Artist Who Created Famed Coppertone Girl Dies at 88

Joyce Ballantyne Brand, the artist who created the bare-bottomed Coppertone Girl of the famed suntan lotion ads, has died. She was 88.

Brand suffered a heart attack two weeks ago, but had returned home under hospice care, said her daughter, Cheri Brand Irwin Tuesday. Brand died in her sleep on Monday.

"She wanted to be in her own home," Irwin said Wednesday. "She was determined to make it to 88, and on April 4 she did. That was her goal."

Irwin, 49, was 3 in 1959 when her mother painted her as the now infamous Coppertone Girl. The painting shows a mischievous black puppy pulling down a little blond girl's swim trunk bottoms.

Brand was paid $2,500 for the painting.

"She enjoyed commercial art and she's done many projects," Irwin said. "The Coppertone one surprised her with its recognition and staying power."

Brand's illustrations ranged from wholesome Ovaltine ads to risque pinup girls. Irwin said her mother was particularly proud of a portrait she painted of U.S. Army Gen. John Leonard Hines, which was recently featured in a books of military portraits.

In a 2004 interview, Brand told the St. Petersburg Times the Coppertone illustration was "just another baby ad. Kind of boring."

"Yeah, it was a good billboard, but it was hardly the only art I ever produced," Brand said. "But that's what everybody remembers. That's what everybody wants to talk about. The Coppertone Girl."

Jennifer Samolewicz, a spokeswoman for Coppertone's corporate owner Schering-Plough Corp., said she had not heard about Brand's death.

"Joyce is the illustrator responsible for the logo that really has become an icon for this brand," Samolewicz said Wednesday. "She is definitely a big part of this company. The little girl and the dog are synonymous with Coppertone. They are very endearing to us and we are very sorry to hear Joyce has passed."

The company said Brand's painting remains the strongest image associated with Coppertone, although a series of corporate makeovers removed the girl's tan and covered up a more of her posterior.

"People then were much less aware of the dangers of excess sun exposure," Julie Lux said. "The focus has shifted from getting a deep, dark tan to protection. The little girl is now a lot more protected than she was and she's a little more modest."

Born in 1918 in Norfolk, Neb., and raised in Omaha, Brand loved to draw. Her father owned a movie theater in Omaha, Irwin said. During the Depression, Brand made and sold paper dolls for a dollar each. She learned to fly airplanes before she was 25.

She won a scholarship to Disney's School for Animation in California, but it was withdrawn when the faculty found out she was a woman. She studied art at the University of Nebraska and the American Academy of Art in Chicago.

Brand painted movie theater murals and did maps for Rand McNally before she got her big break painting sexy pinup girls for calendar illustrations during World War II.

She often used herself as a model.

"The trick is to make a pinup flirtatious," she told the Times. "But you don't go dirty. You want the girl to look a little like your sister, or maybe your girlfriend, or just the girl next door. She's a nice girl, she's innocent, but maybe she got caught in an awkward situation that's a little sexy."

Brand was married twice and moved to Ocala in central Florida in the 1970s to be close to her parents.

She was unapologetic about her love of cigarettes and a good, stiff martini in the evening.

"She was an icon for women in a man's world, especially when it came to her pinups," her longtime friend Ed Franklin told the Ocala Star-Banner Tuesday. "She was a lady to the last degree and I will miss her. She liked real people. She worked real hard but when she partied, it was a good party."