With the Stanley Cup Finals between the Bruins and Canucks going strong, we figured it would be a great time to speak with one of our favorite hockey enthusiasts, Rob Ullman. Oh yeah, Rob is also one of the most talented illustrators on the planet. You’ll see….
Andy: At what age did you realize you had a very unique talent for illustrating, and when did you start utilizing that talent to make a living?
Rob: I’ve always loved to draw, from a very, very young age. When I was a kid, my dream was to draw for DC Comics…but as I got older, and met a few actual comics professionals, I realized that drawing comics for a big company was a ton of work for not a lot of money, and that usually, you ultimately didn’t own any of the work you created. Still, I loved drawing comics, so I began doing my own strips—autobiographical stories, sports, even some super-hero comics—and published them on my own.
That work led into drawing children’s books, and spot illustrations for alt-weeklies and magazines, and eventually I found myself doing what I feel is my true calling, commercial illustration. I left my last 9 to 5 job, as art director for an in-flight magazine, in 2003, and I’ve been making it as a freelancer ever since.
Andy: Based on your Old Time Hockey Tales series (available on Robert’s awesome website) I get the feeling Hockey is your favorite sport/passion. Did you play the sport in any fashion as a youngster and/or do you still play today?
Rob: Lately, it really is…I’ve always been a big fan of both football and hockey, but the last few years, as the NFL has become more and more overexposed and inescapable, I’ve gravitated more and more toward the NHL. The thing I like about hockey is that it demands you work a little harder to be a fan, at least in the US. It’s more under the radar. All the information is there for the taking if you dig a bit, but it’s not all over every network and talked about to death.
As for playing…yeah, I do. Inline hockey, anyway. There’s a really nice public rink about 20 miles north of where I live in Richmond. There are benches, lights, the whole deal. A group of my pals and I go up as often as we can on Friday nights and play pickup games followed by beers and wings. It’s one of my absolute favorite things to do.
Andy: Your book, Atom – Bomb Bikini – The Lurid art of Robert Ullman, is a bold and bawdy tribute to beautiful women illustrated in a style like none other I’ve ever seen – INCREDIBLE! While all the images within are appreciated, everything reverts back to baseball, football, and of course hockey hotties. Are all the illustrations commissioned for specific projects, or do you have a blank canvas “blanket” to do as you please?
Rob: Many of the images on the site are indeed commissions…folks will come to me with a team and subject (usually but not always a real person), and I’ll create an illustration of the person in the jersey of their choosing, and send them a color print of the art. However, I create a lot of the sporty art on my own as well, especially Pittsburgh themed stuff…I’m a Pittsburgh guy (yes, even the Pirates) and thankfully there’s been a lot to get excited about lately. One of my most popular annual projects is my Stanley Cup Playoff picks…since 2007, I’ve been doing little capsule write-ups predicting which team will win each series, punctuated by a little illustration of a babe sporting that team’s sweater. I imagine the illos are what keep people coming back, because as a hockey prognosticator, I’m not exactly Nostradamus!
Andy: I know the Penguins are your team, but in lieu of the current Stanley Cup Finals, might you have a Bruins or Canucks rendering you could share for our readers?
Rob: Absolutely! One thing I’ll say about Canucks fans…they’re passionate above most others, at least in terms of buying commissions, as I’ve done more of them than ANY team besides the Pens!
Andy: We’re honored that you appreciate the Original Retro Brand as much as we appreciate your art work. What is it you love so much about our gear?
Rob: Aw, what’s not to love? The soft fabric that breathes a bit, unlike the heavy cotton that most shirts with sports logos on them are made of. The screen-printing is really sharp too…it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a big sheet of kevlar on your chest. And the logos…simple, classic…I especially dig some of the monochrome designs. I’ll put it this way: When I was in high school way back in the 80s, I bought a Boston Celtics t-shirt on closeout. Now, I don’t even like the Celtics, but I always like how the shirt looked and felt…more snug, not baggy, and you could wear it in the South in the summer without sweating to death. I still have it, still love to wear it. Original Retro Brand shirts feel the same way.
Wow. What can we say? How about thanks so much to Rob for sharing his art and enthusiasm for his work, play, and Original Retro Brand!