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CHARLES PAYZANT (1898-1980)​

"Setting Up the Big Top"

"Setting Up the Big Top"

13" x 20", Watercolor on Paper 20109

Charles Payzant (1898-1980)

St. George Charles Payzant, as his birth certificate reads, was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada. During World War I he served in the 193rd Nova Scotia Highlanders and the Royal Flying Corps. He then received art instruction in England and Canada. In the early 1920s, he moved to Los Angeles and continued his art education at the Otis Art Institute and the Chouinard Art Institute.


By the mid 1920s, he was working as a freelance commercial artist, producing illustrations in watercolor and line art. Payzant also began producing fine art watercolors painted on location around Los Angeles. His background in illustration was apparent in many of these works and gave them a quality unlike what most of the California watercolorists were producing. They were very early examples of what would later be known as the California Style of watercolor painting.


In 1930, he began exhibiting these works in the California Water Color Society shows and as the younger artists were developing their style, he was refining his already developed approach and was winning a number of awards. He painted on location and often chose to depict city street scenes with people, cars and buildings. His approach to watercolor painting was direct and confident. 


The turbulent economic times of the 1930s and 1940s forced artists around the country to seek alternative employment. Many of the California Regionalists took up work designing for studios in Hollywood as a means of earning their livelihood when their private commissions failed to suffice financially. In 1934, he took a job painting watercolor backgrounds for Walt Disney Studios. He produced art for many cartoon shorts and did elaborate backgrounds for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Pinocchio", "Fantasia", "Dumbo", "Make Mine Music", "Bambi" and "The Three Caballeros".


The skills he developed while painting with watercolor on a daily basis, greatly improved his ability to produce fine art watercolors when painting for pleasure.


After the War, Payzant returned to freelance work and continued his illustrative work on children’s books written by his wife, Terry Shannon-Payzant. He also served as art director for an educational series called the Dick and Jane series of grade school readers through the MacMillan Publishing Company. During this time, Payzant also wrote multiple articles and short stories published in the Los Angeles Times. Throughout the rest of his life, Payzant continued to paint in the California Regionalist style, completing multiple murals through private commissions. Charles Payzant died in Corona del Mar, California in 1980 at the age of 82.


Biography adapted from the Interview with Terry Shannon Payzant, 1983 & the Sullivan Goss biography.



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