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Friday, June 17, 2011

Caricaturist Jason Seiler


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Chicago-based Master caricaturist Jason Seiler is a triple threat. First and foremost, Jason is an artist. Each illustration is hand-drawn (digitally or with traditional oils and paints) and wonderfully detailed. Jason is also a professional, having been featured in notable publications around the globe (TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Businessweek, etc.) and even doing character design for Tim Burton. He’s also an educator, teaching art for the last few years with Schoolism. Happily married and father to two daughters, a sample of Jason’s incredible work can be found below with information on his artistic process and how it all began, enjoy!

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IT WAS ALL A DREAM
Jason Seiler began his professional career in a rather unorthodox way. After getting in trouble for drawing parodies of his history teacher in high school, Jason’s quick-thinking principle hired him to draw caricatures of different faculty members. A professional artist was born. Jason went on to study fine art illustration at the American Academy of Art in Chicago for two years before beginning his professional work in earnest.
Jason’s humorous illustrations have been featured as covers and interior pieces for TIME, Business Week, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, MAD magazine, GOLF magazine, KING magazine, Revolver, Guitar Player, The Village Voice, Penguin Group, Disney, The New York Observer, D Magazine, The Bloomberg Market, New Line Cinema, Universal Pictures, Aardman Animation, and Sony Image, among others. Jason 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.

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WHERE’S JASON?
Jason has published two books of his art: Caricature the Art of Jason Seiler and the coffee-table book, SEILER 2008-2009, featuring many of his humorous portraits and illustrations. Jason has also produced an instructional DVD entitled, Sketching with Jason Seiler.
Jason’s work has been exhibited several times at the Society of Illustrators in New York as well as at the Society of Illustrators West, where Jason was awarded the silver medal for his portrait of Elvis Costello. His work has also been exhibited in Communication Arts Magazine, American Illustration 29 annual, Taschen’s Illustration Now! 3, and the book, Digital Masters (2010).
Jason is a member of the Society of Illustrators NY. He has been an art instructor for several years with Schoolism, the online art school created by Imaginism Studios in Toronto. Jason currently lives in Chicago with his lovely wife, Kat, and his two irresistibly beautiful daughters, Isabeau and Ava

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ARTISTIC PROCESS
Many artists can draw a decent likeness of a well-known face, but the challenge is to capture not just the likeness but the character of the person. Capturing this truth, or essence, is, for me, the most important factor in considering a portrait successful or not. By observing the unique qualities of the individual, I am able (hopefully) to render a realistic depiction beyond mere likeness. One of my favorite ways to do this is through exaggerated form; the slightest push of an expression or posture, in just the right place, can tell the viewer quite a bit.
A traditional painter at heart, I love working with oil, acrylic and watercolor. However, due to the fast-paced world of publishing, I have taught myself how to paint digitally using a Wacom, 21” Cintiq. This amazing piece of technology allows me to work naturally, intuitively drawing and painting directly on the LCD display. My technique when painting digitally is very similar to the way I paint with oils or acrylics. I tend to work from dark to light, focusing mainly on values and color harmony. I never use any form of photo manipulation. The work that I create digitally is hand drawn and painted. Working digitally has its advantages for both myself and art directors: no fuss or time spent on scanning and color correcting, ability to make changes quickly and easily, and the time it takes me to create a painting digitally versus traditionally is cut in half. The best part is that the final result looks like a traditional painting. The results are so similar that people often confuse my traditional and digital paintings, unable to tell which is which.
Before beginning a piece I generally create several thumbnail sketches. Doing thumbnails is a simple and quick way for me to find interesting compositions and explore character shape and proportion. I use my thumbnail sketches like short-hand notes; typically, I don’t share them with art directors, unless they ask, as they can be confusing to anyone but myself. After developing the thumbnails, I quickly move on to the sketch.

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ARTISTIC PROCESS continued…
By this stage, having the idea and composition set, I begin to take pictures for reference. Using friends and myself as models, I can control the lighting, folding in clothing, poses, hand gestures and expressions. (I have used my own face many times for creating expression for my subjects; it pays to have a rubber face!) After gathering all the references I will need, I do a final sketch. I love to draw and I because I believe that drawing is the foundation for my art, I take special care to get it just right. If the drawing is right, the painting will be right.

A strong drawing and composition must come first. Often times, I prefer sketching on a toned background rather than a white background. This helps me lay down my line work and quickly establish light and darks, giving my sketch depth and a life of its own in a very short amount of time.

Once the sketch is approved, I prepare it for painting. I typically cover my entire sketch with a thin layer of raw umber, using the sketch in the same way an under-painting is utilized in traditional painting.
My paintings tend to have a lot of detail, but don’t let that fool you. The details are only the final touches. The most important thing is the drawing, and once I have that to my satisfaction I focus on capturing light and establishing strong values. I create a limited palette and use only those colors for the duration of the painting.
Because of my experience with painting in oil and acrylic, painting digitally comes naturally; mixing color digitally is done basically the same way it is done traditionally, only easier and quicker. It can be a temptation for digital painters to get carried away and create near-photo, realistic results, but, for me, this approach is against all that I love about painting. I enjoy finding a thumbprint on a painting or seeing loose hairs from a paintbrush entombed forever in the art. I purposely leave brush marks visible, knowing that as long as the lighting and values are correct, the painting will still have a very realistic look and quality alongside its traditional feel.

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