Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, Royce Brown began drawing at an early age by way of copying cartoon characters he watched on television throughout the ’90s. He practiced the classic Looney Tunes characters along with contemporary counterparts like Ren and Stimpy, Sonic the Hedgehog, or The Simpsons, sitting before the television set with sheets of paper lifted from the back of the printer hooked up to the PC in the family room, running Windows ’95. He’d draw Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck on the backs of test papers in Elementary school, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, enjoying the rubbery, languid curvature of animated cartoon characters. There was some great release of tension in watching that type of line work swing across the page.
Moving into the adolescent years, his tastes would evolve to include the influence of Japanese Anime and Manga, enchanting him with its foreign exotic quality as it does many teenagers. Soon there were hardbound sketchbooks filled with mysterious, aloof, ninja and samurai like characters with “too cool for this” expressions on their faces and heavily rendered fabric and clothing.
Always dreaming of a career in animation and comic books, Royce didn’t discover the great masters until his third year of college as an undergrad. Having spent 2 years at Cal State University Channel Islands, (a newly opened school not 6 years old when he was accepted) he transferred to Cal State University Sacramento, looking for a more established and developed Art program in which to major. It was there, on the third floor of the Sac State library, he encountered books of reproductions by Caravaggio, Velazquez, Sandro Botticelli, Vermeer, and all other Baroque and Renaissance masters not given the privilege of having a Ninja Turtle named after them. All of a sudden a new world opened up and he began furiously copying these works, trying to learn to not take that masterful technique for granted, and the results encouraged him to pursue painting full time, almost forgetting about comic books and animation (almost…).
It was after a few years of trying to get paid work as a freelance illustrator and storyboard artist, while working manual labor jobs in warehouses, construction sites and on film sets (working with the Art Department) Royce decided to apply to graduate school for art. He sent off his portfolio of invented characters in storybook settings, rendered in oil with noticeably “Baroque influenced” atmospheres to several schools and was rewarded with the top scholarship for the Graduate Fine Arts MFA program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. After relocating, however, Royce soon found the academic environment to be a mixed bag of positive and negative influences, so to relieve anxiety, he began making weekly trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. With sketchbook in hand, it was there that he discovered a treasure trove of works outside the western tradition, and copied in person the wall reliefs of Ancient Egypt, the tribal sculptures and figurines of Africa, and the elegant Chinese landscapes on display at the Met. A whole new realm opened up yet again, seeing the artistic perspective of non-Eurocentric cultures that pre-date the Renaissance and, dare I say, surpass it in many respects.
Officially breaking ties with Pratt in the Spring semester of 2019, Royce returned to Los Angeles where he now lives and works, pursuing his own voice. He did not come from a family of artists, or illustrators, or art theorists or historians, there were no family field trips to local galleries or museums, any discussions of contemporary artists or criticism around the dinner table, or expensive private art lessons throughout his childhood. He’s made his way entirely by remaining that excited kid sitting in front of the television set with those stray sheets of paper from the back of the Windows ’95 printer, desperately wanting to be able to re-create, in his own language, that profound joy that images bring.
Email Address: Roycesebastianbrown@gmail.com