Rob Schamberger Q&A: WWE's Artist Talks Painting Stars, Wrestling and More

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2019

A painting of Harley Race by Rob Schamberger.
A painting of Harley Race by Rob Schamberger.Credit: Rob Schamberger

If you are a fan of WWE, there is a good chance you have seen a lot of Rob Schamberger's art. He has served as the company's resident artist for years and painted dozens of your favorite Superstars from today and legends from the past.

Everyone from Andre the Giant and Harley Race to Tomasso Ciampa and R-Truth have been immortalized in his work.

Schamberger's paintings have been used for numerous products like shirts, trading cards, packaging for action figures and signed prints. 

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him about a number of subjects, including wrestling, art, comics and other facets of pop culture. 

You can read the highlights below and listen to the full interview in the embedded video. 

                               

Bleacher Report: When did you get started with art, and when did you know you wanted to make it a career?

Rob Schamberger: When I was eight, I got my first comic book and I was like, "Oh, I want to make something like this." From that moment on, I would devour every comic book I could get. I started finding the how-to books and pretty soon, art teachers at school would realize that I had the passion but it didn't match the curriculum at the time, and they would work with me independently. By the time I was 17, I was starting to get paid for my work.

                           

B/R: You were getting paid that early?

Schamberger: (Laughing) Yeah. It was easy to get some money out of some suckers, I guess.

                        

B/R: What was the first thing you sold?

Schamberger: I self-published my own comic book, and I was hustling. I had them in my trunk, and I was going to every comic shop in town to set up consignment deals. It sold pretty well for distributing it by myself. It was kind of like the early MC Hammer model where he was selling his mixtapes out of his trunk. For a long time, I had to have a day job to pay for my art career. Eventually, when I realized nobody was focusing their art on pro wrestling, I knew I could stand out this way. Within about a month, I was able to quit my job and haven't looked back since. That was seven years ago.

A painting of Bray Wyatt by Rob Schamberger.
A painting of Bray Wyatt by Rob Schamberger.Credit: Rob Schamberger

A painting of The Fiend by Rob Schamberger.
A painting of The Fiend by Rob Schamberger.Credit: Rob Schamberger

                       

B/R: Who was the first wrestler you painted?

Schamberger: Harley Race. I'm a Kansas City guy, and I wanted to start off local. I did a few others as a proof of concept for a Kickstarter project. It's a project I am still working on where I paint the world champions from every major promotion. It raised about 20 grand in the first month, and it was one of the highest-grossing Kickstarters for art at the time.

     

B/R: What is your favorite painting from your own work?

Schamberger: I did a painting of The Ultimate Warrior and Connor The Crusher together, and I surprised the Michalek family with it when Connor was given the first Warrior Award. I was hiding out backstage and presented it to them. There was a lot of emotion around that one. I'm not sure I will ever top that.

     

B/R: How do you approach a painting when you start it?

Schamberger: There are a lot of factors. I don't want it to just look like the person. I want it to feel like what it is like to watch that person. For my Naomi painting, I wanted to vibe off her entrance. Sometimes, I want to do a painting a certain way, and I try to find someone that fits that approach.

     

B/R: Who are your artistic influences?

Schamberger: That answer changes daily. I spend a good amount of time each morning looking at other people's art. It's all a matter of problem-solving and finding how to use colors together to get a feeling or idea across. I look at what other artists do to solve those problems and bring that to my work. David Mack and Bill Sienkiewicz are two that are always at the top for me.

A painting of Steve Austin by Rob Schamberger.
A painting of Steve Austin by Rob Schamberger.Credit: WWE.com

B/R: How much input does WWE have in your work?

Schamberger: I can probably count on one hand the number of times they tell me what to do. I probably have the best arrangement in the art world with a client in that WWE likes what I do and they let me do it. If there is something that I do that they feel can click with other things, we go from there. I have been able to build similar relationships with Topps and 2K. It's pretty rad. I also own my work, and if you know anything about art, that's pretty rare. They have all been tremendous to work with.

     

B/R: When did you first get into pro wrestling?

Schamberger: I didn't get into it until about '98 or '99. My stepfather was a fan here in the Kansas City area. He was flipping through the channels and Ric Flair was in the ring doing a promo, and the next week, not knowing anything about wrestling, I wanted to find more and I landed on Raw. Over time, the way my brain is, I just started going deeper and deeper. My friends would tell me about things that happened, and I would hunt them down on video.

     

B/R: Who were your favorite wrestlers at first?

Schamberger: The Rock. It was hard to watch him and not be captivated. Jericho, The Hardys, Edge and Christian, The Dudleys. A lot of them were keeping me into it and invested.

A painting of Tommaso Ciampa by Rob Schamberger.
A painting of Tommaso Ciampa by Rob Schamberger.Credit: Rob Schamberger

         

B/R: What is your favorite WrestleMania?

Schamberger: I would probably say 24 because that was the first one I went to. There was someone in front of me and my wife making fun of Ric Flair, and my wife lunged at them. My buddy had to grab her and hold her back (laughs).

         

B/R: Who is your personal favorite wrestler?

Schamberger: It's hard to dispute AJ Styles or Seth Rollins. They put 110 percent into their matches every time. I am also high on Becky Lynch. Her feud last year with Charlotte was tremendous.

     

B/R: Who is your favorite on the mic?

Schamberger: Of the people who are currently competing, The Miz is the best. He overperforms every time.

A painting of Andre the Giant by Rob Schamberger.
A painting of Andre the Giant by Rob Schamberger.Credit: Rob Schamberger

B/R: Who is your favorite tag team?

Schamberger: I am big on The Revival. I like every single thing about what they do.

     

B/R: What is your favorite/most memorable match?

Schamberger: For a long time, it was Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy from Invasion. My friends and I were losing our minds over that show. At the time, I had never seen anything like it. The Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels match from WrestleMania 24, from a storytelling perspective, is pretty much perfect.

     

B/R: What is your favorite storyline?

Schamberger: The one that springs to mind is the story of Daniel Bryan being pushed down leading into WrestleMania 30. I thought that whole thing was really well-executed. Having The Undertaker lose and see the crowd still be so excited for that main event was so cool. 


To hear Rob talk more about art, WWE, superheroes and why George Lazenby is the best James Bond, check out the interview in the video above. To see more of his artwork, visit RobSchamberger.com, check out Canvas 2 Canvas on YouTube, or follow him on Twitter, where he regularly posts updates of his work.

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