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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Basketball Player Lay Up
Sports Painting basketball player by artist John Robertson
60″ x 40″ (5 feet by 3 ½ feet)
acrylic on unstretched canvas
Like most LA Lakers fans I love them when they have a championship victory and don’t pay much attention to them when they lose. But for the last couple of years the Lakers have been doing just fine. I have no interest in the LA Clippers. Part of the reason why is that The Los Angeles Lakers became the first NBA team to reach 3,000 wins. The Los Angeles clippers trail them by just 2,992.
No fancy analysis here about the Lakers and Celtic play. My main interest in basketball is in the beauty of the play. I am amazed at the basketball player’s ability (at their size) to create artistic moves. I’ve painted a few basketball players and prefer to paint the street players that play on the Venice California beach basketball courts.
Well, the season is about over for basketball and it is on to other sports paintings. Baseball is next with a few World Cup soccer (football) paintings thrown in for the fun of it.
Basketball painting Art Lay-up painting by artist John Robertson. The original for this basketball painting was done for a Fox Sports Net commercial a few years ago. A client wanted something similar to the six Fox paintings I had done for them. This is done in a different colorization and, the splattering and running paint is quite different. is 50″ s 70″ acrylic on unstretched canvas.
A friend of mine, Jo Todd, took a photo of a boy playing basketball. I thought it was a great shot and got her permission to do a painting of the boy. Painting is 4 feet by 8 feet, acrylic on unstretched canvas.
Basketball painting on unstretched canvas. I am in the photo so you can get a sense of size of this sports painting. I was watching the playoffs and thought it would be interesting to paint a sports art piece rflecting a basketball player from the Los Angeles Clippers driving against a Memphis Grizzlies defender. Question: What do you call a billionaire watching the NBA Final on TVs? Answer: Donald Sterling
The painting is 5 feet by 6 feet ink and acrylic
Sports Art Painting of basketball player dunking a basketball shot. I used a photo of Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers dunking a basketball as reference material for the painting. I did change it from the original by changing to position of the arms and also the coloring. The basketball player painting art is 4 feet by 8 feet, acrylic on unstretched canvas.
Good quote from Kobe Bryant: “I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language. I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you.” Why I like the quote is because I paint five days a week and there are a lot of artists that do not understand that it is important to show up into their studio regularly to produce work. It is not about inspiration but about hard work. I work on the theory that if you paint a lot of paintings some are bound to be good. As they say about baseball, if you can hit three for ten you are a great player. I probably paint one good painting out of ten painted. But if I don’t paint the ten paintings I am not going to get the good one.