Portland Artist Creates ‘Neon Terror’ Image of Local Sports Figures

Neon Black Tiger’s love for sports brings a bright and scary approach to portraits and cards of Portland athletes.

Edited by Dalila Brent June 10, 2022

Portland Blazers guard Damian Lillard. 

By now, the stories of someone getting inspired and picking up a new hobby during the pandemic can feel redundant. This isn’t one of the stories. Yes, Portlander Erik Schultz began creating his art in the midst of COVID-19–October 2021 to be exact—but his inspiration was birthed long before the lockdowns and toilet paper hoarding.

Schultz, better known by his artist moniker Neon Black Tiger, creates what he calls "neon terror" images of prominent sports figures. After a look at his work, the saying "two things can be true" has never been more relevant. These images are scary, yet remarkable at the same damn time. Aside from offering prints of his colorful pieces, he turns them into sports cards—fitting, given the subject matter.

“Growing up, loved collecting baseball cards,” Neon Black Tiger says. “Sports has always been something I resonated with, so I thought it’d be fun to take my neon monster vibe and see what it looks like on a sports card.” Neon Black Tiger’s creative process, can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. “It’s based off the complexity of the subject matter,” he says. “I do a lot of like kind of bust shots and headshots of individuals just so I can focus on the teeth and the eyes. If I'm doing a full body portrait, that will obviously take a little bit longer.”

So far, Neon Black Tiger has created cards and prints of Blazers and former Blazers phenoms like Damian Lillard and Clyde Drexler, former Timber Liam Ridgewell, Oregon running legend Steve Prefontaine, and mascot Dillon T. Pickle, of course, as well as out-of-state baseball and basketball stars past and present.

Portland Pickles mascot Dillon T. Pickle. 

The feedback has been a mix of positivity and confusion. “I get the ‘I love the colors, I love what you're doing’, but maybe the sports object is lost on them. Or maybe they didn't grow up collecting sports cards, so the card side of things is a little bit different. Then there's some sports purists that, you know, me putting some zombie eyes and some snaggly teeth on individuals might push the limit of what they may appreciate.”

Neon Black Tiger's print display at Grounded NW Coffee.

Image: Dalila Brent

If you want to see the art for yourself, Neon Black Tiger’s work is currently on display at Grounded NW Coffee through the month of June. He’ll also be attending the fan convention Worlds of Sport on June 18 at the Oregon Convention Center.