Brown was born and raised in Alabama and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is associated with the group of artists who came to prominence in the late-1960s, called the Chicago Imagists. These artists shared an interest in ironic humour and pattern, taking inspiration from sources like comic books, advertising and 'outsider art.' Brown's paintings are distinguished by their flatness, symmetrical pattern-making, luminous colour and use of humour. The scenes he depicts are typically American, often featuring Chicago landmarks.