Venice Beach, CA Street Basketball Players

Thoughts on a College Basketball Sports Painting

What kind of interests me, as an artist is what happens to all the college basketball players after their final seasons.   I thought of this as I finished watching the Michigan and Villanova win in their NCAA “final-four” games and their move on to the Championship game.  This is when these two teams are at their peak -  Why? - Because Michigan was the team with hot games at the end of the season and Villanova being the best team at the end of the season.  What happens to the all the players who did not achieve the ultimate college basketball goal?

Venice Beach Basketball Players 

This black and white sports art painting of a couple of Venice Beach, Ca. players ended up in the Amway Sports Arena in Orlando Florida where the NBA Orlando Magic play their home games.  The painting is 5 feet by 6 feet, acrylic on canvas.
These years spent playing will probably be the highlight of their lives – they certainly have achieved more in a shorter time then I will ever have over my entire lifetime.  But where do all those players go?   The reason I say this is that that the basketball painting you see here on this page is of basketball players that play on the Venice Beach, Ca. street basketball courts.  Most of the players on the main court are ex, really good high school and college players.  Occasionally some ex-pros show up on the courts for a pick up a game.  These are the courts where the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” was filmed.   Think of all those great college players that did not go on to play in the pros.  Where are they and what do they do?  What do they think about the past – and the future. 

Why Paint Sports Art Figures

 Me,  I don’t have much of a past and I certainly don’t have much of a future.  I don’t have “ past glory’s – just a mundane life – or as the joke goes, “living a life of quiet desperation.”   So, all in all, that is probably why I have ended up painting sports figures as I can live vicariously through the paintings, like a rabid sports fan that roots for his favorite player or team.  It’s an enjoyable pastime of beauty and inspiration. 


This black and white sports art painting of a couple of Venice Beach, Ca. players ended up in the Amway Sports Arena in Orlando Florida where the NBA Orlando Magic play their home games.  The painting is 5 feet by 6 feet, acrylic on canvas.



NCAA March Madness final four Basketball painting


March Madness

So we are down to the final four in this year’s March Madness - and I am rooting for is the improbable No. 11 Loyola Chicago who dominated Kansas State in an upset win over March Sadness Kansas.  Loyala played a great game by overshadowing Kansas in Saturday’s Elite Eight matchup   Totally unexpected for them to lead from the 16:31 point of the first half.

Is the final four, Loyola Ramblers the NCAA team is going to be the fairy tale story in this March Madness? Is Loyola going down the crazy rabbit hole with the March Hare, runs with the mad hatter and comes out winning in wonderland.  The March Madness tournament is always like entering “ Through the Looking Glass”  because you never know what you are going to see.  Are the players going to play as if they trained with a skillful coach or are they going to act as if trained by a Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar.  That is what makes watching a college basketball tournament so exciting. They beat the pros for enthusiasm every time. 

This first week a sixteen seeded team jumps ahead, a highly ranked team pulls a “humpty-dumpty” and gets knocked off.  With every turn on the scoreboard the college basketball world gets stunned when a favorite loses and we watch the merriment of the underdog.  There is nothing more exciting that a true buzzer-beater.  That’s what great about watching the NCAA March Madness tournament – anything can happen ant this year is no different than any other in that respect.

The March Madness basketball painting by sports artist John Robertson is 60" x 72" acrylic on unstretched canvas.

Abstract Basketball Painting with Hoop and Basketball

Basketball Painting In Abstract Style


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)


Basketball Idea from Alley


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 Painting Layup Art Becoming a Sports Artist

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 West Los Angeles.
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

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 paintings Shooting Guards NBA Sports art

WHY I PAINT SPORTS FIGURES

“Shooting Guard”  24” x 36” ink and acrylic on newsprint (Old Sporting News, magazines, books, etc) about the NBA and Shooting Guards.  Newsprint attached to ¾” stretched canvas.  To view paintings for sale please visit: John Robertson sports Paintings for sale.

There are these perfect little moments 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.

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 art painting boy doing a lay-up


A friend of mine, Jo, took a photo of a boy playing basketball.  I thought the boy doing a layup was a great shot and got her permission to do a painting of the boy.  The basketball painting is 4 feet by 8 feet, acrylic on unstretched canvas.
I like this quote about basketball by James Naismith. 'The invention of basketball was not an accident. It was developed to meet a need. Those boys simply would not play "Drop the Handkerchief."

Basketball Art, Painting of Dunk Shot

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.

Basketball Painting Dunk Shot Image

I have painted this image of a basketball dunk shot a number of times for a variety of clients.  This is a new one painted last week. The clients are all aware that I am duplicating the painting for them.  I am in the photo so you can get a sense of the size of the painting.  The original paintings were done for an NBA Basketball commercial for Fox Sports Net   They own the originals and the art was painted in a different color scheme.  The painting is approximately 48” x 60” 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 art painting.  I was watching the playoffs and thought it would be interesting to paint a sports art piece refglecting a basketball player from the Los Angeles Clippers driving against a Memphis Grizzlies defender.The painting is 5 feet by 6 feet ink and acrylic

Art Basketball Image Players at Venice Beach, CA

Venice beach basketball players, sport art, sport images basketball,
Basketball "Defense" sports art painting by John Robertson
60" x 72" acrylic on unstretched canvas

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 arena opened the first part of October. 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."
Somewhere else on this blog is some more paintings I did for the Amway Sports Arena

Art Basketball Images "Time Out”

art basketball, sports images, basketball player, sports artist John Robertson,Sold
"Time Out" sports art basketball painting by artist John Robertson is 50" x 70" acrylic on unstretched canvas.

I photograph a lot of basketball players at the Venice Beach basketball courts for use as basketball images for my basketball art. As a sports artist the basketball courts are a good place for a variety of sport images. I like to work from my own photographs when painting sports images. Just a little bit up the beach is a skateboard park. I have gotten some good shots of the skateboarders but have not painted one yet.

Jump Shot Basketball Art

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"The Jump Shot" basketball sports art painting by artist John Robertson is 48" x 60" acrylic on unstretched canvas.
As you can see in this painting the player has a nice hand and arm extension above his head. It is suppose to be an easy shot to make from a distance but I could not do it very well from any distance. I was easy to block – being short. And being short the only thing I can dunk is cookies into milk.