UT professor’s Etsy shop ‘Marvelous Mashups’ inspires, brings humor


Grace Robertson

“The Simpsons’” Maggie Simpson is just a baby who loves TV. But with Robert Reece’s artistic vision, she becomes Marvel’s Venom atop a Spider Pig hybrid as if it’s a horse, her pacifier whipping through the air on the end of a lasso.

“Drawing offers infinite flexibility with personal expression,” sociology assistant professor Reece said. “Anything that comes into your brain, you can put on the page.”

Reece sells digital pop art as prints on his Etsy shop, which he opened in 2019. Much of his art is a hybrid of his favorite TV show characters and Marvel superheroes, so he dubbed the shop “Marvelous Mashups.”

In his Etsy gallery, customers can find everything from the Grinch with the Infinity Gauntlet to Maggie Simpson as Iron Man.

“Some of the stuff is just, ‘Hey, this’ll make me laugh,’” Reece said. “Wouldn’t it be funny if Maggie Simpson had the Venom symbiote and killed Mr. Burns?”

As a child, Reece liked to draw his favorite animals, but he put down his sketchbook while earning his Ph.D. in sociology from Duke University in 2017. After he graduated, he picked up digital drawing as a fun and therapeutic hobby.

Reece started sketching on the back of envelopes with ballpoint pens, then eventually turned to digital art. Reece said he uses the Etsy shop as a way to give his art purpose.

“I like sharing art with people,” Reece said. “It’s encouraging, and it helps me keep going and stay upbeat about it even when things aren’t necessarily going how I want them to.”

The first time a stranger bought art from Reece’s shop, he said it caught him off guard. He said it was encouraging to know people display his art to express themselves.

“They’re saying … ‘I’ll use this as a representation of who I am,’” Reece said. “It reminds me that my art is impacting people.”

Reece’s friend Kellyn Platek bought and framed a pop art style piece from his shop. She said his art style inspires her to continue to draw herself.

“I have really bad perfectionism tendencies that tend to keep me from jumping into projects,” Platek said. “One thing that he said to me that really helps me is, ‘Remember that what you’re creating is your interpretation of something … and that’s the beauty of art.’”

Reece said drawing helps him cope with the pressure of his research and classes.

“I study inequality, so it can be draining to deal with that type of stuff habitually,” Reece said. “Art gives me a reprieve.”

Allison Hutt, a UT integrative biology researcher and Reece’s friend, said she understands how busy Reece’s life is and admires his commitment to his art.

“He puts a lot of himself into it and a lot of joy into it,” Hutt said. “I’m excited to see him improve and do different things with his art.”

While he loves creating art for customers, Reece said he will continue to draw no matter where Marvelous Mashups goes.

“The Etsy shop is cool, but ultimately, I still make art for me,” Reece said. “I just like sharing art with people.”

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 9 issue of The Daily Texan.