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Basketball image of Venice Beach beach basketball players in a defensive mode defending agains another player painted in Black and white Orlando Magic owned painting

Art Basketball Venice Beach Sports Painting

Basketball image of Venice Beach beach basketball players in a defensive mode defending agains another player painted in Black and white Orlando Magic owned painting
Basketball “Defense” sports art painting by John Robertson 60″ x 72″ acrylic on unstretched canvas

Art and Basketball

In watching the NCAA finals between Villanova and Michigan it made me think of what it takes to be a great athlete – because, I think, the same principles apply to almost anything anyone wants to do.  In my case it is or was to be a good artist   I say good and not great as I know what my physical and mental laminations are.  One does have to start out with some sort of talent but it is how they use them.

There are differences.  In basketball it is a team sport and you have to learn early that you try to do what’s best for the team. Trying to make sure everyone’s playing together as one unit.  In painting, it is pretty much up to the individual artist in creating their work.  But to be more than that individual artist you have too participate in a team effort to be part of a larger picture of artists around you – artist that gives you support and guidance and help you develop.

It’s like a fourteen year old kid who practices and learns to be a really good shooter, and learns great ball handling and dribbling skills but until he can play on a team and be part of it, he won’t amount to anything.  He will just be a kid shooting basketballs down at the gym.  What you want to happen is for a new talent to join up with more advanced players, or in my case mid-career artists, who can take a development route towards more advanced play.

The problem arises when players (artists) want to take a shorter route, to get into the marketplace without all the tools that take time to develop.  In the case of a a high school  player, he might think he is ready for the pros, or the college player who wants to leave early out of the program and sign early.  Occasionally it works for that exceptional player but normally they need to stay and mature.  I don’t care what you want to do –  artist, basketball player asparagus farmer, whatever it is.  Whatever it is, there is no easy path except hard work and time.

Amway Sports Arena

Basketball sports art. The new Amway sports arena in Orlando Florida purchased this basketball art. This is where the NBA Orlando Magic plays.  The sports image came from a photograph I took of the basketball players that play on the courts in Venice CA.  The basketball courts were the ones used when filming the  great basketball movie, “White Men Can’t Jump.”

A painting of a left hand holding a basketball getting ready to dunk the ball through a hoop

Art Basketball Layup Painting

How I became a Sports Artist by Painting a Basketball Layup Painting

I have been asked a number of times how I became a sports artist – which started with basketball layup paintings.  Most people assume that I was an avid sports fan and painted what was of most interest to me.  Actually, it was strictly by accident I became a sports artist.A painting of a left hand holding a basketball layup getting ready to dunk the ball through a hoop

A number of years ago I was painting large-scale portraits of the musicians in a night club in Santa Monica, Ca. named The Temple Bar.  The completed portrait paintings hung in the windows that faced Wilshire Blvd, a well traveled street.  I frequented the club, one or two nights a week for about five years.

Fox Sports Calls

One afternoon I got a call in my studio from a person claiming to be a director for Fox Sports Net and he had seen my paintings in the window of the Temple Bar.  He said they had been looking for an artist for a NBA basketball commercial and wondered if I was capable of doing some large-scale sports paintings.  It seemed like a foolish question as he had already seen my work in the windows – and I thought it was just a friend messing around with me.  Yeah.  Right.  Fox Sports is calling me to paint some paintings for a NBA commercial.  He convinced me he was for real and invited me down to their studios in West Los Angeles.

Painting the Basketball Layup

Once there (he was serious) we discussed a few concepts he had.  I told him I could do any of them he wanted.  The one that was selected was of five feet by seven feet basketball layup paintings of a hand in different stages of doing  the layup and dunk into a basketball hoop.Photograph of my paintings on the set for shooting a basketball layup commercial for Fox Sports showing hands in different position dunking a basketball

As you can see by the photograph the paintings were put in a circle and the camera spun around to animate the look of the basketball layup being made.   They also showed an artist painting the basketball paintings in a very expressive, impressionistic way.  I was not in the commercial as they hired a young kid to play my roll as the artist.  The director said, as an older person, I was not the demographic they wanted as the artist.

The commercial ran nationally in spot markets for the season and the basketball layup paintings were used as the front and back bumpers for the commercial and the middle part announcing what game was to be televised. Photograph of set of Fox Sports Commercial for the NBA basketball season showing the back side of my basketball layup paintings

Fox Sports then hired me to paint portraits of Willie Mays for an MLB All-Star game in which  Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter interviewed Willie for 4 1/2 minutes. Again, my sports paintings were featured in the interview.

I was now identified as a sports artist.  An artist sports agent contacted me and started representing me for big commercial jobs – stadiums and arenas, restaurants, corporate offices, etc.  And I have been doing that ever since.  The bottom line of it all is that I was very lucky to have been “discovered” by someone at Fox Sports and then by the agent who promoted me.

Basketball hoop Painting

Abstract Basketball Hoop Painting

A few years ago I was approached by a sports art agent to do some paintings for the (at the time) a new Amway sports arena in Orlando, Florida – where the NBA Orlando Magic plays basketball. The paintings were to be used on the walls and in spaces for the arena.  I don’t recall how many

Image of basketball and hoop in the alley in yellow colors abstract

paintings I did for them but I do remember a couple of them were basketball related and this contemporary basketball hoop painting was among the different paintings.

This abstract painting of the basketball hoop is good size: sixty inches by seventy-two inches  (five feet by six feet) acrylic on unstretched canvas.  What I was asked to paint was something bright and colorful and represented basketball in an abstract way.  A couple of the other paintings I did for them were basketball paintings of Venice Beach street players I had photograph at Venice, Ca.  This is where the great basketball  movie “White Men Can’t Jump” was filmed and in our neighborhood.  (These paintings are posted somewhere on this blog)

How I selected the subject matter

At the time I had not done many non-figurative paintings so it was a bit of a challenge for me.  I wasn’t really sure where to start.  But one evening my wife and I were walking the alleys of Venice.  We always liked seeing the backs of the rundown properties and the deterioration of the neighborhood.  There is something very human seeing old garages and backs of old cottages.  My wife actually owned a small cottage that was held up by the wings of termites.   As we walked in the alleys I kept seeing old, rusted and unused basketball hoops attached to dilapidated garages.  And growing over some of the garages were vines and flowers.  One in particular captured my imagination – a garage with Nasturtiums (yellow orange flowers on long green vines) draped through the hoop and over the garage doors.  Perfect.

I took a bunch of photographs from a variety of angles for reference material.  Back in my studio I painted the scene in a realistic manner, recreating the alley and garages and trash cans and the hoop and the flowers.  And then I took a big brush and slashed paint all over the canvas.  And what you see is the result of my effort – a contemporary, modern sort of basketball hoop abstract painting.