C. F. Payne Ends Reader’s Digest Run


(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.

To view a gallery of Payne’s work for Reader’s Digest, or to order prints, click here. You can view more of Payne’s work on the website of his rep, Richard Solomon.


14 thoughts on “C. F. Payne Ends Reader’s Digest Run

  1. That is sad. We get Reader’s Digest too, my wife loves it. The CF Payne illos are what I go to first. Always interesting and full of little hidden stories. The mag I miss the most (ending soon) is Disney Adventures. It provided work from time to time but I always thought that when I was a kid, I would have loved it. The all comics issues were the best. -Tom

  2. After remarking on delighted I was to see Payne’s illustrations on the back of one of her RD’s – my mom bought me a subscription of my own.

    The books are all gone now – but I still have a pile of torn off back covers around here somewhere 🙂

    I know the lack of Reader’s Digest exposure won’t keep us from seeing new Payne work – but the circumstances sure bother me (if true). I suppose that back cover real estate is too profitable to use for content. I notice a lot more magazines giving up their center spread to advertising as well.

    – Corbett

  3. God how I hate CF Payne – his Reader’s Digest illustrations combine saccharine superficaility, grotesque caricatures, and the sentimental banality of Thomas Kincaid – what an awful combination.

  4. Curmudgeon,
    How can you hate someone based on the content of their editorial contributions? Do you know anything about editorial illustration? A sanitized, homogonized magazine has a sanitized, homogonized back cover illustration and you think it’s the artist’s true vision? Check out some of Payne’s other work and then form your opinion on his work as a whole. By the way, the comparison to Thomas Kincaid is ridiculous.

  5. Saccharine, superficial, sentimental, and sanitzed?
    Personally I find Payne’s back covers an interesting visual commentary on modern American society. “Table for Two” is a good example – two people sitting at a small table in what looks to be a romatic setting, talking on their cell phones and paying absolutely no attention to one another. To describe Payne’s work with the four words above is a good indication that someone isn’t really *looking* at the pictures.

  6. I agree with Curmudgeon, at least as far as not liking C F Payne. I think it’s because his style on the surface reminds me of Norman Rockwell (who I’ve always greatly enjoyed). But by being similar to Rockwell, I always end up comparing his art to Rockwell’s and while Rockwell pursued themes like faith in America and the selfless service of Boy Scouts, Payne seems preoccupied by the trivial and superficial, like Nascar Santas and bottled water-swilling yuppies. Compared to Rockwell, Payne comes up way short. Not to mention that his characters are often so out of proportion as to appear grotesque.

    I won’t miss Payne.

  7. We will miss CF Payne, his illustrations were clever and his attention to detail was wonderful, he depicted modern America!

  8. I loved seeing the illustrations by C.F. Payne on the back cover of Reader’s Digest. Yes, out of proportion, but that’s one of the amusing reasons I looked forward to the magazine arriving in the mail. Last night my six-year-old son and I sat and looked at each month of the last three years of Reader’s Digest. We didn’t open a page – only flipped to the back cover! WE will miss laughing and smiling each month at the ilustrations.

  9. I really miss Payne’s pictures. We have subscribed to RD for 30 years, andlove the mag. My 17 year old son always looked forward to seeing Payne’s artwork, and seeing who one of his characters would remind him of. Sorry to see him gone.

  10. Payne was a professor of mine in college… he was easily the most inspiring professor I’ve ever had and his talent never ceases to amaze me. I, too will miss seeing his art on the back of RD.

    I never comment on these things, but I came across this site and found a few of the comments actually offended me. I have no idea why anyone would have such a hatred for someone’s art in the first place…but everyone is entitled to their opinion. What I find offensive is that you would take the time to post your hatred for his art in a thread where people are expressing their love for it. I’m sure you can draw the pants off of him (or me, for that matter)…. I mean you must be an amazing artist yourself or you would have no right to be so critical of Payne’s work. Correct? Think about it.

    All I’m saying is how about you keep your gloomy opinions to yourself. That’s fine if you don’t like his artwork, or anyone else’s for that matter. Don’t look at it. Let the millions of other people who love it look at it all they want.

  11. I too was a Payne student. I studied under him for two full school years. He’s a brilliant artist and the things I learned from him have enriched my creative soul in ways Curmudgeon and Richard will never know. Critics are critical because it’s all they’re REALLY good at.
    I can tell you, that I was his student during the time when his contract lapsed with RD. They did let him go to start selling ad space, they also wanted to start attracting a younger readership (which will never happen). I can say that for the most part, he really came up with his ideas on his own for the RD pieces and I think they mostly were pretty brilliant.
    He hates comparisons to Rockwell because he doesn’t see the connection and doesn’t consider himself in the same ballpark.
    I love Chris. He’s a good man.
    One day, he’ll be cherished as an American Icon. I’ll consider myself truly blessed for having known him.

  12. Payne’s images alway gave me a good feeling. when i read rd. he put a personal touch to your mag. it will be missed thanks payne.

  13. Pingback: Photo Card Place » Blog Archive » C.f. payne pictures

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