Inspirations part 1 Ernie Barnes

Inspirations part 1 Ernie Barnes

One question I get when my work is being observed is, who inspires you to do what you do artistically? Besides that moment when you finally get to stand back and look at a finished piece and say, “Im done here.” I find myself looking at certain artists for guidance and inspiration. I try to pull out the best aspect I admire from each artist and implement those qualities when working in my artistic groove. It could be the use of a certain color palette, composition, subject matter, to how passionate that artist is/was about there craft.

tumblr_n19lkuTn1h1s5h4bpo2_400               Ernie Barnes    1938-2009

This man has got to be the most influential artist, to me, when it comes to fine art painters. If you have ever seen an episode of “Good Times” then you have seen this man’s work. From the opening theme music, to every painting on the show done by J.J. was actually done by Ernie Barnes. Born in Durham, NC during the Jim Crow days Mr. Barnes had the honor of going to school with my Grandmother back in grade school. She told me, how he used to be more of an athlete than an artist ,however, was no slouch when drawing with pencil and paper. Ernie Barnes was well known for his unique style of elongation and movement. He was also known as a professional football player, hence, a lot of his works were sports related. Sports is a huge part of my life, when I’m not working on art I am probably watching a game. I look forward to incorporating them both in my work like Mr. Barnes did in his works.


Ernie Barnes, is most know for his “Sugar Shack” piece and according to Barnes, he created the original version of Sugar Shack after reflecting upon his childhood, during which he was not “able to go to a dance.” In a 2008 interview, Barnes said, “Sugar Shack is a recall of a childhood experience. It was the first time my innocence met with the sins of dance. The painting transmits rhythm so the experience is re-created in the person viewing it. To show that African-Americans utilize rhythm as a way of resolving physical tension.

This piece alone is what inspired me to become a painter over an illustrator. I believe, the control of color and implementation of light and dark help give the piece movement and depth. As a beginning oil painter I am finding this easier to accomplish in oils over acrylics. Composition is everything and nobody does it better than Ernie Barnes…… my opinion.

Learn more about Ernie Barnes here:



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