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Former football player tackles painting

Ever since he was a child, former NFL football player Will Barker always knew he loved drawing and now his childhood dream has become a reality with his first solo art showing at The Prizery, which will be opening to the public Monday.


His artwork will be on display through August. 

According to Barker, the show will feature his collection of pen and ink illustrations, oil paintings, watercolor paintings, acrylics and landscape pieces.

Prices range from, $30 to $150 for prints and $100 and up for originals. Prints will be made to order,

Two of Barker’s favorite pieces from the gallery include the watercolors pieces entitled “Retirement Act” and “ Mountain Sunset.”

“Retirement Act” depicts a circus monkey asking for change, and the piece will not be for sale, because he is in the process of creating a series to go along with the piece, he said.

Rather than creating an underlying message for the picture Barker said he is leaving the meaning open for the viewers imagination.

“Mountain Sunset” depicts a river with mountains and a sunset in the backdrop and is described by Barker as an abstract piece.

This piece is one Barkers said he was proud of because it started off as something else, and it transformed into what he now calls “Mountain Sunset.”

In addition to these two paintings, Barker encourages people to come out and enjoy the many other pieces of artwork he has on display.

“I think the illustrations are pretty cool, because there is a whole mix of just simple pen and ink,” Barker said. “There are ones with a lot of details, some are cartoonish, and some are realistic. That’s what I started with so I kind of have a certain connection with that. With these watercolors and landscapes, some are a little abstract, others are more realistic,” the former NFL player said.

Originally from the Bryn-Mawr suburb of Philadelphia Barker began drawing and doodling at an early age.

He always knew it was something he enjoyed, but he chose to focus on his football career instead.

Upon graduating from the Haverford School in 2005, he went on to play Football at UVA where he met his fiancé, Halifax County native Julia Rogers. There, he majored in anthropology.

In 2010, he began his stint as a NFL player having played for the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and most recently the Miami Dolphins during a two-year career.

Barker said he was not satisfied with playing football and decided to retire and take up his childhood dream of being an artist.

“I’ve always been a good drawer. I’ve been drawing all my life mostly just doodling and sketching, but it wasn’t until I got to the NFL, and I think part of me realized football isn’t going to last forever. I have always been artistic and creative, and drawing has always been the best way to express that ” Barker said.

The former NFL player said he knew he couldn’t make a career of drawing alone so he took it upon himself to learn other art techniques.

“I took it upon myself to kind of teach myself and learn as much as could through trial and error, and drawing became water colors, and water colors became acrylics and acrylics became oil paintings,” Barker said.

The pro athlete turned artist said it was hard at first to get his career as an artist started.

In the last couple months, Barker said he has booked plenty of commission jobs and has developed a website with an online gallery.

The website help to really put him on the map as an artist, and business is starting to pick up, he said.

The newly found artist said what he liked the most about being an artist is the freedom and having the challenge of self-motivation.

“Being an artist you’re making your own business and you’re making it what ever you want it to be,” Barker said. “ The freedom to express yourself anyway you want is my favorite thing about it.”

And while the challenge of motivating himself is one of his favorite things about being an artist, it’s also his least favorite.

“Its definitely a challenge not having someone tell you what you need to do, but some days its harder to get started than others. But what you have to understand if you’re not making any art you’re not making money, and you sort of have to find that balance,” Barker said.

He said he’s always working on some type of project, and some things take longer than others. Some things he said he completes in a couple of days, others in a couple of hours.

Barker is currently based in Burlington, Vermont where he also resides.

The showing at The Prizery is his first solo show, but he previously showed a few of his art pieces at a recent art show held at his former high school in Philadelphia.

He recently was commissioned by a company in Maryland to do a portrait.

Barker’s goal is to do art full-time and hopes to make the income to do so.


For information on Will Barker or to check out some of his art, visit