Who is Ernie Barnes? Some people might know him from the football field and some might know him from the art galleries. I know him from Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace (and illustrated by Bryan Collier).
Barnes was a young boy growing up in North Carolina. Shy, not good with words and a love of art set him apart at an early age. However, he was unable to partake in the galleries of the time as they were White Only. Not a great student, finally he went to an all-black college where he became a football player. While he was good, his heart was not always in the game. When finally playing professionally, he would sketch the players, field, the game on the sidelines. His coach would fine him for this. But Barnes would not be stopped. Finally, he knew he had to try and become the artist he knew he was.
Overcoming such odds as segregation and being a black artist when “his people did not do that” and more, Barnes has become one of arts great sports artists, even being featured during the 1984 Olympics.
Barnes art is sprinkled throughout the book along with the illustrations of Collier. Text and art of both artist bring to life a private man. A short historical note at the end fills in some of the biographical information as well as talks more about the actual art. Plus, the authors note is worth reading. Featured in the book is the image used: Barnes first painting he never sold.