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Could an Eight Year Old Have Drawn This?


The signature in the lower right corner is my father's. The date reads "1929." My Dad was born on January 15th, 1921, so if this is correct, that would put him shy of nine years old when he drew this picture. If true, at least in my humble opinion, that would make my Dad a prodigy with a pencil.


There's a lot we don't know about my father's childhood. We do know that he was born in Maine and was adopted by a couple in Pelham, New York. He spoke of being a sick little boy and spending time in a hospital in New York City with a thyroid condition that set him back in school.


My Dad told us endless stories of his childhood. He had a sister, older than he, who was also adopted, though from a different family. She was killed in a car crash when she was eighteen. Her death crushed my Dad. He loved tinkering and fishing and coasting his homemade go-kart down the quiet street he lived on. He stood up to the neighborhood bully one summer after he returned from camp, dishing out a can of whoop ass on the fat bastard. And we know that he was embarrassed that he'd graduated from high school late, at the ripe old age of 21, long after his friends had moved on to college and careers, because of his thyroid issues.


Dad told us that he drew this image while in the hospital and that the construction site was outside his window. I believe my Dad, AND I find it incredible that an eight year old would have the skills to pull off a drawing of this sophistication. Mozart made his debut at age four; Chopin was seven; Liszt was nine. Could John Hubbard have been an artistic genius?


If you zoom in on this image, you will notice the immense detail that my Dad was able to capture: The shadows from the ends of the girders on the top floor that are thrown across the horizontal beam under them; the men at work hoisting and directing; the slack lines arcing to the ground; the three-dimensionality of the overall piece, drawing the eye into the interior of the skeleton of the building. Few details are left out.


My Dad went right to work after high school as a draftsman at Sparkman & Stevens, a marine architecture firm in Manhattan. Though it was wartime, my Dad had received 4F status based on his medical issues, so he participated in the war effort in the best way he could, using the immense innate skills he had as an artist. I'm guessing that he made a pretty sizable contribution that probably went largely unnoticed.


Apparently there were conflicts in the Hubbard household as my Dad grew older. My grandfather was a highly successful businessman in Manhattan and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. When my Dad balked at applying to Ivy League schools, instead lobbying to attend Parsons School of Art and Design, his parents threatened to disown him, so he took off on a life of adventure in his twenties, saw America, got married for a second, worked on a chicken ranch and eventually got a job at AMF, the bowling company. From there, he entered the job market, met my Mom and had a family.


My Dad continued to draw and paint throughout his life, but his work never saw the light of day.

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