Visual Art Books Podcasts

A SALESMAN IS BORN: Would You Buy a Bible From This Man?

after illustrating the entire Old Testament, E.C. native decided to sell the book door to door – and make a podcast

Tom Giffey |

GO FORTH AND MAKE SALES. Artist Sam Robertson, an Eau Claire native, is now the star of his own podcast. (Submitted photo)
GO FORTH AND MAKE SALES. Artist Sam Robertson, an Eau Claire native, is now the star of his own podcast. (Submitted photo)

“I’m not a good salesman,” Sam Robertson says flatly. And though Robertson, an Eau Claire native, is poised to launch a new podcast titled Birth of a Salesman, it’s not exactly a stunning admission: The new project is far from an entrepreneurial sales seminar, though it’s also far from the play that inspired its name (the Arthur Miller tragedy Death of a Salesman).

But enough about what it isn’t. Here’s what Birth of a Salesman actually is: A mostly fictionalized audio chronicle of a Bible salesman – that’s Robertson – peddling his unique, illustrated edition of the Old Testament door to door in an era when talking to strangers seems as unlikely as an agnostic artist spending seven years illustrating the Old Testament.

Except Robertson really did create his own surrealist illustrations for the ancient religious text (the story of Jonah, for example, includes contemporary, bikini-clad Americans on a party boat in a storm) and he really did peddle it door to door. The 520-page book, published two years ago by 11:11 Press of Minneapolis, was largely funded by online preorders, but along the way Robertson struck upon the idea of trying his hand at old-fashioned, real-world selling, too, making an avant-garde project even avant-garde-ier. 

“It challenges what we think of salesmen, solicitors, religious people preaching their own beliefs,” Robertson said of the new audio project, which was co-created with his friend Dan Dukich, a veteran of sound design and production for TV, theater, and podcasts. In the words of the podcast’s promotional material, the podcast is “part autofiction, part performance art, part guerrilla sales docu-fantasy every bit as strange, humorous, and human as his paintings.” In the podcast, Robertson’s fictional alter ego is trying to sell 100,000 illustrated Bibles and has his sights set on getting the Pope himself to buy one (plus getting the Vatican to shell out $1 million for the original artwork).

One of the 257 illustrations Robertson created for his illuminated Old Testament.
One of the 257 illustrations Robertson created for his illuminated Old Testament.

It’s all a not-so-subtle commentary that to be an artist – particularly in an online era of constant self-promotion – is to be a salesman, whether one wants to be or not. To put it another way, the road to success is paved with a lot of discomfort and rejection – some of it coming from confused Minneapolis residents who opened their doors to find an earnest, briefcase-toting Bible salesman. The podcast, while mostly scripted, does feature some real-life field recordings of encounters with would-be customers, most of whom were befuddled by Robertson (though a few did seem to get the joke).

“It feels like an extension and also a confirmation on how hard it is to market and sell your work in this world,” Robertson said. “Not for everybody, but for me.”

Robertson said creating the five-episode podcast – the first two installments of which go live on Apple Podcasts and elsewhere on April 2 – was a far more collaborative effort than producing his illuminated Old Testament was. Robertson spent thousands of hours with latex paint and micro pens creating 257 illustrations for the Good Book, while the podcast was a much broader collaboration: included were more than a dozen actors – including Eau Claire’s own Josh Ingersoll and Colin Sinz – as well as Dukich, who edited the script, directed, and designed the music and sound.

And, as with the Old Testament itself, the door is open for a sequel: Robertson has hopes for a second season of the podcast, and he’s also starting to fundraise for a second edition of his illustrated Bible. Then he’ll have even more books to sell.

“We’re all kind of salesmen in some way, and the lucky ones get to sell something that they care about,” he adds.

Learn more about the illustrated Old Testament and the Birth of a Salesman podcast at You can also shop merch at