Evan Shoman is a master of his craft. His weapon of choice is a pencil, and what he can do with it is otherworldly.
Each portrait can take between 40 to 60 hours to complete, and he has drawn portraits of the biggest stars in MMA from Chuck Liddell, GSP, BJ Penn, Randy Couture, and everybody in between. His latest portrait of Wanderlei Silva is just an example of how prolific an artist Evan is.
It doesn’t end with his drawings. He has been fortunate enough to develop great friendships with his subjects, and is involved in MMA in other ways also. He co-hosts a radio show with Crooklyn for Tapout Radio, in addition to being a huge MMA fan, and runs his own site where his work can be purchased at Shomanart.com.
Evan will also be in the next issue of Fight! magazine, so pick up a copy of that and support both Shoman and Fight! magazine. He took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk with ProMMA.info about art, MMA, being a dad, and just how all of this got started:
ProMMA-How did you get started in art, and how did you merge your artistic talents into the MMA world?
Shoman- I was always interested in doing portraits with pencil but only focused on NBA stuff. I love basketball. When MJ was playing you couldn’t even talk to me when he was on the floor. If you did, that was your ass. To this day I have 0 mma memorabilia displayed in my home… but i have Jordan jerseys up etc. I named my kid Jordan. Yeah… really. I’d always been a fan of the UFC since #1 when I rented it from Blockbuster in the mid 90′s. But I started to heavily get into it again in the early UFC 30′s. One time I decided to draw Chuck Liddell and forum members really took a liking to it. Now, years later it is what I do… $1 at a time.
ProMMA- You’re drawings are so realistic, that people on MMA forums have made the comments that they are too perfect and are achieved digitally. Do you take this as a compliment to your skill, or as an insult?
Shoman- It’s a total compliment when they ask if it is pencil or photoshop. I love that! That is the adult way to handle it. It’s the douchebags that just straight out KNOW it is photoshop and have to tell everyone about it. However with all the pros with my originals, magazines I’ve been in, and people seeing me draw live I have the luxury of not having to address the idiots. There are enough knowledgeable guys on the boards that know my legitimacy and just shut the haters down. But haters hate. The more they do the more successful I know I am. If they didn’t hate or say anything I’d know no one really thought I worth a damn. So I embrace the negativity because in the long run it only helps my threads stay alive and bring more people to my site. Haters are just so happy to try and show how smart they are about a subject that they don’t realize they look like idiots because they hate out loud and give me more attention, which in turn makes them look stupid. They just aren’t smart enough to figure that out yet. Ironic.
ProMMA- Yeah, there are some serious haters out there, spending all of their time bringing people down. Especially in MMA… Give us your tools of the trade. Exactly how many different types of pencils do you use to create your work?
Shoman- I use 2B and 4B pencils on a smooth Bristol paper. I smudge with a tissue and a smudge pencil thingy. I answered this to a kid once and upon hearing my answer he said, “Fine, be a dick!” He totally thought I was mocking him.
ProMMA- I prefer to draw over painting, and it’s apparent when viewing your drawings that your are prolific with a pencil. Do you paint or create sculpture or anything else outside of drawing with pencils or pens?
Shoman- Shit no. I earned my only grade below a B in college in beginning painting. I got a C+. I felt like Ralphie from a Christmas Story. C+? That’s like failing P.E. in high school. You have to ride the short bus with a helmet to receive a C+ in “Beginning… Fucking… Painting”.
ProMMA- Many fighters in MMA have been featured in your work, or have seen it. How did you get involved in MMA?
Shoman- Here is the deal… You look at these fighters and they are hailed because of their ability and gift inside a cage. They have fans because of what they do. But what you have to understand is that those guys are human too. They have people that they look up to in their lives as well. Maybe they are huge NFL fans like Drew Fickett. Ask him who the top guys in mma are and he won’t have a clue. But if you ask him who the back ups to the back ups of the offensive line for the Tampa Bay Bucs are, he’ll be a human stat sheet. Some mma guys who are able to toss bears around a ring or armbar a hippo may be a total closet artist. We all have our things. I say this all the time. Chuck Liddell can ko people, Dirk Diggler is hung like a moose, and I can draw. So some of the top fighters who admire my skill have hit me up and doors have opened up because of it.
