The Clarion Ledger Daily Newspaper of Jackson, Mississippi featured this editorial

Jan. 30, 2001

Teen's artwork gains major exposure

14-year-old's drawings to be on display at gallery


By Heath A. Smith
Clarion-Ledger Staff Writer

When most other kids his age where drawing stick figures, 5-year-old Kyle Hilton was drawing three-dimensional cartoon figures. Hilton, now 14, is drawing international attention for his pencil-sketch portraits.

Some of Hilton's drawings will be displayed at The Studio Art Gallery, located at 1255 U.S. 49 South in Richland. The gallery will start displaying Hilton's drawings Saturday and will continue displaying it, along with work from other artists, until the end of February.

"He's got a lot of talent for his age," said Donald Phillips, owner of The Studio Art Gallery. "He's the first I've seen that young with that much talent in a long time. He could be famous one day if he doesn't burn out."

Phillips and others who have seen Hilton's work are impressed with the lifelike detail he brings to his drawings at such a young age and with no formal art instruction.

"It's pretty cool having my drawings displayed at an art gallery," said Hilton, who spends between two and two-and-a-half hours a day drawing. "I know God gave me the talent and I'm going to try to follow through with it, because I feel that is his plan for me."

Hilton, a freshman at Terry High School, said he was reluctant to tell his teachers and classmates about his ability, and didn't even enroll in art class this year. It wasn't until Hilton's father, Thomas Hilton, brought some of his drawings to school that his teachers discovered his talent.

"I didn't really tell people about my drawing before because I thought it might have been showing off," Kyle Hilton said. "I've never really liked being in the center of attention. I knew I had some talent, but I didn't want to think too highly of myself."

Those who are unable to see Hilton's work at the Art Studio Gallery can check out some of his portraits on the Internet at, the Web site of Ails Promotions & Marketing where his father works.

Thomas Hilton said he used to draw as a teenager, but that his son picked up his love of art on his own.

"He started by drawing pictures of his toys," Thomas Hilton said.

"I knew his gift was just a God-given talent, and it is remarkable where he has taken it."

Kyle Hilton is still not entirely sure where his talent will take him, but it is clear already that he doesn't plan to be a starving artist.

Thomas Hilton said his son's portraits are currently going for $75 unframed and $95 framed.

Thomas Hilton also said that his son has been commissioned by a man named John Ahern, from Queensland, Australia, to draw two portraits for a Web site.

"I really don't know what to do with the money," Kyle Hilton said. "I guess I'll just hold on to it. I'm not a big spender."


When should an Artist NOT sign his work?
By Thomas A. Hilton, Jr.

I was faced with this question some years ago. 

Allow me to back up for just a minute. Years ago, I bought one of Zig Ziglar's books on how to raise positive kids. I first bought this book because, like many fathers, I wanted to know how to discipline my son when the time came. Little did I know that this book didn't deal so much with the actions of the son, but more with the actions of the parents! It wasn't long before I started exercising certain techniques in that book, and noticed they were actually molding my son right before my eyes.

My son was not into drugs, didn't stay out all night and really never gave his mother and me any problems. Oh…did I mention that my son was only 5 years old at the time? What you are about to read might surprise you, but I feel that it very well could inspire some of you as parents, not to mention some of your children.

Because my son was an only child, he learned to pacify himself by either watching TV or doodling on paper. We made sure he had all the favorite cartoon movies children liked to watch. (We chose not to get the one with the big purple dinosaur!) It wasn't long before we noticed that our son would watch TV for only a short time before he would go find his toys, which were the characters in his movies. He would place these toys in front of him with crayon and paper close by, and continue to watch the movies while slowly trying to draw the characters. 

One of the techniques that Zig Ziglar mentioned in this book -- I'll have to be honest here, its the only technique that really stood out in my mind; I can't remember the others, but I still have that book -- was to praise the child. But wait! It was to praise the child to other adults in such a way that the child just happened to be within hearing range. It's one thing to receive praise yourself, but to overhear your parents bragging on you to people on the phone or in the other room has a far greater impact. I think we all can relate to that, even as adults.

Back to the title of this little story. "When should an Artist NOT sign his work?" My answer is when he's only 7 years old, and his handwriting is larger than the picture he just finished. See, as we continued to praise Kyle for his artwork, it wasn't long before he was calling himself an Artist, because he overheard us call him that to others. I had already taught him to sign his artwork, because all Artists signed their work. 

We had pictures of Darkwing Duck, and every super hero, pasted all over our refrigerator door. Then something happened. I particularly noticed one picture he drew with a pencil before he signed it. The picture was of " Pinocchio," and he drew it from the cover of one of his movies. I instantly fell in love with it and didn't want him to ruin it by signing it. (Remember, his handwriting hadn't had as much practice as his art had). So, I asked him if I could have that picture. With a big smile on his face he saw that I really liked that one, so he gave it to me. I immediately placed it in a folder that I used for work.

Kyle knew that I carried that folder to work every day. He would often ask to see that picture and it would always be within arm's reach of where I was sitting. Over the years, I would constantly be looking at that picture when he was in the room. As a matter of fact, I recently decided to scan that picture and put it on the Internet for even you to see. I never got around to having it framed and matted -- I guess I must have known I'd be using it! 

Why did I put it on the Internet? Because I still want him to know how much that picture means to me. 

One other thing I forgot to mention. He's now fourteen years old. He's never let a day go by without drawing something. He's finally drawing what I've always wanted him to draw, "pencil portraits". I recently built him a web page, and he's now drawing pencil portraits for people like you that send him your photographs. In short, he's now a 14-year-old Entrepreneur!

He charges a modest price for the pencil portraits, although I'm slowly teaching him more about business so I don't expect the price to stay so low forever. He loves to draw Hollywood celebrities, and that's where he practiced his portraits. After all what's agent "Q" from the James Bond movies without an extra wrinkle or two?

If you get a chance, visit Kyle's web page at and you can see my favorite picture that he drew some time before he turned 7. I can't remember exactly because … well, I didn't allow him to sign it. You can also see ten of his very best pencil portraits, of some of his favorite TV celebrities. Don't worry if you don't know who some of them are. These are his favorites.

Lots of folks have shared with us how they've showed their kids the artwork website, to help further inspire their own children's talents. Please feel free to drop Kyle a note in care of me, [email protected] and I'll see that he gets every email commenting on his artwork. We welcome all comments because, yes, we were able to raise such a positive kid, and we continue to find ways to let him know it. 


We encourage you to pass this article on to anyone
you know that could use an inspiration and we encourage
you to praise your children at such an early age. You'll
be surprised at just what can be accomplished from a child
with a positive self image and positive parents as role
models. Who knows where my son will be when he turns 18.

Thomas A. Hilton, Jr. - [email protected]
"a marketing consultant helping small businesses reach their goals".
Web Marketing Director and owner of Ails Promotions & Marketing.