Thursday, August 28, 2003

Payne signs deal for magazine's covers

By Marilyn Bauer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Wyoming artist Chris Payne in his studio.
(Enquirer photo)
| ZOOM |
Like Norman Rockwell's legendary 40-year relationship with the Saturday Evening Post, Wyoming artist and illustrator Chris (C.F.) Payne has signed on with Reader's Digest to provide art for its back covers.

Starting this month, Payne's award-winning caricatures - a marvelous mix of painting and drawing - will appear in the world's most widely read magazine. Nearly 100 million readers a month will savor his original portraits (similar in spirit to Rockwell's) that capture the classic American landscape - but with a wink and a nod at modern life.

"You know people are going to compare me to Rockwell," Payne says. "Whenever you do pictures that have some form of commentary on contemporary culture you are going to be compared. It can be intimidating."

Reader's Digest editor Jackie Leo says Payne is the man for the job. "C.F. is more than an artist," she says. "He's a social commentator with a special knack for capturing the heart of this country."

September's back cover is not only a slice of life but also a slice of a Midwestern ball game. The cheering crowd at the ball park includes a wide array of fans: young and old, black and white and Catholic. Payne includes two nuns in the front row, one keeping score and the other cheering on the players.

"That's the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs," he says. "The typical thing would have been to do Boston and New York, but being from the Midwest I did the Midwest."

Payne contacted a Franciscan order and asked the nuns to pose for him. He took the photos and went back to his studio painting baseball caps - one from St. Louis the other from Chicago - over the nun's habits.

"What's ironic," he says, is that the next time I went to a Cincinnati Reds' game, about two weeks after working on this, who do you think was at the game? Two nuns! I went to all this trouble of photographing the nuns and there they were."

Well-known for his realistic caricatures of everyone from Bill Clinton to Dennis Rodman, Payne's work has appeared in Time, Esquire, The New York Times, Worth, Boys' Life and Forbes.

He has won numerous awards, including both the gold and silver awards from the Society of Illustrators of New York and Los Angeles. He teaches illustration at the Columbus College of Art and Design.

"I'm very excited by all of this," Payne says. "And very challenged."


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