By Michael Kinney
Despite having only started painting in 2012, Robert Peterson has seen his work hanging in some pretty impressive places.
The Oklahoma native says some of his art is part of collections belonging to billionaires, princes and small shop owners.
Yet, it’s one of Peterson’s newest works of art that could become his most popular.
“Honestly, it’s something that I’ll put on my resume of accomplishments,” said the 37-year-old Peterson. “I think that it’ll be good, it will be something that hopefully impresses galleries and museums.”
On Dec. 6, the Oklahoma City Thunder unveiled a commissioned painting from Peterson. His subject: Russell Westbrook.
The night before in Brooklyn, the star guard collected his 108th career triple-double, which moved him into third all-time.
“We thought there was an opportunity to be creative and to be a little different in helping to acknowledge that achievement,” Thunder Vice President of Broadcasting and Corporate Communications Dan Mahoney said. “We had our discussions with Robert Peterson, a tremendously gifted artist and big Thunder fan. We thought he was the perfect one to be part of that.”
The painting made its public debut via a one-minute Instagram video, which showed Peterson’s process of creating the mural of Westbrook.
The next night, with the Thunder taking on the Bulls in Chicago, fans who watched the local television broadcast of the game saw the broadcast crew talk about Westbrook’s record. But they also focused on Peterson and the painting.
“I’m just kind of using it to help push my brand,” Peterson said. “I picked up maybe like 50 new followers on Instagram. I use all of my social media to market my art and to push my art.”
Peterson has been able to make a living as an artist despite not living in an area that is known nationally for its diverse art. Peterson has sold paintings to Kevin Durant, Floyd Mayweather and Miley Cyrus.
But it was old-fashioned word-of-mouth that got him hired for the Westbrook painting.
In 2016, Peterson painted a mural on the side of a building in his hometown of Lawton. It was of Westbrook, after he decided to sign his long-term contract and stay in Oklahoma.
“I didn’t expect anything in return – I did the mural because Lawton and Oklahoma itself, they support my art,” Peterson said.
Word of the mural reached Michael Zubach, the broadcast creative lead for the Thunder.
“We knew of Robert based on his experience in Lawton with the mural of Russell Westbrook,” Zubach said. “We did a piece on him a couple of years ago. When we started conceptualizing for ideas on what we were going to do for 108, he was the person who we brought up in a conversation.”
The painting is currently sitting in the third-floor offices of the Thunder executive staff. It is surrounded by other special memorabilia the franchise has collected.
“Right now we’re just hanging onto it for our Thunder archives,” Mahoney said. “Don’t know what the future of it is. It’s a wonderful piece and we want to keep it and find the right use for it at a later date.”
Whether it’s hanging in the arena or seen on social media, thousands of people will get a chance to see the painting in all its detail and ferocity. Peterson wants it to be a message to the rest of the art world.
“This will be just something that adds to it as I try to build my career and eventually put a name for the art community on the map because there’s not a lot of artists from Oklahoma that are known for anything other than Native American or Western art,” Peterson said.
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider
Story appeared in The Journal Record