James-Paul Brown was born in Indiana and was groomed throughout his youth for a career in banking and finance. While Brown’s mother recognized his artistic talent early in his childhood when he began painting, his father had a different future in mind for him and placed him in summer internships in the investment houses of Merrill Lynch, Northern Trust Company and Hartford Insurance. He then worked for the Chicago Tribune in advertising sales and later joined the staff of CBS Radio FM, running the Midwestern office.
In 1970 Brown published the first edition of Earth Magazine, and later that same year introduced Earth News Radio and established the similarly formatted Rock News syndication. In 1980, Brown sold Earth News, divorced, remained involved in radio syndication for his bread and butter, and moved to a Santa Monica cottage to pursue the life of an artist. After two solid years of 10 hour days of painting, members of the burgeoning Venice Art Community and gallery owners began taking notice of his work. Collectors such as Kris Kristofferson, Cheech Marin, Mayor Koch, Tina Louise, Lee Iacocca, Ray Kroc and leading dealer Paul Cantor began purchasing his paintings. His paintings opened the West Beach Café, which was a popular enclave and showing place for Venice artists (such as Chuck Arnoldi, Billy Al Bengston, Jean Paul Basquait) and across the street from the L.A. Louvre Gallery.
In 1982, Brown was commissioned to paint the backdrop for Raymonda Variations by the Los Angeles Ballet. To commemorate the New York Philharmonic’s 1983 season, Brown painted a poster which he delivered with gift portraits of famed pianist Rudolph Serkin and conductor Zubin Mehta. Brown’s mural of St. Tropez graced the entrance to the Palace Theatre for the entire duration of the Broadway show, La Cage Aux Folles in the early 1980’s. In 1984 Brown became the official artist of the United States swim team. Brown was invited by CBS Sports to capture the Pan Am and World Games. He crossed network lines to become the NBC Sport’s artist for their television coverage of the Bruce Jenner Games and Wimbleton Tennis Classic, and his watercolor paintings of Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Princess Diana were telecast throughout the world. Highlighting these achievements was Brown’s involvement in Presidential Inaugurations as the official artist for “Taste of America.” Pepsi Co. commissioned Brown to paint Michael Jackson during his Thriller tour as well as other venues.
Brown’s original art has adorned the walls of the corporate offices of Pepsi, NBC, Reebok, and Adidas and his original art is also visible in the Swimming Hall of Fame. Brown has frequently donated his time and talent to charitable organizations. He has donated art to Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, The Hunger Project with the late actor Raul Julia, The Los Angeles Ballet, the New York Philharmonic, The American Cancer Society, The Arthritis Foundation, Tipper Gore’s Breast Cancer Walking Marathon in D.C., Alzheimer’s Association, among others. Cedars Sinai Hospital displayed over 50 of his paintings for the enjoyment of patients, staff, and visitors. He has been a cheerful giver of his time, talent and artworks.
Other credits include: the Goodwill Games, 1990 Tokyo Show, the official Monaco Tennis Classic, 1988 America’s Cup (the original is owned by Dennis Connors), Monte Carlo Grand Prix (Commissioned by Hewlett-Packard) and Cannes Film Festival, Fashion Week in New York and the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy (at the request of DHL), Santa Barbara Vintner’s Association, Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, Fiesta Finale, and he has been the resident artist for the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara. Recently, Reglais and Chateaux commissioned Brown to create a painting of the U.S. Capitol building to commemorate their social affair for their most influential patrons and he was hosted by AMA Waterways as the guest artist for an exclusive river cruise in Europe. For over 10 years, Brown has also donated artwork to the Central Coast Wine Classic, the proceeds of which honor grants to charitable organizations throughout the central coast. He has offered the same for similar venues, such as the Pebble Beach Wine Auction and the newly developed Big Sur Wine Auction. His art has graced wine labels, including Creston in the early 1980’s (before the plethora of “art” labels exploded onto the scene), Sunstone Winery and Artiste Winery (which he actually founded as a negotiant through his relationship with Sunstone and the Rice Family and which Bion Rice then bought). He has created portraits of such diverse personalities as David Bowie, Mike Tyson, Kiki Camarata, Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, Pope John Paul II, Pele, Julia Child, Nelson Mandela, and most recently Robert Mondavi, Jerry Brown and Emeril Lagasse. A coffee table book of his artwork up until the early 1990’s is still available through amazon.com and other venues.
Brown blends the broad brushwork and vibrant colors of Van Gogh with the strokes and pastel shades of Monet to produce enchanting, passionate masterpieces. With his history as a painter, radio entrepreneur, wine connoisseur, marathon runner, and reciter of poetry, his life resembles a colorful palette, capturing the beauty of adventure of the human experience. His paintings are windows into an enchanted world blending energy, color, romance, as well as favorite cities and landscapes.
Today, Brown’s artwork continues to reach new levels of inspiration and admiration. If others have been called painters of light, Brown could certainly be coined the “painter of joy.” He lives true to the following introduction that was written about him for the booklet that accompanied his exhibit at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art in 1996:
“James-Paul Brown is a humanist. That is to say, his art emerges from a deep personal interest in the joys and wonders of the human condition. All of his paintings are about people. If one were to list his favorite subjects, they would encompass a range of scenes of human interaction—jazz clubs, ballet dances, sporting arenas, romantic walks. This humanist perspective is evident even in the landscapes where no individuals appear. His landscapes are all seen romantically through the eyes of a sympathetic viewer.
