Artist finds niche market in mixed martial arts

Carmel Valley artist Evan Shoman found his niche market when he began drawing pencil portraits of his favorite mixed martial arts (MMA) sports heroes.

Modern MMA, a relatively new combative contact sport, grew in popularity after the 1993 founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a U.S.-based organization. The UFC adopted stricter safety rules than had previously been used. MMA encompasses a variety of fighting styles, including kickboxing, judo, Muay Thai and jujitsu.

Shoman has drawn his entire life and, like many young boys, he grew up sketching his favorite sport celebrities, such as Michael Jordan.

He sustained his interest in art and earned a degree in graphic design from San Diego State University. But his art career didn’t really blossom until 2003, when he began drawing MMA fighters. After posting a pencil drawing of MMA fighter Chuck Liddell to a Web forum, Shoman earned his first taste of fame.

“There were 150 positive responses in one hour, and lots of people wanted to buy it,” Shoman said.

Shoman suddenly found himself thrust into a world populated by his favorite sports heroes.

“I get sent to events now, and other windows of opportunity have opened up,” he said. “I’m now writing for Tapout, a leading MMA magazine, and doing a podcast radio show twice a week.”

Over the last few years, Shoman has drawn the top fighters in MMA, including those in the UFC and other organizations. He has completed nearly 100 fighter portraits and often gives the original drawing to the fighter before selling prints of it on his Web site:


Number 2B and 4B pencils are Shoman’s tools of choice to painstakingly draw his finely detailed 14-by-17-inch portraits that have a photo realistic quality. Each portrait takes him 40-60 hours to complete.

“I’ve drawn 40 of the top fighters who autograph the prints to sell to their fans,” he said. “It’s funny that I’m a fan of these guys, and yet they e-mail me out of the blue and say they’re a huge fan of mine.”

Shoman is so respected for his artistry that many of MMA’s top photographers throughout the world have given him permission to work from their photographs.

“I have a gnarly looking writing bump on my finger from drawing and work strictly from the photographs because I couldn’t get these guys to sit still for five minutes,” Shoman said.

Shoman also works as a part-time realtor in Carmel Valley, but his heart lies with his pencils and his new radio show.

In the MMA world, tapout is a term for a submission, and according to Shoman, 11,000 radio listeners tune in to his twice-weekly podcast radio show that was voted the show of the year.

“My podcast producer calls me on Skype on Mondays and Thursdays, and we have fighters on every episode,” he said. “When I interview them, I try to get the fans in touch with the fighters and try to bring out their personalities, so the fans look at them more on a human level.”