In April 2012 I backed a Kickstarter for The Last of McGuinness, a gripping look at the premature end of Nigel McGuinness’s life long dream. As part of the rewards he was offering a a picture of himself done by an artist named Rob Schamberger, and he linked to Rob’s own Kickstarter. Such was my first exposure to one of the best artists I’ve ever seen.
Rob’s dream was to do a series of mixed media paintings featuring all past world heavyweight champions in pro-wrestling. He describes why in his own words from the project page:
“‘Why would you want to paint heavyweight wrestling champions?’
First and foremost, why wouldn’t I? But seriously, it’s because these men mean so much to so many people around the world. The world championship is the pinnacle of any sport, even a pre-determined one like professional wrestling. The man who holds that title has to be believable as a champion and also has to draw crowds to see him defend his title, both of which are very real responsibilities. In the old days, the champion would often have to legitimately defend the title against opponents who were looking to bring the title to their territory. I also want to do this for the fans who fill the auditoriums and arenas every week, who make all of the magic happen.”
I’ve been a pro-wrestling fan all of my life, and I was thrilled to see such a talented artist wanting to devote his skills to honoring its stars. He campaigned hard during this first KS, offering commissions and a variety of other rewards and bonuses and it made it’s goal in the last minutes. Both the paintings that were the point of this KS and the commissioned rewards were incredible and Rob’s reputation rapidly grew.
His second Kickstarter in early 2013 was to take his collection on tour across the US. The tour itself was an overall success, but had a major setback in the middle as Rob’s truck was hit by a semi outside of Secaucus NJ. Thankfully he was fine, but he lost all of the prints and paintings he was transporting to show at Wrestlecon that year’s Wrestlemania weekend. It was in the midst of this that I got to meet him at the con. Rob was in reasonably good spirits despite the harrowing experience. His printer overnighted new prints and he made the most of things, hanging out with fans and enjoying his time at the con.
It was fantastic to get to meet him in person after chatting a bit online and hopefully helped take his mind off of things a bit. He’s obviously as big (or even bigger) a fan than I am so it was a real treat to discuss wrestling and his art. As a bonus I had attended the Shimmer show just minutes before finding Rob’s table, where I got the incredible painting he did of my favorite wrestler as part of my rewards for the first KS signed by the subject herself.
The brilliance of Rob’s work is the way he captures real people while embracing experimental art techniques. His use of color, shadow, and other artistic techniques is innovative and gives his work depth and a captivating feel. The range he’s shown in his paintings is incredible and he never stops pushing himself to make the next one even better.
Rob’s fame and awareness of his work grew and grew, and he was noticed by several employees of the WWE. He now works directly for them, continuing to create amazing renditions of their superstars which are offered on WWE’s auction site, signed by their subjects. They also have posters and prints of his work available at WWE’s online shop.
It’s been a privilege to follow his journey since near the beginning, and I’m excited to keep doing so going forward.