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Time Travel Art Machine: WrestleMania 30
It was actually WrestleMania XXX but I don't want to end up in your naughty folder.
Wild, this is almost 9 years old!
Back in early 2014(!) I was contacted by WWE to make this giant 7’ x 5’ painting celebrating 30 years of WrestleMania, to be painted at Axxess that year. I worked with their archivist Ben Brown on all of the moments to include which was a very fun phone call where we both went through everything we thought should be in there and then narrowed it down. We also had the unenviable task to declare what were the biggest moments so that they could have a little more prominence to make it a more engaging composition.
Up to that point, Hogan vs Andre was considered THE big ‘Mania moment, closely followed by an acknowledgment of Austin and Rock having main evented three times, at that point the only duo to have done so. We knew Undertaker had to be very prominent, especially with his undefeated streak still being intact up to that time and we also wanted Ultimate Warrior prominent as that was the year he returned under the WWE umbrella. Then we had fun picking out our favorite moments to fill in the composition.
I was under the belief that I had to finish this AT Axxess, which I thought a month out would be no problem. BUT THEN…I got a call from Warrior asking me to paint TWO dusters for him and the way it timed out I ended up having no lead time to start this painting. Like, I finished Warrior’s second duster, the one he wore in his final appearance on Raw, the night before Katy and I drove from Kansas City down to New Orleans. Which means I penciled this thing out LATER THAT SAME NIGHT and didn’t finish until around 2AM, with us hitting the road at 6 or 7AM. Poor Katy put up with a lot from me and was a massive reason why Axxess ended up being such a success. That began with her doing most of the drive.
That means I went into this utterly exhausted and let’s not forget this was ALSO my debut with WWE. They set me up in the lobby outside of Axxess so everyone who came in watched me working on the painting. I decided I’d keep the same hours as WWE, because if they were going to give me this opportunity I’d make the most of every minute I could. I believe it was a four-day event then, Thursday through Sunday. With those 12+ hour days I figured that’d be about how long it took me to do one 30” x 40” acrylic at that time (FAR longer now) so I figured I could paint this whole thing in that time.
I was SO wrong.
And I started freaking the F out on Saturday. I pulled Ben Brown and Kevin Moore (my contact from WWE Shop, who was the one that initially called me to work with WWE) aside and barely holding back sobbing I told them there was no chance I’d finish in time.
“Oh, we never expected you to do that,” said Kevin as Ben chuckled. I don’t think they were joking or anything, just laughing along with my earnestness and understanding the exhaustion I was experiencing, as they and everyone with WWE does every year during WrestleMania week.
So I ended up spending about a month on it total!
I would do this painting completely differently now, as I’m a very different artist than I was in 2014. My skills have developed considerably in that time and I think I’m a much better draftsman now and more adept with acrylics and my mediums of choice in general. But that’s just something every artist does with a long career.
Most importantly, this was my first chance to showcase myself and my art in person to WWE’s audience and to everyone behind the scenes at WWE as well. It does NOT feel like nine years. I also want to state again how important Katy was (and still is) to keeping me together during these huge events. They take a lot out of me but she shares the responsibilities with me and makes it all seem manageable.
There’s never been prints of this and I don’t know if there ever will be as it’s a bit of a rights fiasco. We never quite have everyone working with WWE at the same time, as is the nature of the beast. But that wasn’t what this piece was about for me, it was totally being in that moment and making the most of the opportunity provided to me.
I’ll let you decide if I’ve done that.
Love you more,