Howard Hill was acclaimed only once in his life. When he was a small boy, he sang at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria. Shortly thereafter, his voice changed and that was the end of his singing career. Yet he still demonstrated a degree of artistic talent. After a while, he was supporting himself as a portrait painter. In fact, Howard promised himself that as soon as he could scrape enough money together, he would leave England and travel to the United States and seek his fortune.
When the civil war was over, Howard did travel to the United States and made his home in New York. What he wanted to do is open a studio and specialize in portraits and landscapes. The dream was aborted because of other pressures. He was a father of twelve at one point. The responsibility of feeding such a large family prevented him from saving enough money to open his studio. So Howard stayed at the bottom of the artistic totem pole. He learned that animal portraits were popular. Therefore, he went from door to door asking each resident if there were a favorite household pet he could paint. Occasionally someone did request a portrait of the family dog. Wealthy farmers were inclined to have their prize-winning cows or pigs immortalized on canvas. Howard painstakingly painted those animals in great detail and that became his trademark. For a dog or a cat, each hair was meticulously represented. Tiny highlights in the eyes and everything was immaculately clear. Because of his irregular income from animal portraits, he also painted sentimental artistic potboiler prints. The one thing that these unrealistic paintings did was sell. They were fantastically detailed as everything was that Howard produced. During the slow seasons when neither animal portraits or these potboilers were particularly in demand, Howard became a house painter. Yes, he painted the exterior of other people’s homes. Howard Hill died believing his life had amounted to nothing.
However, he was not quite the failure he had considered himself to be. His style of painting and particularly his meticulous attention to detail would inspire someone else to artistry. Howard’s style would live on in the artistic style of another. That little boy who was so moved by what the rest of the world had taken for granted. Well, that was Howard’s grandson. Howard Hill the English portrait and landscape painter who brought his big dreams to the new world only to watch them fade and die didn’t live to see the spark of his work catch fire in his daughter’s son. The wide-eyed boy who so admired his grandfather’s lifelike artistic detail spent his own life imitating it. That boy was Norman Rockwell.
We may never know the impact we have on the lives of those we serve every day. The kind word, the soft encouragement, or the prompting to produce more quality work, might be the inspiration of one of your wards future endeavors. We complain constantly about how our kids never listen to us. The truth is they watch and imitate us nearly a hundred percent of the time. Thanks for your inspiring work to construct our environments, instructional strategies, and student outcomes in a more engaging and relevant place for them to come every day. Have a wonderful weekend.