CYNTHIANA — Alura Schaum, 6, makes a point to hug her art teacher, Herby Moore, hello and goodbye.
"I've dreamed about this class before it started," said the brown-haired girl with the slightly shy smile.
There is something about Moore, an 81-year-old man prone to wearing pastel plaid pants and a green apron, that draws kids to hug him and prompts grown-ups to smile and laugh at his many easy jokes.
And if you are from Cynthiana, Moore is likely to know not only your parents but your grandparents and great-grandparents. He's happy to tell you what he knows.
"Mr. Moore is the highlight of Kids College," said Karey Smith, who helped organize the weeklong enrichment program offered at the Licking River campus of Maysville Community College.
"It's his charm and talent" that makes him so special, said Smith, president of the Cynthiana Arts Council.
Moore's art instruction tends to be infused with a bit of history and a dash of the life lessons he has picked up along the way. He might talk of the lack of indoor plumbing in olden days, or how ladies once always wore dresses, and he might throw in his own story about learning, early on, that if you really follow the Ten Commandments, life is going to turn out pretty fine.
During class, Moore uses his own original pen-and-ink drawings as either templates or inspiration for the kids.
He moves quietly around the classroom, leaning close to his young charges, offering compliments and the occasional suggestion.
"I like that creativity you used there," he told Will Lucky, 7, already an award-winning artist, having had works honored at the Bourbon County fair. "It's very original."
Moore's sensitive approach is appreciated by his students and his teaching assistant, Dawnrisha Talbott.
"Mr. Moore has a way of making the kids feel like their art is really something special," said Talbott, who is studying at Midway College to be a teacher.
Moore, who sells original oil paintings for upwards of $600, said he really likes teaching, although the morning-long classes at Kids College leave him a little tired.
Teaching is different from painting. When he paints, he gets lost in a cocooning swirl of color and light. The world's troubles can't seep through.
"You know, when I am painting, I love that painting like I've never loved another," he said. He can't imagine selling it. He wants to keep it close. That is, he said with a smile, "until a few months later, when I start another painting."
Moore, who raised five children with his wife, Mary, said that by the time he was 10 or 11, he knew he wanted to do some kind of art for a living.
By 17, he'd graduated from Cincinnati Art Academy, "ready to take on the world," he said. "Remember what is like to be 17?"
Things didn't turn out exactly as he planned. He owned a Florida museum filled with wax figures that he created; he sold fertilizer and worked in the tobacco warehouse business.
But all along, he painted. He has created portraits of people, horses and houses. One of his most recent works is a portrait of Daniel Boone — created, he said, through careful research, including examining some of the few images made during the life of the legendary man. The portrait, commissioned by the college where he sometimes teaches, was unveiled last week during the camp, with all of the campers joining in the celebration. The portrait will be hung in the campus library and later will be joined by Moore's portraits of Henry Clay and Simon Kenton.
After decades together, Moore and his wife are experiencing the results of aging. His reflexes are slowing, he said, and he has cataracts. His wife doesn't get around like she used to; a serious car accident a few years ago has made simple things a little more complicated. The couple gets by mostly on his Social Security check, which is less than $1,000 a month.
So he needs to keep painting, he said, and he will as long as he can. A patron who has bought several of his paintings over the years told him recently she wanted to buy a few more. She told him, he said with a smile, that she was counting on them as an investment. An artist's work usually increases in value when the artist dies, she said.
Until then, Moore said, he'll keep teaching.
"I've decided that the best time of your life is after you've turned 80," he said.
Morgynne Lunsford is glad Moore is still teaching. Morgynne, 7, said her house is filled with her creations and crafts, but she said she had a little trouble with fully formed human bodies.
"He taught about arms and legs and hands," she said.
As for Moore still being an artist after all these years, she said, "I can hardly believe it."