contemporary illustrators that influenced

I often site the American Regionalist painters from the 20’s and 30’s as my biggest artistic influence. It’s true, I love the art that was being created in America in the first half of the 20th century. But there are many contemporary,  working  illustrators who influenced me early in my career in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I was getting started, just trying to figure out how I could possibly make a living as an illustrator, long before I did my first children’s book.

There were many, but today I’ll share just a few… Gary Kelley, Mark English, Brad Holland and C.F. Payne.

I first saw Gary Kelley’s work at a design conference in West Virginia while I was still at the University of Kentucky. Gary is a brilliant draftsmen, a master designer, and a true original and when I heard him speak I first realized, this is what I want to be. See his work here

Back when I was a student, Mark English was widely known as one of the biggest names in the illustration field. He once gave me a portfolio review at a conference  when I was a student (shaking in my boots) and he told me I needed to work on drawing hands. He told me that my painting is only as good as it’s worst part. I’ve never forgot that, since that moment I began emphasizing hands in my illustrations, making sure they were believable. You can see Mark English’s work here

There is no shortage of illustrators, young and old, who were in no small part affected by the work of Brad Holland. I was no exception. I studied his work and learned as much as I could from the free expression and power of his imagery. You can see his work here

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet each of the illustrators I’ve listed above but none of them impacted the daily approach to my career more than C. F. Payne. My first job as an illustrator brought me to Cincinnati and Chris Payne had just moved back here (where he grew up) from working in Dallas. I took a night class from Chris when he was teaching at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I loved the work Chris did for Rolling Stone magazine and a host of other editorial publications. Chris is such an open, friendly, enthusiastic guy and he invited me over to his studio to work alongside him. I would show up sometimes around 10 or 11PM and  work on little parts of his pictures while he was trying to  make some of his important deadlines. On a few occasions I did not leave his studio until early morning, just enough time for me to go home and shower and get off to my job at Gibson greetings for the day  (no wonder I could never get there at 8:00 sharp). Chris was the bigtime and I was allowed to witness his work firsthand. His artistry and work ethic left a huge impression on me as a young artist. You can see Chris’s work here

Many famous American fine artists in art history certainly helped shape the way I work, but I can’t forget what an impression the living, working illustrators of today have had on me as well, especially when I was just getting started. Thanks for reading this.



3 thoughts on “contemporary illustrators that influenced me

  1. judy schachner

    Enjoyed this essay so much Loren!
    You are so right to pay tribute to these illustrators who influenced so many of us working in the field today. It is also a lovely reflection of your generous and humble spirit.
    LOve your new Otis by the way. Congratulations!!!

  2. Dan Evans

    Thanks for writing this Loren! It’s nice to see your influences. Recently I have been checking out many different styles to reference for my book. You sure make producing books look easy! I can’t seem to get started, as I try finding a style I like … and then have to think how to create it … then all these details come to mind and I blitz out and say .. I will try again tomorrow, and yet tomorrow becomes the next week and then next month and on and on. Haha!

    It’s nice to see you are following such a rewarding path and I wish you the best of luck as you expand and continue to inspire people young and old.

    Cheers friend!

    -Dan Evans

  3. Susan Bennett

    Loren Long has been a huge influence this year in the lives of many students in Connecticut at Hamden Hall Country Day School. He visited the school last Fall and since then the students imitated his style and created their own Chiro multi media compositions. These creations were highlighted in an art show on campus, along with the framed CHIRO charcoal drawing the Mr. Long created in front of the students and then gave to the school. It is now proudly displayed on our library for the community to appreciate.This third grade student Chiro project was developed even further with an addition element- a voice thread multi- media computer presentation where the students wrote a sentence or two about their Chiro piece. We have the image of each child’s work on the computer along with their own voice reading their sentences…so the kids became author/illustrators just as Mr. Long is….he is a Master artist to all of us here at Hamden Hall and his impact on the lives of this next generation of artists is huge!!
    Sue Bennett ( Lower School art teacher at Hamden Hall)


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