ProMMA- Drawing isn’t the only thing MMA related that your are inolved in. You also co-host a MMA radio show weekly. Tell us a little bit about how that came about, and where we can go to listen to the show.
Shoman- www. tapoutlive. com every Thursday night at 6 pm. Myself and my girl Crooklyn are the hosts of Tapout Radio. That’s right… Punkass signs my checks. But they put it on a really low table so he can reach it. We try to make it as fun for the guests as possible. We are not the traditional radio show. I am not a fucking journalist by any stretch. It’s basically a radio show where guests can come on and not have to answer the same questions over and over and over and over and over and over again. “Are you training for this fight?” Of course they are training. “Are you ready for your fight?” No, I’m going in hoping to lose. I mean, in a way that kind of stuff insults the intelligence of the athlete. We want them to come on the show, get loose, and let the fans distinguish who their favorite fighters really are. I guarantee you no one has ever asked Chuck Liddell “If there was a country called ‘Mumble’… Would you be the Prime Minister?” or asked Randy Couture “Who is heavier… You at HW weigh-ins or Tyson Griffin 3 weeks after a fight?”. We want them to let it out and have fun and want to come back. Not “Shit! I have to do that radio show again”
ProMMA- I know many of the people involved in MMA from corporate types, to fans, and even promoters, often train MMA themselves. Do you train or belong to a gym?
Shoman- I am a 35 year old husband and father that has to make a living. I don’t have that kind of time on my hands any more. I have to stay in shape so I try and go to the gym for at least 45 minutes of hard training. While my son is in school. I also have a heavy bag in the garage for cardio. But that is it. Getting punched in the face and rolling with people is not a priority for me. Maybe 15 years ago but not now. I have Mac n Cheese to make and a tiny butt to clean. All the while trying to develop my son into a good person. Staying alive and healthy so I can be the in shape dad that can run with 6 year old’s is the goal. I coach all my sons teams and running with these kids can be more brutal than any workout. They never stop, never quit, and are relentlessly attacking me. If I was a spaghetti stained wife beater wearing cigarette smoking fat man I’d have been dead by now.
ProMMA- Your latest drawing of Wanderlei Silva is off the charts! What kind of response do you get from the fighters when they see their likeness drawn like that?
Shoman- Mostly all of them love it. Some more than others. The ones that request a piece to be done are always so grateful and have usually become great friends. It means a lot for them to be drawn by me and it means a lot to me to be pursued by them. Some guys I draw couldn’t give 2 shits. I’ll email them with no response or I’ll get a very minimal reply like, “Nice detail”. But the top guys in the UFC have my originals in their homes and that means a lot.
ProMMA- Are you a formally trained artist or self taught? What kind of advice would you give to aspiring artists trying to break into a niche such as you have?
Shoman- I am pretty much self taught. I have my style and that is about it. I got a degree in graphic design but it didn’t really do anything to help what I do now. As for advice? Do what works for you. Do not listen to anyone’s negativity. Do not listen to those who offer constructive criticism. They are just dicks that want to hear themselves to to show how smart they are. If you need advice just ask someone you look up to. It is sad, but in mma most fans want to see someone fail horribly so they can say “I told you so”. That’s why I won’t post in forums except in my own art threads. People just want to start shit, not intelligently debate, but attack. God forbid someone compliments somebody in the sport. If you listen to these people like I listened to a college professor you may quit all together. Don’t do that. No one ever succeeded by quitting.
Evan, thanks for taking time to talk to us. Do you have any shout outs you’d like to make?
You guys of course. I’m long winded man. I always have a lot to say. So I thank you for giving me, who is a virtual nobody, a chance to shine for 5 minutes. My girl Crooklyn, Punkass, and the Love Muscle at Tapout. Ryan Loco at Triumph United for redefining what it means to get paid for doing nothing. Nathan at Warrior Wear, Chad at Toe2Toe, Tracy Lee at Combat Lifestyle, Jeff Sherdog Sherwood, Jeff Cain at mmaweekly. com, Josh Hedges of the UFC, Melissa Henricks of the WEC, Terry Bush at Fight Magazine, Heddy at mmafanatics for always being my biggest supporter, and Peter at KOTC. I know it’s a lot but these are the people behind the people that REALLY make this sport thrive. Except Ryan Loco.
-Denny “The Mad One” Hodge