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Career path interview with Jason Seiler

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Date Added: 31st January 2014
Career, Interview, Digital Art,  
Nelson Mandela painted for cover of Der Spiegel - © Jason Seiler

Renowned caricature artist Jason Seiler talks to LayerPaint about his journey from sketching high school teachers to featuring on the cover of Time magazine.

Who are you and what do you do for a job?

I began my professional career in a rather unorthodox way. After getting in trouble for drawing parodies of my history teacher in high school, my quick-thinking principal hired me to draw caricatures of different faculty members. I then went on to study fine art illustration at the American Academy of Art in Chicago for two years before beginning my professional work.

My illustrations and paintings have been featured as covers and interior pieces for Rolling Stone, Billboard, The Utne Reader, TIME, The New Yorker, Der Spiegel, Business Week, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, MAD magazine, GOLF Digest, AD WEEK, KING magazine, Revolver, Guitar Player, The Village Voice, Penguin Group, Disney, The New York Observer, New Line Cinema, Universal Pictures, Aardman Animation, and Sony Image, among others. I have also worked as a character designer on Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, helping to create such characters as the Red Queen, the Tweedles, the Bandersnatch and more.

Pope Francis, painted for Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2013 cover - © Jason Seiler

My work has been exhibited several times at the Society of Illustrators in New York as well as at the Society of Illustrators West, where I was awarded the silver medal for my portrait of Elvis Costello. My work has also been exhibited in Communication Arts Magazine, American Illustration 29 annual, Taschen’s Illustration Now! 3, and the book, Digital Arts Masters: Volume 6. In December of 2013, I painted Pope Francis for Time magazine’s "Person of the Year" cover. In 2014, I was awarded the Patrick Nagel Award of Excellence at the Society of Illustrators West.

I am also a member of the Society of Illustrators NY. I have been an art instructor for several years with Schoolism, the online art school created by Imaginism Studios in Toronto.

Susan Boyle painted for self promotion - © Jason Seiler

What were your childhood inspirations and earliest artistic memory?

When I was a kid I was obsessed with drawing anything and everything. I loved drawing animals, fish, sharks, birds . . . anything and everything. Later, I began to draw comic book characters! Lot's of Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman, and of course the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Somewhere along the way I started to draw people, and mostly people I knew or saw. I began to exaggerate and push features and just having fun when drawing. I didn't realize that what I was doing at that time was called caricature. All I knew is I loved it.

My inspirations at the time was mostly MAD magazine and eventually I started noticing caricature illustration in magazines and started collecting pages from those magazines, and using those torn out pages as flash cards. Norman Rockwell fit in perfect and became my ultimate inspiration and remains one of my main inspirations to this day.

Ed Snowden painted for the Time Magazine's Person of the Year issue - © Jason Seiler

What training have you had (if any)?

I am self taught for the most part. When I was 26 I was already working professionally but decided to go to art school for a bit in hopes of it helping me become faster with deadlines. In 2004 I attended the American Academy of Art before quitting in 2006. I did my general education and a few life drawing classes. It's a great school but I realized I was ready and wanted to get busy working for magazines full-time rather than spending that time on homework assignments.

Wagner painted for cover of Der Spiegel - © Jason Seiler

Are there any particular schools or courses that you'd recommend?

I would recommend Not just because I teach for Schoolism, but because it's one of the best ways for an artist to grow and to grow quickly. All the teachers that teach for Schoolism are the top of the line in their particular field. You get to work one on one with some of the best artists in the industry!

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