Wyoming

 

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?
Where Are They Now: Spotlight on Alumni


Artist-Illustrator C.F. Payne

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  • “Spring Training” demonstrates Chris’s love of the game of baseball. “Spring Training” demonstrates Chris’s love of the game of baseball.
  • “Love Note” is a modern telling of a teen romance that, instead of pen to paper, embraces cellphone technology – in the band room of a high school. “Love Note” is a modern telling of a teen romance that, instead of pen to paper, embraces cellphone technology – in the band room of a high school.
  • “Jogging” is an illustration by C.F.Payne that depicts two runners jogging by a window inspired by The Wyoming Pastry Shop. “Jogging” is an illustration by C.F.Payne that depicts two runners jogging by a window inspired by The Wyoming Pastry Shop.
  • Chris (C.F.) Payne was commissioned to paint this mural telling the history of Wyoming High School. The mural spans years of Wyoming history taking inspiration from real people that Chris knew. The mural greets visitors today in the entrance to the building. Chris (C.F.) Payne was commissioned to paint this mural telling the history of Wyoming High School. The mural spans years of Wyoming history taking inspiration from real people that Chris knew. The mural greets visitors today in the entrance to the building.
  • C.F. Payne is a successful artist-illustrator and a Wyoming High School Alumnus. C.F. Payne is a successful artist-illustrator and a Wyoming High School Alumnus.
  • Chris Payne as a Wyoming High School student and football player in 1971. Chris Payne as a Wyoming High School student and football player in 1971.
     


Christopher Fox Payne, known to friends as Chris, and professionally as C.F., is a nationally recognized artist and illustrator – who took his very first art classes in Wyoming City Schools. Chris moved around a lot since graduating from Wyoming High School in 1972, including a short stint back in the 45215, but Chris continues to find artistic inspiration from his Wyoming roots.

From Wyoming and back again
Life after high school first took Chris to Miami University, where he graduated in 1976 with his BFA degree in art. Finding employment as an Art Director after graduation, Chris moved to Akron, Ohio and then Chicago, Illinois by 1979. Chris married his wife Paula in 1980 (they have been married for 37 years!), and the two of them moved to Dallas, Texas for Chris to pursue a career as a Freelance Illustrator. In Texas he also found teaching opportunities at both Brookhaven College and East Texas State University. The decade of the eighties delivered the birth of two sons, in 1983 and 1989. Then the family made a major move back to Cincinnati (and Wyoming!) for Chris to continue work as a Freelance Illustrator, and he began teaching at the Columbus College of Art and Design. The Payne family later moved to Evendale, Ohio, and Chris and Paula now reside in Lebanon, Ohio. Today Chris is the Director of the MFA in Illustration Program at the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford, a position he started in May 2016.

Art was a Homerun
“I knew in grade school I wanted to be an artist or a baseball player. I couldn’t hit, but I could draw,” Chris recalled. “Miss Culp thought I would flunk out of Miami, but that didn’t happen.” While Chris’s career has featured portraits of Barack Obama (Time Magazine Inauguration issue of 2009), Alexander Hamilton, Hillary Clinton, and countless more, his love of baseball is evident by the numerous artworks of the game - and the fans. The baseball career never panned out, but the career in illustrating his love of the sport of baseball has never been stronger. In addition to many baseball prints on his website (many available for purchase), Chris illustrated the recent children’s book Mickey Mantle: The Commerce Comet written by Jonah Winter.
Another arm of Chris’s career has focused on illustrations of everyday life. Many of these works were created for Readers Digest, but others offer his subtle and fresh social commentary that harkens the best of artists like Grant Wood and Norman Rockwell. Actor and author John Lithgow even once said, “I’ve been a big fan of Norman Rockwell’s since I was a kid myself, and to me Payne is his successor, the best American illustrator working today.” Chris has kept true to his craft, preferring to illustrate entirely by hand (as opposed to using computer illustration techniques), and he allows the art to speak for itself - as there are no captions.

The Wyoming High School Mural
In 2008 Chris was commissioned to create a mural for the entrance to Wyoming High School. According to Jim Barre, also Wyoming Class of 1972, former Wyoming High School Athletics Director, and current President of the Wyoming High School Alumni Association, the mural was, in part, the idea of the high school principal at that time, Mrs. Annie Wade. “Annie had a vision to put something in the entrance way that depicted something significant about Wyoming Schools. We met as a high school administrative team and decided that we wanted something that showed the history of Wyoming schools,” Jim recalled. “I graduated with C.F. Payne, Class of 1972. I told Mrs. Annie Wade about Chris and told her that I thought he could do the job if we talked to him.” The beautiful result was a mural depicting the history of the Wyoming High Schools. The mural depicts the three different high school buildings that housed students throughout the history of the district.

Look closely, Jim points out “one interesting note is the blue school bus in the picture. When we were in high school in late 60’s early 70’s there was actually a blue school bus that took us to athletic events (including football games). It was old and often times had trouble getting up the hill to Reading High School. When Chris told me what he was doing I told him he should include the old blue school bus and he did.”

The original mural illustration was auctioned off at a Wyoming School Foundation event with the proceeds going to The Wyoming High School Alumni Association. The proceeds were used, Jim explained, “to make our dream of an alumni room in the new middle school possible.”

Looking Forward
With so many career achievements, one might think Chris could hang up his art supplies. But that isn’t Chris’s nature. “I am doing what I want to do, draw, make art, and teach.” His career goal that keeps him motivated is simply to “stay working and teaching.” Although he does admit that he hopes he and his wife get to travel more in the upcoming years - in conjunction with working and teaching. Chris is very modest, but in reflection, he is most proud of three career highlights: 1.) being asked to serve as the Director of the MFA in Illustration Program at the Hartford Art School, 2.) exhibitions at the Cincinnati Art Museum, and 3.) his exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

Looking (Way) Back
Chris grew up in Wyoming as one of four siblings - and while no one in the family lives in Wyoming now, a sister, Katie Karmel, just lives up the road in Finneytown. Chris has fond memories of his youth spent in Wyoming, “memories of the May Fete, Sanders Drug store, Murray’s Store, and making lifelong friends who I still see often.” Not being too far from our community today, Chris adds, “I always liked and still like the bakery and the meat market.” In fact, the Wyoming Pastry Shop served as an inspiration for his illustration “Jogging”.

We always ask alumni to share a few words of advice with today’s Wyoming High School students – as they are tomorrow’s alumni. Chris closed with these wise reflections, “Stay in touch with your friends, listen to your parents, look outside of Wyoming, but don’t turn your back on it. And follow your dreams and be sure they have a path to support you.”

For more information, to see the full color art, or to purchase your very own C.F. Payne print, visit www.cfpayne.com.

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