Join Jason Seiler for an in-depth discussion in this video Jason Seiler: Digital and Traditional Painter - Film, part of Jason Seiler: Digital and Traditional Painter.
- The more character that there is in someone, the more interesting, obviously, the final's going to be. Some people might think it's obvious, "Oh, you just draw that, because it's so exaggerated, you just draw it." But the truth is, from my perspective, that it makes it a little more of a challenge because that can distract you from capturing the true likeness. My whole belief is always, how do you know your wings are going to work unless you jump off the cliff? You've got to believe that you can do it, that you can fly.
Otherwise, you're never going to know. I got in trouble in school because I kept drawing caricatures of my teachers on the paper, on my homework papers. So I got in trouble, I got brought to the principal's office. My principal, her name was Ms. Finn. She said, "I'll talk to him, you can go back to the class, now." She's like, "All right, Mister Seiler." And as soon as the guy left, she starts laughing.
She said, "This is so funny, this drawing is awesome." And I was like, "Really? Aw, cool!" Then, she commissioned me to draw nine teachers that were retiring that year. She was like, "Name your price." I think I asked for $20 a piece, and I was like, "This is amazing." That, basically was a foundation that sparked, maybe there's something to this. Maybe I am good at this, maybe I could do this more. (pop music) So, this is a painting I did recently of Steven Tyler.
It's got an element of realism, real flesh tones and everything, and that's only because the right values are placed next to the right values with the right color. I know it sounds like, "Oh, that's all it is." Well, that is all it is. When you get up close, it's not hyper-photorealism, where every little pore and everything. The way I like to work is, I like to suggest these things. The people who commissioned me to do it, they wanted it to be very exaggerated.
They basically told me they want a huge mouth, and it's got to be: it's Steven Tyler. My objective wasn't to be mean or make fun of him, I was really trying to capture the icon of who Steven Tyler is. My main objective when I do this kind of work is that it completely captures the person and the essence, and I want it to be 100% the person that I'm painting. As time went on, I started getting private commissions here and there to do caricature, and it wasn't something that just happened.
I realized, wow, it was a lot of failure, and struggle and not getting any responses from anybody, sending postcards, not hearing anything and being very, very discouraged. Eventually, I got the idea to contact no name, small magazines that no one's ever heard of before, and I just wrote these magazines, and I sent them my work, and I said, "I've seen the artwork you're using. I think you could use me." And I started doing covers and inside illustrations for a few of those magazines, got paid, basically nothing, and just kept doing it.
After a while, I had a few covers, and once I had enough covers, I sent those to bigger magazines. Eventually, the first big one I got was TIME magazine, which was awesome. But, that was basically the move. Work for people who can't really pay you so I can have something to show. (rock music) So, this is a piece that I'm working on, inspired by a song by Josh Tillman, Father John Misty.
I really love the new record, and I want to, I wanted to create a piece that felt like the music, felt like the mood. A little bit of the humor is in there, it's dark and beautiful. That's the feeling that I'm trying to put in there. I'm also doing it because, as an illustrator, I work for tons of magazines on a regular basis, but the one thing I've found, is that it doesn't matter how many times you have worked for whatever magazine it is, you have to keep reminding them, "Yoo-hoo! I'm still here!" And I've done a lot of work for Rolling Stone, I don't know, maybe ten paintings at least, and I love working for them, they're one of my favorite clients, but it's been a little bit since I've done anything for them, so when I'm finished with this, I'll send it to them and say, "Hey, I don't know if you've heard the new Father John Misty record, but it's awesome; I did this because I was inspired by the record, and I thought you guys would like it." So, because I have contacts with them, it's a much better way for me to remind them that, "Hey, you guys should use me again someday." But also, it shows them that, no matter what, he's going to be creating these pieces of art.
I've found that it's much better than just sending a postcard. Because a postcard is kind of impersonal. That, and I've been in magazines, hanging out with art directors when they get postcards in the mail, they just throw them in the garbage, they don't even look at them. (digital music) I started painting digitally, I think, around 2006. I was struggling a lot with my illustration deadlines.
It was really stressful, and I was doing mostly watercolor and acrylic paintings at the time. My dad and a buddy of mine were telling me about a tablet that you could draw and you could paint with it. And then I started seeing some digital art out there, a couple pieces I saw, I'm like, "That really does look like a painting." I thought maybe I should try it and see what happens. So, I went to Best Buy and I bought this little cheap little tablet. I messed with it just a little bit, but then I got my first...
I got a job from Muscle magazine to paint Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I was like, "I'm just going to go for it, and try it with this." But once I did that, I realized that this is painting, I can still consider this painting. And it's quicker, and I have a lot to learn, but I think I can do this. So, it was about that time that I started to doodle a little bit more, I still did some traditional for publications, but shortly after, I realized that for publication work, I'm going to stick to digital.
It just makes way more sense for the deadlines, and it really helped with the stress factor. So, now I save the traditional for my own fun, or whatever. Having an artist for a father has kind of been a weird thing, because my dad's not just an artist. In my opinion, he's one of the best artists that I know; his sketchbooks alone are just ridiculously awesome. He can do any medium, and he can do them all very well.
So, I grew up with that, but my dad didn't teach me. I was a typical kid and blew my dad off. I didn't listen. I went in a complete other direction, to where, when he would tell me something, I would not do that. (chuckles) And I don't know why kids do that, but I did that. I think what really made me become the artist I am today is, I did watch my dad draw and paint all the time, and I saw his work ethic.
He had a very strong work ethic, and I put this pressure on myself that, if I'm going to be an artist, I'd better be a damn good artist because people are going to judge me. (guitar music) Painting is a scary thing, and to this day, I still struggle with every painting. It's still hard, and it humbles you.
The moment you think you know everything about painting or drawing, uh-uh. I still feel the same way. I'm still not 100% happy with my work, I know I can do better. I know I can push harder. I know I can change things for myself, and maybe for other people, and I just want to continue doing it, and it's the most amazing thing in the world to me that I am drawing and painting for a living. One day, I just know I'm going to wake up, and I'm actually probably some farmer somewhere, and I'm so depressed that I'm daydreaming all the time that I'm an artist.
That's probably what I really am, somewhere digging ditches or something. Who knows? But right now, I'm going to believe the joke or the fantasy and see what happens next. (guitar music)
LYNDA.COM MEMBER EXCLUSIVE: Join Jason as he paints his father in the bonus videos at the end of this course. As he's working, Jason walks us through his process and shares tips on creating a caricature and achieving a sense of realism.