Born in Erie, Pennsylvania to Harlie and Minnie Reynard, June Reynard McKie was the youngest of three children. She greatly respected her two brothers, Kenneth and Harlie Reynard. Both brothers strived to accomplish what they set out to do, and they were the epitome of the saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” June considered her family lucky, as her father was able to hold a job during the Depression working as a foreman at a factory in Erie. Every now and then, he would bring home magazines and read the illustrated stories to his kids. These stories included illustrations from artists such as Norman Rockwell, whose work June admired. Her mother, who was very artistic, designed and made her own clothes. Oftentimes, June watched her mother work, soaking in her every movement as if she were a television set. Her mother encouraged the children to draw, especially during church, so as to keep them quiet.
After living in Erie, June transferred to Swarthmore High School in the tenth grade. There, her art teacher labeled her an artist. Hearing her teacher’s comments, she was unsure as to how she would earn a living as an artist and thought it would be a challenging way to support herself. While in high school, June also took college prep-courses at Swarthmore College. She had always wanted to go to college, but she didn’t have the money for it. After she graduated high school, the family moved to the outside Chicago area. June thought she might want to be a fashion designer, so she attended the Vogue School of Fashion Design in the center of Chicago. However, although she could make her own clothes, she was uncertain about how she wanted to earn a living. It wasn’t until a classmate told her she could be a fashion artist that she knew what she was going to do.
June moved to New York City at the age of nineteen. She left with the names of three or four art schools, but eventually wound up studying at the Jamesine Franklin School of Professional Art. Although she decided to pursue art school, she found that her time at Jamesine functioned more as an incubation period during which she could develop her skills. She worked on fashion illustration, but it wasn’t a major subject. June also worked on story illustrations and large oil portraits—the latter being one of her strengths as she was always able to beautifully capture a person’s likeness. However, in order to fund her time at art school, June worked two part-time jobs. Her first job was at a buying office where she drew fashion pieces that designers made, then compiled them into a booklet. These booklets were then handed to potential buyers. The hours were 2:30pm to 6:30pm after she was done with classes. At her second part-time job, she was in charge of retouching music notes for reprinted classical music, where she would typically finish around midnight. Towards the end of her time at Jamesine, June found that she was unable to pay for the last year. However, she was offered a scholarship as the school administration regarded her as one of their best students. After she graduated, June was asked to return to Jamesine to teach a class on fashion illustration. Through her teaching position, she was able to earn some extra money, allowing her to travel to Europe and look for freelance work.
With the money she earned, June bought a cheap ticket to Europe. On her way to Denmark, she met a man ten years older than her who had been to France on multiple occasions. He tutored the sons of a French family and was on his way to Denmark, where he spent the winter. He suggested to June that she visit the family at their chateau outside Montpellier. Around September of the following year, June arrived at the family’s home where she drew the family for fun while also working freelance. Thanks to their generosity, June was able to stay with the family along with the man she met the year prior. Although she knew some basic French, her friend acted as an interpreter while she stayed there. Towards the end of her stay, although the family offered to pay for the portraits she made of them, June gave the work to them for free.
After her time in France, June left for Copenhagen where she made a lot of friends and continued working as a freelance artist. In Copenhagen, she illustrated for Danish magazines and newspapers. She also found that she could sell her work a second time for second rights. In Stockholm, she sold second rights for a number of her illustrations to ELLE magazine and other publications. June continued to travel around Europe, earning money where she could, and living abroad for a couple of years before returning to the United States.
In the late ‘50s, June moved back to New York with a focus on fashion. She worked for various publications including Vogue and Ladies’ Home Journal. In her late 20s, June became a member of the Society of Illustrators, and in the early ‘60s, she was commissioned to do a piece for an exhibit being held by the US Air Force. June had previously met with a man involved in the program and showed him her work. The man later let her know she got the job—he even went on to say to a colleague that she drew just as well as a man. The work allowed her to travel to Berlin and around Germany via military transport, as well as becoming the first woman to travel for the Air Force program. Through a Danish reporter she met, June was able to travel into East Germany through Checkpoint Charlie.
The following year, in 1963, at an art opening hosted by the Society of Illustrators, June met Roy McKie; an author and illustrator who was most famous for his collaborative work with Theodor Geisel—commonly known as Dr. Seuss—and the Beginner Books imprint series. Roy approached June and complimented her on how nice she looked. The two hit it off with Roy later inviting her out to dinner. At the time of their meeting, Roy was already working as a freelance artist, after working for N.W. Ayer & Son advertising company. He had an excellent agent and was renting a place in Connecticut. Meanwhile, June was living in a brownstone apartment with some other girls in the Greenwich Village area. She had suggested Roy look for a place in the city, and when they found one, she convinced him to buy it. When the two got married in 1964, June moved in with Roy, and they rented another apartment two blocks away to act as their studio space. After the two got married, June continued working on illustrations. Although both of them were illustrators, they didn’t often talk about their art with one another. However, if there was anything Roy wanted feedback on, June would make sure to critique the work gently. If Roy’s agent overstepped his boundaries, June would remind him that he did not work for his agent, but rather his agent worked for him. She encouraged him to not let his agent override him or his work.-
The couple traveled extensively around the US, as well as Greece, Argentina, and Venezuela. When June wasn’t traveling, she often enjoyed visiting her older brother Kenneth on his tuna fleet ship, of which he was the captain. There, she sketched the crew and workman, as well as the ship itself. She was able to get the full experience, writing down what she saw and learned in her diaries and drawings.
Although she was able to find steady work, there were times when she was turned down solely because of her gender. Once, when visiting a publishing floor, June hoped to show the drawings she had created on her brother’s ship. However, no one bothered to look at her work—their rule being that they would never hire a woman.
During her work as a freelancer, and occasional model, June met fellow illustrator Jean Ratley, later Jean Cunningham. The two met during a sketch class and hit it off as friends. June was later introduced to Robert Cunningham, whose work June admired. At the time, Robert Cunningham was working in the Wall Street area, but June found him to be a fabulous artist and even suggested he join the Society of Illustrators. Along with the Cunninghams, June also had the pleasure of talking with Al Parker, a founder of the modern glamour aesthetic for American women’s magazines. June loved his work and admired his take on illustration.
For twenty-five years, June and Roy lived together in New York City in Greenwich Village. In 2010, they relocated to New Holland, Pennsylvania in Lancaster County—where Roy died in 2015 at the age of 93. After Roy’s death, June continued working on her art for a bit. Although she never had children, June often thinks of her artwork as her children. For her, each drawing and painting holds many different memories.
Illustrations by June Reynard McKie
Feldon, Leah. “POLISH—The Least Expensive Way of Looking Rich!” Cosmopolitan, March 1983, p. 148.
“I Didn’t Go to College.” Seventeen, September 1963, p. 146-147.