Lovell said that he was fortunate to earn seven dollars per illustration at a time when most authors only earned one cent a word. In 1937 Lovell switched to the more "glamorous, sophisticated slick," magazines. During World War II, Lovell served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an illustrator for their publication, Leatherneck Magazine. He illustrated the stories for many popular magazines including National Geographic, Life, Time, Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Woman's Home Companion, McCall's, and Collier's. His illustrations also sprinkled the pages of the works authored by Edna Ferber, Louis Bromfield, Paul Gallico, and Sinclair Lewis.
Lovell began concentrating on Western art when he stopped illustrating for magazines in 1968. In 1973 he was invited to become a Charter member of the National Academy of Western Artists, and is the only artist to twice receive their Prix de West Award. In 1974 he was elected to the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame, and in 1975 became a member of the Cowboy Artists of America. In 1992 he received the Robert Loughweed Award from NAWA as well as their Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1994 he displayed several pieces at the National Academy of Western Artists Show in Oklahoma City.
Although drawn from history, Lovell’s paintings are fresh and vital, never tired or hackneyed. He paid great attention to detail and because of this, seldom completed more than a dozen major oil paintings a year.
Tom Lovell died in a tragic car crash in New Mexico on 29 June 1997, aged 88.