Kathy Brown, a math teacher retired from the Indian River School District, has found a way to make art and math meld into more than a hobby. She does house portraits, in watercolor and in a pen-and-ink technique. Brown estimates that she has done about 15 to 20 portraits each year for almost 30 years, and she has the good fortune of all her art being commissioned.
“I blame my art interest on my parents not knowing I needed glasses,” said Brown. “I would look at books and dictionaries and try to draw the pictures. It wasn’t until third grade that I was awakened to the letters!”
She’s not sure when the house portraits started, but she has woven some type of art into her life since that young age.
Brown has lived in the area since the 1960s but grew up in Rockville, Md. She started her college career as an art major but eventually changed it to elementary education.
“As an art major, it was ‘rub your eyes and paint what you see,’ and I didn’t want to do that,” said Brown with a laugh.
“Back then, there were certain careers for women: teacher, nurse, secretary. And I couldn’t type, I could hardly read and I hated blood, so I started at the state college, Towson.”
After life took her to Japan and North Carolina, she finally found her way back to the Eastern Shore and finished out her elementary education degree at Salisbury State [now Salisbury University].
After finishing her degree, she got a job teaching and worked at area restaurants to supplement her teaching salary. She went to her first Sunfest in Ocean City, Md., in 1972 or 1973, “when it was still without tents.”
“From then, I would always waitress and do any artwork I could squeeze out,” she said of her hobby and income supplement.
While teaching fourth- and fifth-graders in Bridgeville, she would always stop in a print shop on her way to work and eventually did lots of work for them, including paintings of hog fences and crop dusters, and she did work for tomato and soup-can labels. After that job, a position teaching math opened up and Brown taught for about 15 years at Selbyville Middle School, spending her last eight years before retiring at Millsboro Middle School.
“Through teaching, I always had my hand in art — not only for the extra money, but to keep the art interest going.”
“The house portraits were a gradual thing. I did some work for Bruce Mears, the builder, and a lot of what I do lately is for a builder in Berlin.”
Brown said that the reactions to her works are one of the perks of doing the portraits.
“Several people have gotten very emotional. I had one lady fall on her knees and cry. It’s a unique kind of gift, especially when the house has held a lot of love and laughter and the family has been there awhile.”
It was while doing drafting work that Brown learned the pen-and-ink technique she sometimes uses. The pen is called a rapidograph.
“It’s a lot of math ratios,” said Brown. “Even when I was teaching math, I always tried to relate it to art.”
Brown’s work can be seen all around the area — she painted the mural at Warren’s Station in Fenwick Island. She has also depicted such well-known places as Fisher’s PopCorn, the old Holiday House and Millsboro Middle School. She has also recently done a logo for the new Bayside Chapel on Route 54, and she has scenes of Fenwick Island, Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach on notecards for sale.
For now, Brown is taking watercolor classes and attending shows when she can. She is retired from teaching, but is a full-time caregiver for her 97-year-old mother.
Brown will be at the upcoming South Coastal Delaware AARP’s Artisan Fair on Saturday, May 24, along with nearly 40 others artists and artisans. The fair, at the Millville Fire Hall from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., will benefit the AARP chapter’s scholarship fund for Indian River High School seniors. Brown’s work can currently be seen at Beach Cottage, where local artists have been showing their work for some time.
In the future, Brown said she plans on expanding her painting horizons to include more emotional pieces.
“I’d like to do more ocean scenes and beach scenes. Houses are emotional to the people who live there, but they have definite lines. I’m anxious to find what else I can put on paper to express who I am now. I’m not in it to make money but [art] has been good to me. It’s gotten me where I am.”
For more information, contact Kathy Brown via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.