Champagne Rodman’s illustrations capture the love of cycling

We’re big fans of Casey Robertson (@champagne_rodman)’s vibrant portraits of cyclists – and we think after reading this interview, you will be too!

Treadlie: Please introduce yourself!
Casey Robertson: I’m Casey, aka Champagne Rodman. I am a man in my mid-40s, have been cycling seriously since the early 90s, and living the dream of being a full-time freelance creative for going on four years now. 

What inspires your work?
My visual work is inspired by things we’ve already seen and felt. Great logos of the past, awful logos of now, the ages of patina on a shipping container, vandalism, diners, Mexican tablecloths, the punk rock DIY ethos, solitude, rambling around without a plan … those are the things in the top drawer of my dresser that I save and cherish. When I need a little inspiration, I try to just remember something rich and detailed.

When did you start illustrating cyclists? 
Specifically or in the context that you’re referencing, it came about as a side hustle when the pandemic struck. All of my branding work was put on hold, and I saw the portraits as a way to stay afloat. The thing that I quickly realised was that I’d begun to connect myself with others on a meta-level. There was a little bit of an emotional reckoning, and what I started felt like my own tiny way of helping our collective mood. I don’t expect to be seen that way, but in the interest of explaining the depth of my investment, these cyclist (and non-cyclist) portraits became very important to me.  

As an artist, what do you enjoy about creating cycling-related pieces?
Art came before cycling for me, but not by much. I’ve been doing both for fun since childhood, and involved in both professionally for about twenty years now. I think I have a deep cache of reference, both visually and emotionally. I very much enjoy imbuing these portraits with the details that are likely important. When I see a photo of a rider aped out over their bike, I know that nobody will have stared at their stem or their shifters or their shoes longer than that person, so I think when delivering an illustration of them, it’s respectful to pay a bit of homage to the talismans that may have been part of a memory. 

I was also a shop mechanic for about 15 years, so I’ve held this stuff, fixed it, installed it, etc … I try not to make a show of it, but if you’re running Campagnolo, that’s gonna be important to you, and I really enjoy making those details appropriately apparent. Most importantly, though, are the looks. There’s a specificity to the smile of a person who is at certain stages of their time on a bicycle. The smile on the face of someone who has completed a large gravel ride with a bunch of other people; there’s just a glow that I try really hard to bring to the front of how a portrait feels. Same with the grimace of someone deep in it. It’s the details, I guess. Emotional and mechanical. That’s what I like about creating cycling-related pieces.

Are you a cyclist yourself? If yes, where do you like to ride?
I am a cyclist. I’m kind of a roadie as my base ingredient, but I enjoy all the rides. I’ve tried it all and it’s all simultaneously stupid and beautiful. I really, really love cycling.

What’s next for you?
Like so many, I’m just trying to keep things going right now. I can’t really see the future, but I look forward to getting back out on the larger network of roads for adventure and rambling and wild camaraderie. The portraits have connected me with so many people I’d like to meet, as well as more deeply with people I already know. I hope to get out and meet and hug and share some laughs and drinks and rides with them.