His pencil never stopped drawing,
his heart was filled with music and images,
some day he would show the world!
On the sidelines as he played professional football, Ernie kept drawing. After all, art had long been his escape from bullies as he grew up in segregated North Carolina.
In high school, Ernie was a big guy, so his mother convinced the football coach to let him play – and Ernie hated it! Only when the weight-lifting coach encouraged him to get stronger did the young Black man find his rhythm on the field and on the track team, leading to college scholarship offers
Oh, how Ernie loved the art studio at his all-Black college, learning oil painting and perspective and art history. His professor encouraged him to use his own experiences as inspiration for his work, and Ernie began painting about football as he kept playing.
His NFL career cut short by injury, Ernie proposed that the American Football League hire him as their official artist. He painted for the New York Jets, exhibiting 30 vibrant and exciting works to great acclaim in the mid-1960s.
Ernie’s paintings of Black Americans reflected joy and community, and his art career came full circle when they were exhibited in 1979 at the North Carolina Museum of Art, where he wasn’t allowed to enter as a child during segregation.
Movement, muscle, memory, and heart made Ernie Banks an art superstar. Watch the book trailer here!
What sport-related artwork is your favorite?
Book info: Pigskins to Paintbrushes: the Story of Football-Playing Artist Ernie Barnes / Don Tate. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.