Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went From the Foot Field to the Art Gallery

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went From the Foot Field to the Art Gallery
Written by Sandra Neil Wallace, Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Publisher’s Summary:
Discover the true story of NFL star Ernie Barnes, a boy who followed his dreams and became one of the most influential artists of his generation.

Primary Source Pairing:
In this book, we learn the importance of staying true to yourself and following your dreams even in the most trying of times. Ernie Barnes was an artist first before he became a star NFL football player; his drawing hands became football-playing hands. Ernie Barnes is quoted as saying, “When I became an athlete, I didn’t stop being an artist.” For this primary source pairing, invite students to analyze a photograph of Ernie Barnes with his painting titled “In Remembrance.” Additionally, closely analyze the book’s illustrations and artwork created by Bryan Collier. The intricate collage work brings Ernie’s story to life.

To learn more about his first painting, “The Bench” visit

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What’s happening in the image
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What other details can you see?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Ernie Barnes with “In Remembrance” painting: Wikimedia Commons

Additional Resource:
Ernie Barnes website: