TIME Magazine's 2013 "Person of the Year", Pope Francis

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Jason Seiler and his digital painting of Pope Francis.
© Photos by Jason Seiler, Ava Seiler and Jacqueline Patrice.

The American Academy of Art is thrilled to announce that former student Jason Seiler has illustrated the cover for Time magazine’s 2013 “Person of the Year” – Pope Francis.

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Jason Seiler/TIME

The print magazine hit shelves on Friday, December 13. Time did a story on Jason and his work creating this outstanding illustration of the first non-European pope in 1,200 years here.

“This magazine cover illustration of Pope Francis for Time was as challenging an assignment as it was a huge honor,” explained Seiler.

Seiler, who finished his studies at the Academy in 2006, spent 70 hours creating the image of Pope Francis on a 21-inch LCD display. He utilized many of the same techniques he employs when painting with oils or acrylics. Interestingly, Jason also created the illustration for Time magazine’s second-place runner-up for its 2013 “Person of the Year”, Edward Snowden. You can see the image and read the story on Snowden here.

Seiler’s illustrations and paintings have also been featured as covers and interior pieces for Rolling Stone, Billboard, The Utne Reader, The New Yorker, Der Spiegel, Business Week, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, MAD magazine, GOLF Digest, AD WEEK, and many other publications. Seiler has also worked for Disney, New Line Cinema, Universal Pictures, Aardman Animation and Sony Image among others.

Seiler’s watercolor instructor at the Academy in 2005, Mat Barber Kennedy, had this to share about teaching Jason: “His talent and pride in his work were instantly apparent as were his determination and dedication to improve. These elements of his character have helped him to build such a successful career. I enjoyed teaching Jason and am immensely proud both of his artistic achievements and of the way that he has handled himself as a man of integrity.”

A Digital Painter for 10 Years

Based on Jason’s need to meet tight deadlines from magazine clients, he taught himself how to paint digitally in 2004. Jason purchased a small, cheap tablet to “test out” digital art. He created and was paid for a painting of Arnold Schwarzenegger that first week and has been painting digitally ever since. His tool of choice: a Wacom Cintiq.

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“In my opinion this is a must for anyone serious about being a professional. I love it because it feels very natural. It is a pressure-sensitive, 21" LCD screen. I can draw and paint directly on the screen, allowing me to work faster,” Seiler explained. “I have created my own brushes and technique to painting digitally that make the experience and my work product almost the same as if I were working traditionally. I paint digitally now for every assignment that I get for publication – movies, books, posters, you name it. I only do traditional work for myself for some up coming shows and for private commissions.”

Artist Painting Celebrity becomes a Celebrity

The Time cover of Pope Francis has yielded a lot of media interest in Jason, including interviews in Chicago with ABC-7, FOX News (twice), and WTTW-Channel 11, and with Time Magazine, Vanity Fair and The Huffington Post.

Jason Seiler’s Advice to Student Artists

Acknowledging the challenge of becoming a successful artist, Jason emphasized how important an unshakable work ethic is. “School will be a waste unless you, the student, put in hard work and time,” Seiler explained. “If you don't give 110 percent, you are wasting everyone's time and your money. You need to push and compete with yourself (and other students) on every assignment. It’s essential to master the basics of drawing and painting. Only then will you eventually stumble upon your own style and look, or voice. So, the fundamentals are very important!”

Making Art is Still Hard

Jason explains that every piece he creates has its challenges. “There is always a point in almost every piece I do that I feel like I am struggling or failing. It's problem solving. You simply have to do what you can to push through it. If there weren't challenges, it would become boring, and so would my work. I enjoy the struggle, it makes me better.”

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