Email Correspondence with C.F Payne

Throughout the connections module, we were encouraged to reach out to an international illustrator. I decided to do an email correspondence with C.F Payne, his answers were interesting to read and his perspective on illustration in America is quite remarkable. I first contacted him on the March 1st, for which he was very helpful with answering my questions. C.F Payne is an American illustrator and caricaturist, for which his work is commonly found on the Time, Sports illustrated and national geographic magazines. There are many others magazines he has done throughout his illustration career. His caricaturists are remarkably outstanding and create a sense of humour and identity with the characters. The Obama editorial is considered one of my favourites in relation to his work, especially since he exaggerated the proportions to make them seem over the top and quirky. I choose an email correspondence as an easier way to connect, rather than going through a online interview. For which If I decided to follow through with an online interview the different times zones would of needed to be taken into consideration, therefore deciding to take an email correspondence would be easier. I hope you find this interesting to read, here is the following email correspondence.

Here is his website for anyone interested in his illustrations: Work — C.F. Payne Illustration

  1. Why did you become an illustrator? 

C.F Payne: “I became an illustrator because I like to draw. As long as I can remember, I liked to draw. I remember the drawings I did before I was in elementary school. That would be when I was 4 and 5 years old. I remember the drawings I did all the way through my early years. I drew so much, I got into trouble at school for not paying attention to the teacher’s lessons because I so focused on my drawings. After high school, I decided to go college to study art. When I arrived at Miami University in the fall of 1972 it seemed all the students were wanting to become abstract expressionists. The only place I found my home was in illustration.”

2. What would you say to someone considering a career in illustration? 

C.F Payne: “Illustration has to be your passion. This means always learning about illustration and illustrators. There is such an amazing history to the art of illustration. There are so many artists to be inspired by and learn from just by studying their art. Get to know other illustrators working in your area, if you can find them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Learn from them. Illustration is a business that is always in a state of flux. Many of the jobs I had available to me in my early years aren’t there. Meanwhile, the idea of selling my art to someone in Spain or Ireland was not possible back then too. Now it is. Young illustrators are finding their own ways of dealing with the new markets, Again, this is why you need to get to know other illustrators.”

3. What is your favourite editorial piece that you have created for the times magazine? 

C.F Payne: “I have two pictures that are memorable. The first is a Time Magazine cover that was about the Baseball Strike that was about to happen. Is it my best work? No. But, that picture had to be created from start to finish and delivered in less than one day. I got the call on a Friday afternoon while I was teaching at Syracuse University. The finished art had to be in New York City by early Saturday afternoon. It was the tightest deadline for a major publication I had to meet.”

C.F Payne: “The other image is the Barack Obama Inauguration cover because of the history of that moment. The deadline was tight as usual, but not as tight as the baseball image.”

4. How do you create your caricatures? How long does it take to plan and create? 

C.F Payne: “I create my caricatures by simply drawing them out. They start as gesture sketches. If I could see the likeness of the person in my sketch, I knew I could get it in the tighter sketch. I find pushing the features in the sketch phase works best. Often it takes multiple sketches to get the one I like. How long does it take? As you would expect, some come fast, others can be a struggle.”

5. What is your least favourite brief that you have been given ? 

C.F Payne: “I think the hardest jobs are the ones I can’t find something interesting to in the job and yet I know will take a great deal of time. Early in my years I had to take on jobs like that because I had bill to pay. It is not so much the case now.”

6. What is your typical working week like? 

C.F Payne: “My work week now is different from what you may imagine. Yes, I am an illustrator. But, I am also the director of the MFA in Illustration Program at the Hartford Art School. The Hartford MFA in Illustration is the only low residency MFA solely dedicated to the art of illustration in the US. During this COVID pandemic, school has been very time consuming.”

C.F Payne: “My day usually starts around 7:30-8AM. I work in the mornings on my school duties, such as answering emails, reading papers or reviewing art. Later in the day, I try to find the time to work ono assignments. There are times, I have to turn down assignments because school now come first. My day usually ends around 9PM as I once again review my email to see if I need to address any student work or concerns. I work most weekends too. I try to keep it to either the Saturday or the Sunday, but not both.”

