Prelude: When I sat down with Robin and Colleen Overton from Sullivan, Indiana to interview Robin about his art, it became apparent to me very quickly that Robin and Colleen are a team. Robin is the artist and Colleen, his wife, is his biggest fan and inspiration, and she works to help him market himself. Just talking with them both was inspiring to me. Robin is a full-time paramedic who draws, writes books, was a Buck Skinner and even built a twelve-foot replica of the Titanic. Both are genuine, humble and both love their lives.
Brian: What got you started drawing?
Robin: I have been drawing as long as I can remember. When I was a Buck Skinner, I would draw at the shows, but at that time I was not getting any prints made. Sometimes, I would throw a drawing out on a trade blanket and trade it for a really nice bone-handled knife. To me it was just a piece of paper with pencil on it, but boy I knew that I could not make that knife and I really wanted it, as well as other items. Back in the ‘80’s I would sell an original drawing that I may have only drawn one time in my life for $20 to $30 framed. Colleen: The only originals that he sells now is when someone privately comes to him to draw a picture of themselves or of their children. Anybody that wants a drawing done, he can do it. Robin: When I do a drawing of someone, it looks exactly like the person. There are no discrepancies. Colleen: The picture has to be clear for him to see the detail, which is his trademark.
Brian: Do you take your own pictures?
Robin: I have before. Once I took photos at a Civil War reenactment at Billie Creek Village and actually went out on the field with the civil war soldiers with my camera. I was dressed in Union garb and at one point the guy in charge of the troops yelled, “Photographer, move out of the way!” I was excited and scared at the same time. I found out quickly that you may take a hundred photographs, but only two or three may be used as a reference to do a drawing. Colleen: He has done only about four or five personal drawings this year.
Brian: What medium do you work in?
Robin: Just plain ole pencil. I have never done pen & ink or watercolor, because I am color-blind. The pencil is alluring. It has its own attraction.
Brian: What type of paper?
Robin: I’ve drawn on matte board, but I’m using mostly 80# paper now. I used to sell originals for next to nothing. I found out real fast that you have to draw to fit a frame and not try to find a frame to fit the picture, because of the cost of the frame. To find a frame to fit an odd size, you have to have the frame custom made. So now, I draw to fit a standard frame. If I make prints of a drawing, I get them the same size as the original.
Brian: You mentioned earlier that you stopped drawing for about five years. What got you going again?
Robin: We are big fans of the TV Series “The Walking Dead.” We knew we were going to eventually meet some of the actors and actresses at Comic Con, so I started drawing portraits of them. I thought it would be neat to give them something special. Eight of them now own my originals. We framed them and gave them their own original drawing. Colleen: We have made prints of all of his drawings, and they are available on eBay.
Brian: What was it about the “Walking Dead” that got you enthused?
Robin: I have met a few celebrities in my life, but we knew we were going to meet some of the cast members and occasionally people do give them gifts. I thought an original portrait drawing of them would be a great gift to them. We met a couple of them at Comic Con in Indianapolis and then a week later met the majority of them in Chicago. We have become friends with one of the actors now, we found out that he grew up only 20 miles from us, but I haven’t given him his drawing yet. He got us four VIP tickets to go to Atlanta (the big show) and we plan to give the drawing to him there. A lot of the actors are unknowns, but Michael Rooker who played “Merle” in the series was the first one I gave a drawing to. He is a very prominent actor. When Colleen gave the framed drawing to him, he held it up and yelled to the crowd, “Look what he did for me, look what he drew.” The crowd clapped and cheered. Colleen: He absolutely loved the drawing.
Brian: The drawing you have with you is of whom?
Robin: It is Norman Reedus, he is one of the main actors on the show, and we will give this drawing to him in October in Atlanta.
Brian: When you do a drawing of a celebrity, do you have to pay them any kind of royalties?
Robin: No we do not, because it is an original drawing. Colleen: We mark on eBay that we will not ship internationally because of the expense. However, we have had international buyers who contact us that they will pay the shipping. We have sold prints to people in Germany, Australia, France and other countries, who are willing to pay the shipping.
Brian: It sounds like you have several venues that you are selling your prints.
Colleen: We are thinking about setting up a tent at the Corn Festival with his prints. Aside from the eBay sells, we set up at the Covered Bridge Festival in Bridgeton, Indiana and do well. We have a printing company that we use that can turn around the prints for us in an hour. Robin: We considered setting up at the show in Atlanta, where we may have the opportunity to sell a thousand Norman Reedus prints. I’m not sure I can afford to have a thousand made, but we are considering it.
Brian: In talking with you, you create more than just pencil drawings. You have built a 12-foot replica of the Titanic; you’ve written a book and have started another one. Are there any limitations to what you can do?
Colleen: If he can see it, he can make it. Robin: The book would have never been published if it weren’t for Colleen. The Titanic would have never been built, if it weren’t for her. She is my biggest fan. Colleen: I typed that book, the entire thing from start to finish…all 440 pages! Robin: We are business partners. I constantly ask her if she thinks something will work. She will either say yes it will or no it won’t. It is women’s intuition. If I see her excited about something then I get excited.
Brian: What is the name of the book?
Robin: The name of the book is Belaquin. It is a science fiction novel. I published it in 2007, but it took 30 years for me to find the time to finish it. James Alexander Thom, a very famous Indiana author guided me through the process. I did book signings at Walden’s Books and Barnes and Noble. I could do more, but I haven’t been pushing it, even though they were all very exciting. I have another one in the works and I hope it doesn’t take another 30 years to complete it. Colleen: No, he hasn’t been pushing it because he just had to build a 12-foot Titanic replica. He is a man of many talents. Robin: Hopefully it will be in a Titanic museum one of these days.
Brian: Why did you build a replica of the Titanic?
Robin: I have always loved the story of the Titanic. The largest model you can buy is only 3 feet long and I found it wasn’t big enough. Mine is 12 feet long and to scale. I did a lot of research before building it. The whole ship is made out of wood, steel, and plastic. Except for the plastic benches and some of the railing, it is completely hand made. It is museum quality. There are only about a dozen replicas this size in the whole world. We exhibit it at Bridgeton during the Covered Bridge Festival. This will be our 3rd year there.
Brian: What is the most interesting thing that has happened since you built it?
Robin: It is a huge draw at the Covered Bridge Festival. We have actually been honored to meet eight families of the Titanic survivors because they came to see my ship.
Brian: Do you charge people to see it?
Robin: No, we do not. We have a bench that people can sit on, and deck and railing that people can stand on from the movie.
Brian: You also have a full-time job as a paramedic in Knox County.
Robin: Yes, it will be 27 years this month, half my life. Colleen: It amazes me that someone who can draw and make anything, also saves lives everyday. Robin: Well, not everyday. Hopefully no one will need me to save them ever again. Colleen: He received the heroism award for the state of Indiana in 2009 for saving a man off of a railroad track when a train was only seconds away.
Brian: It must be truly rewarding to know that you have the support from Colleen.
Robin: It is Brian. I love her and she inspires me in every aspect of my life. We have a great family and great friends. I love everything that has happened and I wouldn’t change anything. Hopefully there is a lot more in store for us. Just having a personal connection with some of the actors from our favorite TV show is just…WOW! One them said to me, “You did this for me! People just don’t do that.” That truly showed us how special it was to them.
Brian: You have done a lot of different things. Why do you do it?
Robin: I hate to see talent wasted. I like being who I am.