I met Polly Hobbs when I was a 14-year old high school student. She was my art teacher. The first thing she did was set up a still life composition (that looked like a haphazard mess) in the center of the room, circle it with desks, gave us easels, paints, brushes and boards, and told us to paint the still life scene. I had never painted anything like it, and it took me several days before I could free my mind enough to put brush to board and let the painting flow. Once I did though, I found it to be incredibly easy. I could draw in correct perspective just eyeballing it. To my utter shock, she entered my painting in a show.
Over the next four years, I signed up for nearly every class that she taught, and she became one of my best friends, and without question one of my most valued life mentors. She provided a solid foundation for me to develop self-confidence, as well as the guidance to show me an intuitive career path. I learned the importance of compassion, kindness and gratitude. I learned how to learn. She taught me how to have an open mind. Possibly the most important thing she did for me was recognize that I learned visually much better than any other way. She even awarded me with an art scholarship upon graduation.
I went immediately into art school the next fall, and graduated early. I then followed a steady progression from in-house designer, to ad agency art director, to marketing director, before venturing out to start my own ad agency.
Over the years, I have formed some strong opinions about how design, advertising, and marketing best work, but I have always kept that open mind, and it has served me well. Today, twenty-one years after my last class with her, I learned something new from her lessons. I saw a connection between the foundation that she helped give me, in the form of my identity, my values, ultimately my personal brand, and the foundation that every person or company needs to be able to connect with their customers at the core level that instills the trust, belief, and credibility needed to quickly gain brand loyalty.
Over the years, Polly and I have always stayed in touch, usually over email. We tell each other about our families, our work, life in general. I have seen her two or three times during the past twenty years. In every correspondence, she provides me with the same positive reinforcement, good vibes, friendship and wisdom that she did when I was just a punk kid with no direction, afraid of making the wrong brush stroke. And I’m not the only one. She has students from forty years ago who still stay in touch today.
When she retired, er, graduated, from teaching high school, she began teaching community college students how to paint. I have to imagine that she inspired a whole new throng of budding artists and lives. She was also doing freelance design for companies all over the country.
Polly’s lessons, both in life and and work, have always inspired me, and I am sure they will continue doing so for years to come. I can’t help wanting to say thank you Polly Hobbs.
Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.
Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.
I also had the immense privilege to have Polly Hobbs as my art teacher at Sam Barlow High. She inspired me so much, I became a high school art teacher. Beyond art, I witnessed her caring way with students who were on the verge of dropping out of school, losing themselves to drug abuse, or subjected to a sad home life. I feel she saved many lives…she’s downright heroic in my eyes! Like you, she was a pivotal mentor in my life and I am eternally grateful for her loving model of how a teacher can impact a life and how essential the arts are to a fulfilling and whole life.
Well-stated, Janice. Polly is indeed heroic. I’m glad to hear she had such a positive impact on your life.
Congratulations on becoming a high school art teacher!