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Time Travel Art Machine: My First Wrestling Painting
Everything starts somewhere!
One of my most-frequent questions that I get is what my first wrestling painting was. I had done some personal pieces here and there but my first intended-for-public viewing wrestling painting was of the Greatest Wrestler on God’s Green Earth, Harley Race! As a Kansas Citian, I didn’t know of anyone better to start out with.
I never watched ‘Handsome’ Harley wrestle live as his time at the top pre-dated my time watching pro wrestling, but his influence and shadow loomed strong over Kansas City still. I was starting to dip my toe into the indy wrestling scene around this time (2012) and there were a ton of his students active at that time in the area. Ms Natural, Derek Stone, Matt Murphy, Superstar Steve Fender, Lucy Mendez, Ace Steel, Stacey O’Brien, Jason Jones aka Leland Race, and so many more who all went on to become good friends of mine.
This painting was my proof of concept for what went on to become the Champions Collection, my late great series where I had set out to paint every champion from every major American wrestling promotion. The attention I got from that project launched my wrestling art career and it all started with this piece.
I ended up becoming friendly with Harley and the people who were running his school and eventually had several paintings hanging up there of Harley himself as well as many of his notable students. I miss hosting the after-parties for Metro Pro Wrestling at my old studio, where a bunch of his students performed and would come eat pizza and drink beer afterwards. There were many times where the party would end when the sun came up. I was told early on to appreciate those parties because they weren’t likely to happen again and that was for sure true.
As far as the painting itself, there’s a lot I would do very differently today but that’s the way it goes with something you made 11 years ago. Ultimately it’s the painting that launched my career so it very well might be my single most successful piece I’ll ever make. I’m super grateful to that.
Love you more,