The two best centers in college basketball are Virginia's Ralph Sampson and Georgetown's Pat Ewing, which is why they play a major role in this, our 26th annual college basketball issue. A major role—and a magical one. They have never competed against each other, and won't until Dec. 11, yet, on page 76, here they are, mano a mano, in living watercolor: Sampson leaps to shoot, the ball lingers on his fingertips and Ewing's arm extends to block it. Such action, seven pages of it, comes courtesy of 43-year-old Dallas artist Bart Forbes.
His paintings complement Senior Writer Curry Kirkpatrick's analysis of the upcoming Sampson-Ewing encounter. Forbes pored over action photos of the two players, matching them up in his mind's eye. As he says, "The challenge in this kind of work is to put both men together in situations that are more than just plausible—the perspective and lighting must be correct, so that it doesn't look as if two separate sets of reference material were used."
Forbes wasn't fazed by the assignment to preview Sampson vs. Ewing. This confrontation has already generated as much excitement as a championship fight, and Forbes has done similar previews of three such bouts for us, including Muhammad Ali-Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns and Holmes-Gerry Cooney. Forbes's research for Leonard-Hearns even included an informal sparring session with Associate Writer Pat Putnam.
Forbes's most recent boxing pictures were done for the long-delayed heavyweight showdown between Holmes and Cooney. We had planned a pullout cover photo of the two for the June 7 issue, but Holmes refused to share the limelight, and we found ourselves with no boxing cover. Forbes, who already had done the art for our seven-page preview of the fight, stepped into the breach. He got the assignment on a Wednesday, and a week later his cover painting depicting Cooney and Holmes in the heat of battle hit the newsstands.
The son of an Air Force career man, Forbes was born in Oklahoma, then lived in Guam, New Mexico, Texas and Florida before finally settling down in Cincinnati for his high school years. He was there long enough to become a Reds fan; "My second home was Crosley Field," he says. He went on to the University of North Carolina, taking a BA in art in 1961. He now stays put in Dallas, in his studio or his antique-filled English Tudor home, following the Cowboys as well as the Reds and playing a little tennis and golf between assignments. His wife, Mary Jo, operates their nearby Vineyard Gallery, and Forbes helps coach his 11-year-old son Ted's basketball team; eight-year-old Sarah plays soccer. (The family dogs, Shadow and Arf, and cat, Tom, aren't into organized sports.)
As for his work, Forbes says, "I feel God gave me a break. I do what I love most, every day, painting and drawing pictures."