I often talk about the many “flavors” of geek, and that there’s no such thing as the “wrong” kind of geek, or being “enough” of a geek. But I must admit, one thing I’ve never really understood is the connection between geeks and wrestling. So I turned to Kansas City local artist – and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) artist in residence – Rob Schamberger for some insight. And now I get it.
Please introduce yourself.
Hi! I’m Rob Schamberger, the artist in residence for WWE. I’ve been a working professional artist since 1997 and with WWE for the last six years.
When did you first become interested in art?
When I was seven and I got my first comic book, Incredible Hulk 348. I knew right in that moment that I wanted to be the person who makes things like that.
How would you describe your art style?
Evolving. I use different media and techniques for each piece, both to do what is right for that specific painting and to also continue to learn and grow as an artist.
When did you begin working professionally in your field?
I self-published my first comic book in 1997 when I was 17 years old.
How did you get involved in wrestling art, and working with WWE?
Around eight years ago I hit a point where I realized I was never going to be a full-time comic book artist. I just couldn’t make it click. I was doing gallery work on the side, but even that wasn’t enough to quit my day job over.
I read a marketing book that talked about how a business needed at least one of three things to stand out: To be the first, to be the best, or to be completely different. As an artist, I’m a business owner and this obviously applied to me as well.
So, I took a look at what kind of subject matter would allow me to stand out and I realized that no one was doing serious work focused on pro wrestling. I was instantly all three of those things needed and I was working full-time as an artist within a month.
Speaking of…what is the connection between geeks and wrestling? How would you describe the Venn diagram of that intersection?
Pro wrestling is no different from Star Wars or the X-Men. You can casually watch WWE, or you can go deep and get into all of the histories of the people, the fictional world they inhabit, and the real-life company and people who create this universe.
I’m a lifelong Legion of Super-Heroes fan, to the point that I know the real name, super power and home planet of every Legion member and at one point I could read and write Interlac. I’ve read the spin-off series, watched the adaptations, and can talk about which Dave Cockrum designs were later used elsewhere.
Pro wrestling is just like that. I can learn everything about what’s happening in WWE right now, learn the real names of all of the performers, go deep on the history all the way back to the 1800’s (Abe Lincoln was a pro wrestler! For real!) and passionately talk about it with like-minded fans.
What projects have you been involved in, and what are you working on now?
A lot! With WWE I do a painting a week and film the process for my weekly YouTube show on their channel, Canvas 2 Canvas. We sell prints and other items featuring the art. I also appear at WrestleMania Axxess, their fan convention leading into ‘Mania each year and paint live. I’ve been on their programming a few times, as well.
I’ve done work with their licensing partners as well, such as Topps, 2K Games, BOOM! Studios and Mattel. For a year, all of the Mattel WWE Elite figures came with my art and my name on the front of every figure, which I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around.
What do you love about creating?
Making a thing that didn’t exist before. Anyone can put in the work to develop their craft, even with art. That side of art, it’s no different from being a plumber or electrician. It’s math, learning what combination of which things applied in what manner will deliver a desired result.
But me, Rob, I’m the only one who can do it the way that I do. My whole life’s perspective combined with decades of improving my craft have led me to be the only one who makes things exactly the way I do. To then get the reaction from people around the world that I do, it’s powerful.
Tell us about a particularly memorable moment in your professional life.
A young boy, Connor Michaelek, was a big fan of WWE. He was battling pediatric cancer and soon passed away. WWE created the charity Connor’s Cure in his honor and I soon befriended his family. At the WWE Hall of Fame they were honoring him with the inaugural Warrior Award, named after the recently deceased Ultimate Warrior wrestler. I had also been friendly with Warrior and even hand-painted the coat he wore in his final appearance.
I was hiding out backstage at the Hall of Fame with a painting I had made of Connor with Ultimate Warrior and surprised the family with it. Easily the best thing I’ve done and I don’t see anything better or more meaningful ever happening.
What future plans lay ahead for you?
Hopefully more paintings of rasslers! I’ve had a hell of a momentum for the past few years and I honestly hope I can keep this train going down the tracks.
How long have you lived in Kansas City, and what’s something you love about living here?
My whole life! I grew up in Lee’s Summit, moved to Mission, KS after graduating high school (Go Tigers!) and now have lived in Kansas City proper since 2002. First up north, then for a decade in the River Market, and now down south in Brookside.
These past few years with WWE I’ve traveled coast to coast and everywhere in-between and I still love Kansas City the most. We have everything the big cities have, our food is among the best, but the cost of living is still manageable. It’s got everything.
Where can someone find more information about your work?
- Website: http://robschamberger.com/
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/robschamberger
- Twitter: @robschamberger
- Instagram: @robschamberger
Anything else you’d like to share?
Cats are awesome!
- What it means to be a geek (the many “flavors” of geek)
- Profiles of more KC Creators
- Hero Initiative Offers Help to Comic Creators in Need