually an eight year old article that I did for the now defunct Layfield Report website. After I left my gig at the videogame site I occasionally mention on here, I applied to be a blogger for the news website run by WWE legend John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL). I did a number of articles there until it closed up shop in 2014. I think one of my proudest achievements was when I received my first “paycheck” signed by JBL, that was a surreal experience for sure. I don’t want this article to entirely disappear, so I have taken efforts to go into this and any other site I worked for and collect my work in order to preserve it. All information here is slightly out of date, as Mr. Schamberger now officially does these portraits for WWE all the time. Anyone in the Kansas City area can find him manning a table at almost every local convention, stop by and say hi, as he’s a nice dude.

A Wayback Machine article can be found HERE from around 2013. Original article is as follows:

If you follow any WWE legends on social media, you really can’t go far without seeing art by Kansas City artist Rob Schamberger. Greats like Gerald Brisco proudly Twitter post his portraits like badges of honor, and it seems like you really aren’t anybody until you get “Schambergered”. In a matter of only a few years, Rob has become one of the foremost artists to tackle professional wrestling as their preferred subject. He has tasked himself with painting ALL wrestling champions, including champions from WWE, WCW, and many others. I was able to conduct an interview with Mr. Schamberger, and will now share with you what we discussed.

The interview was conducted on November 16, 2013.

(The Miz, Image Courtesy of robschamberger.com)

When did you realize that art was your thing?

“When I was about eight, I think. My older stepbrother bought me an issue of The Incredible Hulk and we spent the weekend redrawing all of the panels from it. I really haven’t stopped since then!”

You are a Kansas City native, how is the art scene there?

“It’s amazing, really. There’s a rich variety of artists living and working here, and a culture that supports us. First Fridays, when the galleries change out their exhibits, will bring out tens of thousands of people every month. We also have the Nelson-Atkins Museum, one of the best in the world, and the Kauffman Performing Arts Center, which is the most ambitious arts-only structure of its type.”

Your work originally came to my attention through a mutual friend. At that time you were working on sequential art (comics, graphic novels etc) How did you get into the comics industry?

“It was that fateful weekend with my stepbrother. I just knew right then that I wanted to be an artist, and for the longest time primarily a comic book artist. I think the work ethic that comes from doing comics has served me well. Each page is five to twelve separate illustrations, and you really need to get twenty-two pages done a month. People think it’s amazing that I do a painting a day (minimum), but compared to that it’s a breeze!”

You’re obviously a wrestling fan, when did you start watching?

“Back in 1998 I had moved out on my own at the age of 18, and I was at my parents’ house doing laundry. My step-father flipped to Nitro with Flair doing a promo, and I was hooked. The next week I tuned into Raw, and have been watching it every week since!”

Who was your favorite star in the past? Today?

“Bruiser Brody is probably my favorite of all time. Both the character and how Frank Goodish was always his own boss and cut his own path in the wrestling world. 

Today? This isn’t a cop-out answer, but I’ve become friends with so many that I feel I’d be disrespecting someone if I started throwing out names. I honestly have the hugest respect for anyone who takes the time to get properly trained, and then lace up those boots and step through the ropes.”

(Bruiser Brody, Image Courtesy of robschamberger.com)

How did the wrestling champions collection series come into being?

“I had stopped doing comics a couple years ago, as I was having trouble finding an audience for my work. I had started focusing on my gallery work, mostly doing portraits of pin-up models. Believe it or not, I got tired of painting women in their underwear and wanted to do something different. My last graphic novel I was working on was a wrestling book, and I kind of put two and two together with all of the research I had done with the wrestling project and wanting something new to do subject-matter wise. First, there’s not much more different from pin-up models than pro wrestling! More importantly, I didn’t feel that any serious artist had done a series that truly celebrates the history of the sport.”

You funded the project via a Kickstarter campaign, was that the plan all along?

“Yeah, it went hand-in-hand with the Champions Collection. The concept of painting every one of pro wrestling’s world champions was something that I felt I could market with the campaign. Luckily, I was right and raised twenty thousand dollars in one month!”

Would you recommend “crowdfunding” to other creative people?

“Uhm, kind of? To do one successfully, it becomes a full-time job and there are a lot of responsibilities that come with successfully doing one. You need to know how to correctly use social media, you need to know how to get traditional media and endorsements from influencers. You have to balance all of that with whatever your day job is and your home life. It’s exhausting. Then, you have the responsibility of getting all of your backer gifts out in the time period that you allotted. If you don’t, you’ve killed your credibility. It’s easily one of, if not THE most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but because of that the most rewarding. It allowed me to switch to doing this full-time, and that’s something I’m grateful for every single day.”

(JBL, Image Courtesy of robschamberger.com)

I like how you change things up in each painting, like the use of tools, colors, techniques etc. Do you have a preferred technique?

“If I feel comfortable in a way I’m working, I normally either stop doing it or find a way to complicate it. Painting is, at its core, problem solving. I love solving problems, but I really dislike doing something over and over again. Then it just becomes a job, you know? I work as hard as I do so that I don’t have to have a job. As long as I’m learning from each piece I do, and can then utilize what I’ve learned to push myself even further with the next piece, then I’m doing it right.”

I’ve seen many of the wrestlers that you’ve painted take great interest in your work, were you surprised to hear from anyone in particular?

“All of them! Like any artist, all that I see are my flaws. That thing that I just couldn’t get right, or the line I put in the wrong place. So that anyone likes my work is still amazing to me. Humility aside? The guys like JBL, Edge, Stone Cold, Jim Ross, and Gerald Brisco, the ones that have been consistently entertaining me since 1998? That my paintings speak to them, and they take the time to let me know, that’s an incredible experience every time.”

Who has been your favorite subject so far?

“Each poses its own problems to me to overcome, which as I said I really enjoy. I think I killed it on my Edge Champions Collection portrait. My wife really adores my Champions Collection portrait of JBL, too.”

Is there anyone that you are looking forward to painting?

“Everyone that I haven’t yet! I’m full of cop-out answers, aren’t I? The Champions Collection portrait of The Undertaker will probably be the one I completely go all out on. So, I’ll be saving that for last!”

Finally, I’ve noticed you have started some charity work, how did that come about?

“When I got the funds from the first Kickstarter, I was kind of overwhelmed so I instantly donated a portion of it to Make-A-Wish. That’s an organization I’ve always had a lot of love for, from when I was a little kid. Since then, I’ve found that I really enjoy giving back. The patrons of my art have put me in a place in my life that I can help those less fortunate than me in a meaningful way. This year I’ll have raised around ten thousand dollars for various causes, and I’m looking forward to how I can do even more in the years to come. I think that 18-year-old Rob who raged against machines and stuck his middle finger up to the man would dig who he grew up to be, although he’d be curious to know how he got so fat and lost his hair.”

(CM Punk, Image Courtesy of robschamberger.com)

You can check Rob’s site out at robschamberger.com, where you can see ALL of his champions in their colorful glory. He has a list of dates, contact information, and even stuff you could purchase for your home. A big thank you to Rob with taking time out of his day to do this.

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