Jim Brower (1914-2016)
At 96, Jim Brower can’t remember a time when he wasn’t involved with art. From his early drawing at age three of the comic strip character Jiggs to his present painting with a group of Toledo area artists known as “The Monday Morning Painters,” Jim’s long life has been an aesthetic adventure. It has taken place during a series of moves—from his 1914 birth in Clarksburg, WV, to Toledo at age two, then to Charleston, WV, in the depression year of 1929, thence to Huntington, WV, and finally back to Toledo in 1943. As editor and art editor of his 1932 Charleston High School Annual, Jim’s close work with the plate maker and printer gave him the graphic art experience that facilitated his entry into the advertising art field upon his graduation from high school. His subsequent move to Huntington resulted in a brief period as art director of an advertising agency before he opened the Jim Brower Studio at nineteen.
His studio served customers in both Huntington and Charleston until World War II precipitated his return to Toledo. Jim’s marriage in 1936 to the lovely Elsie Margaret Day had resulted in fatherhood, which exempted him from the draft, and when Toledo’s Felz Art Studio lost its illustrator to the army, Jim was hired as his replacement.
When Felz died suddenly in 1944, Jim and two other employees took over the studio, renaming it Brower, Brownsberger and Burda (The Three B’s). When that partnership dissolved in 1952, Jim reestablished the Jim Brower Studio, with primary customer Owens-Illinois Inc. and others such as Toledo Edison, The DeVilbiss Company, and Toledo advertising agencies. From 1992 to 1997, Jim also was Director of Art for Meeks Heit Publishing Company, a number of whose health education books he illustrated. Although he had often used watercolor for advertising illustration, until 1978 Jim had done few watercolor paintings. At that time, he was urged by the Northwestern Ohio Watercolor Society to become a member. He shortly became a signature member, and enthusiastically began entering other watercolor society shows, an activity that resulted in his Watercolor Ohio ‘84 Gold Medal for his painting of discarded neckties titled “Candidates for Goodwill.”
Over the years, Jim’s more than seventy watercolor painting awards have included the 1990 Georgia Watercolor Society Gold Medal, four awards in National Watercolor Society exhibitions, and awards in the Oklahoma and Kentucky Watercolor Societies shows. He is a signature member of all those societies as well as the Transparent Watercolor Society of America. Surprisingly, Jim’s first award in an adult art show came while he was still a high school junior in 1931. His first place award was a Philco console radio, which he sold for $100, a handsome sum in those depression days!
Jim’s paintings have been included in such books as The Creative Artist, The Best of Watercolor 2, and Best of Watercolor: Composition. In 2003, Jim wrote and self-published Mood and Mode, an anecdotal account of his long life in both commercial and fine art, illustrated with his work in both fields.
Jim has served as president of the Northwestern Ohio Watercolor Society and of the Toledo Federation of Art Societies. He served on the board of the Ohio Watercolor Society from 1986 to 1992, and produced a number of the society’s annual exhibition catalogs. Jim retired from advertising art in 2003, after seventy-one years of service, but still paints weekly with The Monday Morning Painters. He enjoys frequent visits with his four daughters—Sandra Joan, Margaret, Linda Ann, and Beth—but misses the companionship of his dear wife Elsie, who died in 2000, and his son James Lawrence, who died in 2003.