Highlights of a Life
Growing up in Cleveland during the forties and fifties, Ron Himler spent countless hours drawing pictures. His gift as an artist continued to mature, and by the time he finished high school, Himler was enrolled in the Cleveland Institute of Art. He graduated in 1960 with a degree in painting.
Himler held several jobs as a commercial artist before making a decision that would change the course of his career. He quit his job and boarded a plane for Europe. Himler traveled from one exhibition to the next, doing independent research on works housed at such famous museums as the Louvre in Paris and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The experience not only influenced his artistic style, but also opened his eyes to the beauty of diverse cultures. By the time he returned to the U.S., Himler had made up his mind to become an illustrator of children’s books.
His first initiative was illustrating a collection of poems called Glad Day, and Other Classical Poems for Children (1972). Word of Himler’s talent spread throughout the children’s literary circuit, and he was asked to collaborate with a number of different authors of picture books.
His first book to bear only the Himler name was a family project that resulted in the release of Little Owl, Keeper of the Trees (1974), written by his wife, Ann.
Like many authors and illustrators, Himler looked to his children for inspiration. In 1976 he wrote and illustrated The Girl on the Yellow Giraffe for his daughter, Anna. Four years later his son, Peer, was the source of inspiration for Wake Up, Jeremiah, a taleabout a boy’s excitement at watching the sunrise. In a New York Times Book Review account of Wake Up Jeremiah, contributor George A. Woods wrote, “The evolution of dawn–from early murk to resplendent full light–in Mr. Himler’s illustrations represent his best, most colorful performance to date.”
After Wake Up Jeremiah, Himler’s focus shifted to books with complex emotional messages. His collaboration with acclaimed children’s author Eve Bunting resulted in multiple awards for illustrating The Wall (1990), and Fly Away Home (1991). The latter is a tale of a homeless boy and his father who live in a busy airport. The Wall tells the story of a boy who travels to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with his father to find his grandfather’s name among those who were killed.
In the picture book A Thanksgiving Turkey (2001), Himler’s watercolor illustrations and a gently told story evoke memories of the narrator’s youth. Together with his mother, a 13-year old boy leaves his friends and school to live with his grandfather in rural Virginia. His granddad is getting old and the boy’s mother wants to keep an eye on him. Determined to pass down an old family tradition, grandfather takes the boy turkey hunting. After numerous early mornings spent searching for the right bird, the pair finally come face to face with an enormous tom. Poised to shoot, the senior hunter pauses to notice the turkey’s long beard, realizing the creature’s advanced age. They spare the bird, scrap the hunting trip and enjoy a store-bought turkey for Thanksgiving.
Aside from his work as a book illustrator, Himler has built a successful business in fine art. While traveling to the southwest in 1982, Himler was invited to a series of Native American events that forever changed his artistic goals. After that experience, Himler felt that his purpose was to express the story of the Plains Indians, and the white man who invaded their lands.
Since then, his oil paintings of Native American and western culture have appeared in fine art galleries across the country. Much of his critically-acclaimed work has been featured in both Art of the West magazine and the PBS television program Arizona Illustrated.
In the early nineties, Himler was called upon for his unique blend of expertise in illustration and Native American art. Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve was working on a series of books on Indian tribal culture. Himler executed paintings for a series of nine handsomely illustrated books for school-aged children, beginning with The Sioux (1993). In a review of The Apaches (1997), The School Library Journal noted, “Himler’s atmospheric oil paintings expand on the words to give readers a fuller appreciation of the subject.”
Ron Himler now lives in Tucson, Arizona.
Source: Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2001.
Gale Database: Contemporary Authors