7. What is your favourite medium you enjoy working with? 

C.F Payne: “I work a lot with mixed media. Acrylics are probably my dominant medium. I create my drawings with colored pencils.”

8. What would you consider your strengths and weaknesses in illustration?

C.F Payne: “My strength is people, my weakness are atmospheric things like complicated interiors or landscapes.”

9. Do you get repeat commissions from people? How are they obtained? 

C.F Payne: “I used to get them when magazine publishing used my work a lot. Again, their deadlines are brutal, so at my age now I take very few, and only for a select few. Usually, getting those jobs starts when you get the first on and prove you can meet their deadline. The early jobs start small with small budgets. But, if you meet the deadline with good work, they usually reward you with more work. The deal is, you have to meet the deadline and they have to like what you have done. More recently I have done a number of children’s books because the deadlines are more reasonable and work better with my school schedule.”

10. Looking back on your life. Is there anything that you would do differently? 

C.F Payne: ” Not really. I do wish I had gone to school at a time when illustration history was taught more. When I was in school, we had very little available to us. To learn about illustration, you really had to search. Most of it was self-initiated. Being self-motivated is still something you must be.”

11. Were there any illustrators you looked up to at the beginning of your career? 

C.F Payne: “Early in my career I looked to Mark English, Bernie Fuchs, Alan E. Cober and Bart Forbes. Before college I liked comic book artists like Jack Kirby, MAD Magazine artists Jack Davis and Mort Drucker, and then in other magazines Norman Rockwell and the National Geographic artists of Tom Lovell and Stanley Meltzoff. After college, I found Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker, Austin Briggs, Coby Whitmore, Wilson McLean and so many, many more. Now my lists are endless.”

12. Which caricatures have you enjoyed creating the most? Why? 

C.F Payne: “I really don’t have favorites. I have subjects I like sports, entertainment and history.”

13. What’s it like being a freelance illustrator? Are there any advantages or disadvantages to this as a career?

C.F Payne: “The advantage is, you are your own boss. The disadvantage is, you are your own boss. The successes you own. The failures you own. You want to experiment on something new, you have to make your own time to do so. But, choosing to learn something new is your choice. When you choose to learn something new, is your choice. For me, carving out that time is easy because I like to learn something new.”

14. What is it like being an illustrator in America? (just curious, I’m from the UK) 

C.F Payne: “Being an illustrator is a challenge. It has always been a challenge. The places where illustrators used to make great money have changed. But, it always has changed. Magazines aren’t a big a part of illustration as they were years ago. 30 years ago, the idea for creating art for video games never was something I could have done. The detail and creativity now is remarkable. Markets for illustration come and go.”

C.F Payne: “The key is to find the things you care about, the art you care about. Understand, you are creating art for someone else, a stranger you don’t know. That someone has to want to buy your art. Will it to be hung on their walls or solve a problem for their magazine, ad or package design. Will it be a children’s book? Will it be a poster?”

C.F Payne: “What all illustrators need to understand rule number one. You have to get good. Whatever art you create, it has to be good, really good. It also has to fit into the fashion of the times it lives and works. So work hard, draw well, design well, tell a good story and never stop learning.”

Overall, from learning the different experiences from C.F Payne, has been helpful in directing and shaping my illustration career. It has helped me consider the unique character attributes and the ways the characters are used to portray a message. I love creating new characters, and from delving from his experience of creating them, helped me consider what is deemed essential and interesting in an illustration career. I will certainty take his advice and learn more concerning the prospect of being a freelance illustrator. I can’t thank him enough for replying to my email.

This email correspondence has also helped me connect with illustrators internationally. It would of seemed impossible, if someone told me to talk to someone internationally before. So throughout the illustration course, I have definitely grown in confidence and considering different ways of applying my work.

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