Childhood Development: 1917 - 1931
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Reynold Brown's movie poster career started with early artistic encouragement from his parents. Many of Brown's early drawings were preserved in a few notebooks from his grammar and high school years.

Reynold Brown was born William Reynold Brown in 1917 in Los Angeles, California. His father was Wilhelm Rheinhold Brown, who had come to California after running away from his home in Hays, Kansas. Wilhelm worked as a railroad engineer.

Reynold's mother was Ada Fairley, who had immigrated to the US with her mother, Mary Agnes (Magee) Fairley from Belfast, Ireland. Her father, William Fairley, a member of the British Royal household, had lost his wealth and left the family destitute. After he died his wife brought the children to the US and placed them in foster homes until she could establish herself.

When Wilhelm arrived in California he boarded in the home of Mary Fairley and thus met and later married her daughter, Ada, who was then a milliner (hat maker).

When Reynold was quite young his mother encouraged him to start drawing. In fact he remembered that when he was still in the crib his mother gave him pencils which she taped to his hands so he could draw on the crib walls.

Wilhelm was a locomotive engineer. His train passed near the family's home and occasionally Wilhelm would pick up his son and give him a a ride to the train yard.

Reynold's mother was extremely protective. Any activity deemed even remotely dangerous was strictly forbidden. It was through his drawings that Reynold was able to create his adventures.

Reynold had two younger sisters, Lorraine and Marion, who would be princess and queen (respectively) of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA .

Reynold attended Theodore Roosevelt Grammar School in San Gabriel. Reynold was left handed, considered to somehow be a character deficiency at the time. The teachers sought to correct this "character deficiency" and eventually got him to write right handed, but he continued to draw left handed. They found this unimportant as they felt that he would not need artistic talent to survive.

The family moved to Temple City about 1931. Reynold went to Alhambra High School, in Alhambra. The art teacher there, Lester Bonar, became one of the more significant people in his artistic career. Bonar, a World War I veteran, was a capable artist and was friends with many of the California landscape painters. He taught his students many skills and required that they work in different media. Brown and Bonar remained close friends until Bonar died.


click for enlargement

Early high school drawing on left (pirate) by Reynold Brown shows his interest in adventure imagery as well as skill with figure drawing. The drawing on the right was done at the end of high school when his figure work was already highly advanced.

Reynold thus learned early how to handle pencil, charcoal and watercolor. He learned the basic art principles of design, use of color and perspective. The United States was just passing through what would later become known as the golden age of illustration. Magazines were perhaps the most important form of mass communications and they were filled with illustrations by artists who were as famous then as movie stars are today. Reynold hoped to join their ranks. By the time he finished high school (graduated 1935), he had already received recognition for his talent, had won some art awards and had received a small scholarship to Otis Art Institute. (See High School Poster Work)

Brown left high school hoping to take advantage of the scholarship to Otis Art Institute. His father's death in 1936 changed his plans and he began his art career. With his work on the comic strip "Tailspin Tommy" Brown began honing his skills. (On to aircraft art)

Notes. Reynold's grandfather, Gustav Braun had immigrated from Germany to escape the constant fighting in Europe. The original soddy (a house made of sod, that is grass and earth cut from the ground and stacked to make walls) where Gustav started his homestead was sited near Hayes, Kansas. Gustav's other sons established a department store in Salinas, Kansas. Gustav's daughter, Helen was the mother of Marian Talley, the opera singer.

Brown's sisters, Lorraine and Marion were members of the Rose Parade Royalty in Pasadena. They modeled for some of Brown's later illustrations.


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