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Speed Drawings

Kobe Bryant: LeRoy Neiman Painting Tutorial – Part 1

By February 16, 2020No Comments

Getting Inspired

Kobe Bryant’s legendary career playing for the Los Angeles Lakers was amazing in and of itself. However, his incredible drive is what inspired me. Michael Jordan is known for his competitive spirit, but Bryant will be known for his determination. I thought that could be a great combination for an expressionist painting similar to the LeRoy Neiman inspired Rocky IV painting I started. In these piece I wanted to capture both the youth and similar essence in both players. Kobe was known for modeling his game after Michael Jordan. What if you could capture that in a painting? The Neiman expressionist painting technique of using brilliant colors and brush strokes could be that way to capture these iconic basketball players.

Good artists copy, great artists steal

Steve Jobs or Pablo Picasso

Copying vs. Integrating Styles

In my quest to find my own orignal style I’ve found myself copying others until I find ways to improve on what my inspirations have done. Kobe Bryant’s style of play was so similar to Michael Jordan that he was known for copying this great legend. Why not model your style after a legend? Kobe was regularly compared to Jordan anyway.

Steve Jobs once had a quote, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” However Jobs took that quote from Pablo Picaso who probably stole that from someone else. Is an artist truly ever an original?

As I copy LeRoy Neiman’s artistic style in this painting, I’ll make my own adjustments to it to truly make it my own.


The LeRoy Neiman style is really defined by brush movement and the ability to let the colorful background do most of the work for you. In this blog, I’ll break down the drawing process I used on my iPad Pro and demonstrate in Procreate how to paint Kobe Bryant in the LeRoy Neiman expressionist style.

View the Real-Time Painting Tutorial on Patreon

Step 1: Sketching Kobe Bryant

I start with a basic sketch of Kobe Bryant just to give me the framework for size and proportion. The sketch is my roadmap for how I’d like the subject positioned on the canvas.

Step 2: Add a New Backgound Layer

Add a new backgound layer underneath your sketch layer. Then lower the opacity of the sketch layer to you a level you prefer. I like lowering the opacity because I like only seeing it as a faint framework for my painting.

Step 3: Add Color to the Background

Now the fun begins, select the background layer. Now pick the “Oil Paint” brush found in the “Paint” category in the Brush Library. I found for the background this brush works best set to the largest brush size.

Step 4: Picking the Color Palette

I wanted to stick with the Los Angeles Laker uniform colors but find others that harmonize with them. Procreate has that option within the “Colors” panel. The “Harmony” tab can be found at the bottom where you can pick one color and it finds other colors that harmonize with it on the color wheel. I selected a Laker gold and picked the “Triadic” option. The color wheel selected two other colors for me to paint the background.

Step 5: Random Color

I just randomly painted these colors on the background layer and did my best to use random brush strokes. Play around with brush strokes in different directions. Add random color stokes to give a feeling of movement.

Step 6: Create a “Blacks” Layer

Create a “Blacks” layer between your sketch and background layer. This will be used to create some absolute blacks to develop value. I found that using the “Spectra” brush in the “Painting” category worked well for tight areas.

Step 7: Create a Kobe Layer

Create a “Kobe” layer between the sketch and blacks layers. Start painting in your choice of colors to develop Kobe’s figure. I suggest lightening the opacity of the sketch layer when you feel comfortable painting without it. Continue to refer to a subject photo to determine value.

Charles Ellison

Author Charles Ellison

I create digital paintings of pop culture, movies, icons and anything that inspires me. Time flies when I’m creating something that begins to take shape. It’s been great transitioning from traditional pencil and paper to work digitally. A tablet and stylus has really brought my artwork to life!

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