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Saturday, August 13, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Cherry Brown, Fashion Illustrator, Artist, School Co-Founder And A `Gentle Teacher'

When Cherry Brown agreed to marry illustrator Dick Brown in the early 1950s, her Cornish School art teacher reportedly told her, "Well, you won't be pursuing your art career now."

Wrong.

Mrs. Brown, who died Sunday of cancer at 63, became an accomplished fashion illustrator and watercolorist who counted the Frederick & Nelson store among her accounts.

She also reared four children, represented her husband's art in New York and with him founded the School of Visual Concepts, a top nurturer of Northwest talent.

The energetic, wavy-haired woman - as fearless at mixing textures and colors in her clothing as she was in her artwork - apparently didn't often entertain the words "won't" or "can't."

Circumstances that would try the souls of lesser mortals only seemed to spur her to greater efforts.

"They lived in a cabin on Bainbridge Island at first," said her daughter Leslie Brown of Seattle. "It was really primitive. She had a woodstove, a wringer washer and three kids in one bedroom.

"Yet she'd go outside, take the kids and try to paint. She did do some nice watercolors, very painterly. And her forte was drawing."

After the pair founded the School of Visual Concepts in 1971, she became drawing instructor. She considered drawing the foundation of visual art. Many who would become professional illustrators studied with her or were included in her shows.

Others, as a favor, came back to teach.

She was not into anatomy or copying. She believed you captured the mood of the subject, that the work had to have an "attitude."

To that end, she would hold a student's hand in her own so the student understood how it felt to give a drawing fullness or weight.

"She was a gentle teacher, not arrogant at all, like some," said illustrator Fred Hilliard.

"A natural teacher," said Linda Hunt, School of Visual Concepts administrator who with two others recently bought the school. "Even Nordstrom and Boeing sent their artists to her."

Hunt added, "Life dealt her many tragedies - first her husband dying in 1985 after being ill five years, then her own illness. She would get a pass out of the hospital and teach drawing with IV's hooked into her. That's how dedicated she was."

Her creativity found other outlets: On weekends she would remodel rundown apartment houses she'd bought.

With a builder friend, she would add an archway or French doors here, a pedestal sink there, and paint the walls soft mauve and pale green, creating little jewels.

Through it all, she didn't want her school - or her life - to be rigidly structured.

The idea was to let artists be true to themselves. If someone had no aptitude for art, she told them, rather than taking their money. If they were ready for New York, she told them that, too.

She let a lot of tuitions "ride," with extremely creative financing.

"She just lived life to the hilt," said her daughter.

Other survivors include her sons Jeffrey Brown and Roger Brown of Seattle and Drake Brown and his children, Cassondra and Jared, of Bothell.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday at University Presbyterian Church, 4540 15th Ave. N.E.

Remembrances may be sent to the Dick and Cherry Brown Scholarship Fund, School of Visual Concepts, 500 Aurora Ave. N., Seattle, WA, 98109.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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