- Art and Design
Work by Lawrenceville’s Artist-in-Residence Stuart Robertson ‘11 has been hung in some of the nation’s most prestigious galleries – including the National Portrait Gallery – but no one has ever spun it until now.
Robertson was invited to create original art for an NBA G League Ignite basketball showcased at the 2022 NBA draft. NBA G League Ignite is a first-of-its-kind team dedicated to developing top young prospects in preparation for the NBA draft. Based in Henderson, Nevada, the roster includes elite players who are eligible for the NBA Draft as well as NBA and NBA G League veterans who serve as mentors to the team’s young talent.
The idea for the special ball grew out of the NBA’s 75th anniversary campaign, which features a “diamond bedazzled” basketball that became the “unofficial mascot” of the season, according to NBA G League Ignite Brand Manager Jacq Schoninger.
“When we launched the new identity for NBA G League Ignite . . . we wanted to bring the new brand to life and have a physical representation of the new look for our players to interact with on the most highly anticipated day of their young professional careers,” she said. “I’ve known and followed Stewy and his work for years and have always been impressed by his use of different mediums and use of different tones and textures. When I proposed applying his style to a basketball, his eyes lit up and I knew he was in for the challenge.”
Robertson has created art on and from everyday objects before, but this was the first time he attempted to create a functional art object. He began with a multi-layered medley of paint, fabric, and aluminum, but his clients told him the work needed to be less dimensional and “still feel like a basketball.” After another trip to the proverbial drawing board – to add “spark and electricity” that was more on brand with other Ignite materials; Robertson came up with the final product.
BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 23: NBA Draft Prospects, Jaden Hardy, MarJon Beauchamp and Dyson Daniels pose for a photo before the 2022 NBA Draft on June 23, 2022 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images)
The process was a learning experience for Robertson, who said he had to think of himself as a “designer and not an artist” to create an on-brand basketball. “When you're a designer, you still have all the agency, but there is a goal. I think that's the difference between design and art. Design is problem solving. Art is expression,” he said. “So the problem to be solved was I need to create an artifact that would communicate a brand identity that the players can interact with on the night of getting signed”
He continued, “You're looking for opportunity when you're in artist mode. When you're in design maker mode, you're looking for results. So compartmentalizing was a big lesson [as was] taking and ignoring feedback in healthy doses.”
The unveiling, he said, was “satisfying and interesting.” “It was nice to have the conversations with people and see their appreciation for [the ball] once they got up close to it. Usually, you see those things from afar. It looks made in a factory; it looks like some kind of computerized thing. But when they got up close, they saw it was handmade. It was reassuring to see that even people in a hyper-commercialized, hyper-media space were still taking the time to appreciate a handmade one-of-kind object, to the point where they're asking, ‘Are you going to make more? Can I get one?’”
Schoninger called the ball “Electric, just like the new Ignite brand that we launched a few months earlier, the ball exemplified the energy of the team and the unique place we hold in the NBA ecosystem. The players and their families quickly gravitated to the ball, excited to pose and toss it around just like they would on the hardwood. We’ve been able to bring the ball to tentpole events such as the NBA Draft and NBA Summer League, and through that have been able to share the art with each of our six NBA Draft picks and multiple Ignite alumni.”
Watch Robertson explain his artistic process to NBA G League Ignite guard Sterling “Scoot” Henderson, one of 28 players who have earned spots to compete in the 2023 Jordan Rising Stars, which took place on Friday, Feb. 17 at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City as part of NBA All-Star 2023.
For additional information, contact Lisa M. Gillard H'17, director of public relations, at email@example.com.