The WWE has an artist-in-residence, and he lives in
KCUR | By Julie Denesha
Published August 8, 2020 at 5:00 AM CDT
Painter Rob Schamberger works at his drawing board in his
home studio in Brookside. The eye-popping colors he uses in
his portraits help illustrate the outsized characters of
By painting the stars of pro wrestling, Kansas City artist
Rob Schamberger has become a bit of a celebrity himself.
In the ring at World Wrestling Entertainment the contests
are pure theater. There are body slams, blood feuds and
theres a lot of trash talk. You'd be forgiven for thinking
they wouldn't have something as fancy-sounding as an artist-
in-residence. But they do.
His name is Rob Schamberger. He's a soft-spoken guy. He
spends a lot of time painting in his studio, using eye-
popping colors in watercolor, acrylic and ink to illustrate
the outsized characters hes painting. He makes them look
Ill use both photographs and video stills to get the
likenesses right," explains Schamberger. "But that's just
kind of where I start. I liken it to free-form jazz. you
know where you're starting, you know where intending to end.
But in between there you're playing jazz. And that's what I
do with the paintings as well. Ill get the likeness down.
And then from there, I'm really free to experiment and get
the emotion across.
Schamberger is prolific. He paints hundreds of portraits a
year for the WWE. His artwork appears on posters and t-
shirts, and he hosts a show of his own Canvas 2 Canvas on
the WWE Network. It takes wrestling fans into his studio
for an art lesson.
Schamberger knew he wanted to be an artist at age 7, the day
he picked up his first comic book.
"It was a very, very easy transition to bring that aesthetic
over to pro wrestling," he says.
Before Schamberger started drawing professional wrestlers
six years ago, no one else was doing it. Hes been able to
pioneer the genre.
There is a way you draw Superman versus the way you draw
Batman, Schamberger says. "And so it's not that different
with how you draw John Cena versus The Undertaker.
Schamberger uses the tools of comic books to show off the
different personalities of Bray Wyatt.
Like everyone else, Schamberger faced a lot of uncertainty
So it was early March when everything in America shut
down," says Schamberger. "There's never a good time for it,
but that was right before WrestleMania, which for me is a
sizable chunk of my annual income. But amazingly, my online
sales were amazing. People just wanted to support because
they knew what I was going through. That was actually
One of Schambergers latest subjects is another native
Kansas Citian. Tom Pestock was born in Lenexa, Kansas. He's
been wrestling with the WWE for the past eight years. He
wears a dark crown and his name in the ring is King Corbin.
He can be seen on Friday Night SmackDown on FOX.
King Corbin is one of the bad boys in wrestling theyre
called "heels." And Corbin likes to say that he spells the
End of Days for anyone who dares to fight him.
King Corbin says growing up in Kansas City fed his early
love for wrestling. Handsome Harley Race, a legendary
Kansas City wrestler, was one of his early heroes.
My dad was a huge wrestling fan," says King Corbin. "And so
we would go to shows and watch it on TV and destroy the
living room with wrestling matches.
King Corbin says its been an adjustment to do his job
during the pandemic, too. The WWE never stopped performing.
Now, they work on a closed set without an audience.
I'm used to walking out of a curtain and there's thousands
and thousands of people there that usually do not like me at
all," Corbin says. "They boo me a lot. But there's no crowd.
There's no one to really feed off of. You kind of have to
put beliefs into what you're doing in that moment is the
right thing. I think it's really been helping guys find
their motivation, you know, in different places. And so I
think it's going to make everybody better for what we do.
When he performs, King Corbin says he wants his fans to be
able to forget their troubles, at least for a little while.
I want people to sit at home on Friday nights and watch me
on Smackdown and forget about what's going on in the world
for two hours," King Corbin says. "That's the goal. You want
them engulfed in the show, not being stressed out about work
or the world or family or whatever it may be.
King Corbin met Schamberger last year, when the artist
presented him with a portrait in Springfield, Missouri.
When you have guys like him with this unbelievable talent,
an unbelievable eye for that, it helps elevate you to that
level of a superhero to larger than life, says King Corbin.
The characters Schamberg paints are larger than life. Seth
Rollins (pictured at left) is overall a five-time world
champion in major professional wrestling promotion. WWE
female wrestlers (at right) call themselves "The Four
Right now were all battling with an unseen enemy COVID-
19. Schamberger says hardship often inspires the
extraordinary in people.
The world needs heroes," he says. "And if fiction is
something that can give us those heroes right now, thats