Monday, November 06, 2017


CF Payne has long been renowned for his beautifully crafted pictures.

A generation of adoring art students studied his technique.  But more important than technique,  a new documentary about Payne's life gives us insight into the attitude responsible for motivating such work.  The film is available on vimeo on demand and is well worth seeing.

In the film, Payne is quite candid about his early "tough times," describing how he had to scrounge for quarters because he didn't have enough money in his bank account to buy his son a happy meal at McDonald's. Yet, Payne persevered because of his love of art.  (He claims he originally wanted to become a professional ball player but watching this film, it's clear Payne was a born artist). Payne drew all the time, and continues to draw obsessively today.

He urges in the film, "Every day get better. Get better. You never get good enough." He talks about how he adapted his style so he could continue drawing on long bumpy bus rides, using quick, jotting lines instead of long, smooth strokes.

This is not an "art technique" film in the usual sense of the word, unless you consider footage of Payne mowing the lawn of his studio with a push mower a lesson in art technique  (which, if you think about it, it is).

The documentary helps to reveal what distinguishes Payne from a thousand other technically skillful artists.  He was never content with a mere likeness: "By the time I got to college my drawings were pretty good... but they didn't come from any place of meaning or understanding, they were just drawings by a mind that was pretty blank."

I found Payne's dedication to continued growth uplifting.

I also found it interesting that someone who is known for his paintings rather than his drawings had the proper perspective on drawing:
That's the thing that stands out in who you are as an artist: the way you draw.  The purity of who you are as an artist comes through most in your drawings. 


MORAN said...

I love Payne's work. He used to be on the Readers Digest cover but I lost track of him. I'll check this out.

Unknown said...

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Kristopher Battles said...

I had the privilege and joy to study under him briefly during my MFA studies at the University of Hartford. He now directs that program.
He is not only talented, but self-effacing, fun, engaging, and a really nice guy.

Steven K said...

Second everything Kristopher Battles says. Chris Payne is the ultimate "blue collar" artist and illustrator: he draws and paints for a living. I strongly recommend the documentary for anyone who wants to see a great example of an artist who thoroughly enjoys his life and career without a trace of arrogance or artspeak. A real example and inspiration.

David Apatoff said...

MORAN-- Payne has gone on to do great, ambitious things following his stint at the Readers Digest. His work there was uniformly excellent, but in a way I think that forum held him back.

Kristopher Battles-- You're very lucky to have studied under Payne. He takes teaching very seriously and has a lot to offer.

Steven K-- I never checked the color of Payne's collar but I think he has the kind of traditional quality that is welcome everywhere, at all social strata. I concur with you about the documentary.

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