An interview with Bart Forbes

Bart Forbes is another well known and popular artist who produced work for the NFL working on several assignments over a twenty year span. Approached by David Boss in 1970, Bart produced between 40 and 50 paintings in that time. Bart is also extremely well known for his paintings depicting athletes; i.e. golf, most notably. In fact, Forbes painted a whole myriad of sports scenes, and has had a long running association with official Olympic event works, contributing artwork for series' of stamps, and official theme posters. Bart was the official artist assigned to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Bart very kindly agreed to answer my questions about the work he did for the NFL.

Illustrated NFL: When did you start doing illustrations for the NFL and how did the work come about?

Bart: I did my first illustration for the NFL in 1970. Dave Boss had seen some of my work and gave me a call to do an assignment for Pro!, the NFL gameday magazine.

Illustrated NFL: Did you only work with illustrations, or did you have any other work for the NFL - ie, branding work such as logo development/team colour work etc?

Bart: I only did illustration work for the NFL.

Illustrated NFL: What was it like working with David Boss(NFL Properties Design founder)? Was there much interaction with the NFL design team; Boss,David Johnston & Amy Yutani for example?

Bart: I did many illustrations for them from 1970 to 1990. Dave Boss was the art director I worked with every time. he was a terrific art director in that he always tried to allow me as much freedom as possible to interpret the assignment in my own way. Usually, we would discuss during a 'phone conversation and he would send me any materials I might need, i.e., manuscript, reference photos, uniform details, e.t.c. I then would create a sketch or two to show him what I had in mind and, once approved, would do the finished illustration. On a couple of occasions I was given a sideline pass so I could shoot my own reference material during actual games.

Illustrated NFL: Roughly how many works did you submit to the NFL/NFLP, and what were they mainly used for?

Bart: I probably did 40-50 paintings for the NFL during that time. Many of the illustartions were for Pro! magazine but I also did several portraits that were used in NFL books as well. One of the first large assignments was a small calendar book for the Pro Football Hall of Fame which featured 14 of my paintings depicting highlights of the first 6 Super Bowls in 1972. i also created the illustration for Super Bowl IX. I did several posters including art for three or four Pro Bowl games, and there were at least a couple of National ads.

Illustrated NFL: With what materials and media did you mainly work with, and what sizes were usually used for your paintings?

Bart: My illustrations were primarily watercolors. The size would depend on the assignment and how the work would be used, but typically, I would work to about 20" x 28". The last NFL painting I did was an oil on canvas depicting Joe Namath and Super Bowl III for a hardback book titled 'The Super Bowl' published in 1990.

Illustrated NFL: Were there any special requirements within your brief? For instance, my research has shown that often players were not meant to be immediately identifiable, or manufacturer logos or the like. Did you have to abide by anything similar?

Bart: Occasionally there would be special requirements concerning team logos and such, but that was rare for me.

Illustrated NFL: Were you given reference photographs to use, or were you given a free choice as to your subjects?

Bart: Almost always Dave (Boss) would send reference photos.


Bart's website can be found at