Sports Artist John Robertson's most recent commercial project (upcoming Milwaukee Bucs 2018) the remodel of the NFL Green Bay Packers football stadium suites area that opened in July 2017 – (8 paintings) and three (8 feet by 15 feet) baseball paintings for the new MLB Atlanta Braves stadium that opened in April 2017. Click on the “About” link for more commercial sports stadiums and arenas work.
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.
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.
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.
Ten Things Kobe Bryant and I did at certain times.
Comparisons between Kobe Bryant and me.
When Kobe Bryant left high school he was drafted and went directly into the National Basketball Association. The NBA. Whereas: when I left high school I could have easily been drafted – into the armed services (yes I was around for the draft) but I joined and went directly into the NAVY. He was a shooting guard and took thousands of shots. I didn’t shoot anything – but I probably had a thousand shots in some fly biting bars in a variety of ports around the southern pacific.
In his next year Kobe won the slam dunk contest and named an all-star in his second season. And I ended up in a dunk tank as a target for officers raising money for their new basketball court. I was good for seven dunks before being dragged from the tank with a fish in my mouth.
Kobe Bryant Success
Bryant continued on to become the cornerstone of the Lakers . He led the NBA in scoring during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons. In one game, he scored a career-high 81 points, the second most points scored in a single game in league history behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962. He became the most valuable player a number of times and won a few championships.
Me? Let’s see, what have I accomplished? At my last job I was fired for “not being a team player”. Although, it took them 23 years to figure that one out. No MVP that is for sure. Back to those high school days. When they ranked the senior class of 837 teenagers I was ranked 835. Yup. That is correct. I was 835th in a class of 837. Two kids had worse grades than me. Of course they were friends of mine. That fine high school education has led me on to a life of quiet obscurity.
And near the end of his career Kobe Bryant had a torn Achilles tendon that started his decline. But me? I never had a decline. You have to have had some sort of assent to decline from. And I certainly had/have my Achilles heel and my only claim to fame – I have more than two Achilles heels.
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.
A shooting guard have these perfect little moments like in any sport where, for the player, time
stops. And there nothing is their mind except the feeling of making that perfect play. What I tried to do is capture that moment in this painting of a shooting guard. His concentration is focused on the hoop. There is nothing in his mind except for that feeling of making the shot. He is not thinking, … “Did I jump high enough? Are my hands extended high enough? Am I holding the ball correctly?” Those thoughts are all gone. He left them on the practice court with the thousands and thousands of shots he has taken before. There is no thought – only letting his instincts take over.
A Shooting Guard is Lyrical
Something is very lyrical about a basketball player going up for a jump shot and the release and the follow-through, that is quite beautiful in it’s action. It is like watching a baseball batter taking a swing at the perfect pitch and making a connection and watching a home-run hit ball, fly off the bat and see the follow-through of the batter’s swing.
Any athlete has had those moments. Even the most inept person playing a sport has those moments, when, for some odd reason one make the perfect shot or hit the perfect ball or makes the perfect catch. It can be anything.
For me it was in volleyball. I played at a competitive level – well enough to have been asked to “try-outs” for the Olympics. But I was not good enough to make it any farther than the try-outs. I like to think that I lasted the whole day. But, unfortunately after a few hours I was kindly asked to leave. As the Paul Simon songs says about leaving your lover (In this case me leaving my serious love for the game of volleyball), “Slip out the back Jack. Make a new Plan Stan.” So I went back to playing on the beach and even without great success as a volleyball player I had a lot of those moments where an athlete is “lost in action” – the perfect “dig”, the perfect “spike”, etc.
When the weekend athlete makes a really good play I don’t believe his feeling of success is any less greater than a professional making a great play. I know it is nice to make the play in front of thousands of people and be paid highly for it but the real reason any athlete plays a sport (professional or amateur) is for those moments of success. That feeling you get when you make the perfect move. It is like a drug that you want to take over and over – repeat that great action.
Actually it is exactly why I paint. I love the feeling I get when I make a mark on the canvas that I feel is just the right mark, just the right brush stroke. And when I do, like an athlete making a good play, I am lost in time.
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.
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