(Art by C.F. Payne. Copyright © Reader’s Digest.)
For the last four years every issue of Reader’s Digest has featured an illustration by award-winning illustrator C. F. Payne on the back cover. Payne is an exceptional illustrator, and his charming pieces for Reader’s Digest hearken back to the spirit of Norman Rockwell but with a modern twist. My wife and I recently started subscribing to Reader’s Digest, and I’ve always enjoyed flipping the magazine over to see Payne’s gorgeous illustrations.
I just cracked open the December issue (featuring the illustration shown above), and was surprised to read this on the bottom of page 11:
Thank You, C. F. Payne!
For over four years, C. F. Payne, our back-cover artist, has delighted readers with surprising snapshots of modern American life. “And to All a Good Night!” is his last scene for Reader’s Digest. We hope you love it. We will feature Payne’s work from time to time in this magazine, and you will still be able to view his gallery and purchase prints at rd.com/cfpayne.
I don’t know the actual reasons behind the decision, but according to this blog Reader’s Digest is struggling financially and decided not to renew Payne’s contract so that they could instead sell advertising space on their back covers. If true, it is indeed disappointing news. But the reality is that magazines in general have seen a decline in readership over the past few years. As more and more people do their reading online, the magazine industry is in a mad scramble to keep their publications profitable.
Personally, I will miss seeing Payne’s monthly illustrations. His work is delightful and stunning, and whenever I see it in print I always pause in admiration. But Payne fans can take heart. Payne is very prolific—besides Reader’s Digest he has done illustrations for TIME, Atlantic Monthly, Money, Boy’s Life, and The New Yorker, in addition to several advertising campaigns—so you can be sure his work will continue to pop up regularly in various publications.