Among human subjects, he paints those moments when the spirit takes flight and triumphs over the mundane reality of our day-to-day world. His jazz musicians are lost in a reverie of inspired improvisation. His sport paintings show people pushing themselves beyond the limits of ordinary endurance. His ballet scenes show the human body in graceful movement. His romantic paintings conjure a world of dreamy reverie.
For James-Paul, the chief trait of being human is the ability to feel. He paints to record the depth and range of our passions and emotions. A deeply sensitive person, he is drawn to emotional moments in the human drama.
James-Paul is a sensitive and caring recorder of intimate sights, sounds and events. His best paintings are lyric. As in lyric poetry, the art results from a rapid outpouring of intense personal feeling. For James-Paul, there is little concern for established forms or traditions. Intuition and spontaneity rule. Yet these paintings offer more than just uncontrolled passion. The artist’s concern for beauty, propriety and the integrity of all things gives his art a certain balance and restraint.
He is a fine draughtsman. In his best drawings, his line tapers and swells, capturing the physical presence of his subjects. Paintings begin with a pencil underdrawing. This linear plan sets the format of the general composition. Color is then added to enrich, flesh-out and give life to the initial sketch. These vibrant colors are applied with a variety of strokes that vary from short daubs to long threads of paint. The resulting texture of color appears like a rich tapestry.
For want of a better term, James-Paul’s technique can be called impressionistic. But he differs in approach from the original French Impressionists who carefully analyzed a scene into component spots of color. James-Paul synthesizes a picture out of his imagination, freely choosing and even improvising color in order to heighten the emotional impact of an image. He also paints quickly. Once he begins to create, he allows no impediments or distractions to slow or hinder his pace. This speed is due to his exuberance as much as to anything. From the moment he begins to work on a painting, he cannot wait to finish it so he can share it with others.
James-Paul is one of the last true romantics. It is not surprising that he created a series of romantic paintings. They were inspired by his beautiful wife, Juliette. A former actress, she appears in the paintings in various guises—as Ophelia, as a fairy. She is the artist’s muse. In these fairy tale images, love takes the place of gravity as the dominant force lending order to the world.
The artist also painted many celebrities. He was asked to do portraits of the last three United States Presidents. Among other portraits are included rock stars such as David Bowie. The artist paints these portraits because he is fascinated by personal achievement. In these images of famous people, he looked for the unique qualities that make this person a world leader, that person a master musician.
As a person, James-Paul is friendly and exuberant. His boyish charm reflects his dreamy, compassionate interior. Radiating joy and optimism, his ability to enjoy life’s simple pleasures is infectious. This positive attitude is captured in his art which is always bright and cheerful. A daily dose of James-Paul Brown is what we all need to life our spirits.”
Michael Zakian, Director
Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art
Selected Exhibitions 1990-2010
Bunkamura Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Ross Watkins Gallery, Palm Desert, CA
Gallery Rodeo, San Francisco, CA
Karpeles Museum, Santa Barbara, CA
Frederick Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA
Concordia University, Irvine, CA
FACT Exhibition Space, Laguna Beach, CA
Carthew Thompson Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA
Millard Sheets Museum, Pomona, CA
Reagan Library, Simi Valley, CA
Swimming Hall of Fame, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Art Institute of Southern California, Laguna Beach, CA
Sullivan-Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
Dalphine Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
Brown Art Gallery, Ojai, CA
Culver Military Academy Nautical Center, Indiana
Nelson Mandela, Portrait
Fashion Week, New York, NY
Reglais and Chateaux, U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Las Vegas International Marathon
Winter Olympic Games, Torino, Italy
Santa Barbara Vintners Association
Monaco Grand Prix
President of the Republic of China, Portrait
President of the United States, Bill Clinton, Portrait
President of the United States, George Bush Sr., Portrait
President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, Portrait
President of Venezuela, Portrait
Pope John Paul, Portrait commissioned by United States State Department
Russian State Ballet, Moscow, Russia
Bolshoi Ballet, Moscow, Russia
1984 Olympics, Los Angeles, CA
1996 Olympics, Atlanta, GA
Pele and Soccer Team
American Ballet Theatre, Lincoln Center, NYC
Russian National Orchestra, Moscow, Russia
Pan American Games, Caracas, Venezuela
World Games, Alberta, Canada
Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, France
New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra
Los Angeles Ballet
International Swimming Hall of Fame, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Wimbledon Tennis, Wimbledon, England
Heavyweight Boxing Championships
Maison Duetz Opening, San Luis Obispo, CA
Some Owners of Brown’s Art, Then and Now
Santa Monica City Hall
Bristol Meyers Squib
Nancy Reagan Michael and Anne Towbes
Sara Miller McCune
John and Mary Weimann
Chancellor of Germany
Winston Churchill Foundation
Cedar Sinai Hospital
Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles
United States Olympic Committee
Ray and June Kroc
Memphis Art Museum
Justin and Debra Baldwin
Mark Goldberg and Maggie Ambrosia
Jacques and Patricia Heripret
Mrs. Sugar Ray Robinson
(and many others)