C.F. Payne graduated from Miami University in Ohio with a BFA. Early in his career, he attended the first Illustrators Workshop, which had a significant influence on his work. He worked in illustration studios in Akron, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois for several years. In 1980, he began his career as a freelance illustrator, and has developed an impressive client list, including Time, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, GQ, National Geographic, Spy, NFL, U.S. Postal Service, and others.
His awards include gold and silver medals, as well as the Gold Funny Bone from the New York Society of Illustrators, Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, Communication Arts, and Print Magazine. He has taught at East Texas State University and Miami University of Ohio. He lives in Cincinnati with his wife, Paula, and their sons Trevor and Evan.