Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The World has Lost a great Artist, but I have lost a good friend!

Last night I received the worst news, that my dear friend of 9 years, Ismael Roldan passed away at the young age of 45. This is very difficult for me to accept, I'll try to keep this brief, but I just want to share a little bit about Ismael and what he meant to me.

Years ago, when I was first getting started as a professional artist, I was really struggling to figure out how to get work, how to develop my art professionally in a way that would grab the attention of art directors. I wasn't getting the kind of work that I wanted and I was getting tired of seeing the same artists being published over and over again and not understanding how they got where they were? I had a handful of artists at that time that were my inspiration. I would collect they're work out of magazines and hang them on the wall in my studio. I thought that if I surrounded myself with excellence, I would eventually pick up some of this excellence.

One of my most favorite artists at the time was Ismael Roldan. His work was inspiring to look at. Great exaggeration and likeness, great structure, humor, draftsmanship, perspective, you name it, he was what I wanted to be like.

So one day I gathered up the courage to write him an email, I basically told him that I was a big fan of his work and that I would love to work for publications as well, I thanked him for the inspiration and I attached a piece I had just finished that I was really proud of (to show him what I could do).

Well, I wasn't sure if he would ever write back, but to my astonishment, he wrote back that very same day. I remember being so excited and nervous to read the email. The email was straight up IN YOUR FACE truth about how horrible my work was! A very harsh and blunt critique. He told me my hands sucked, that I lacked knowledge in structure and form, and he actually went on and on. Even though the critique was harsh, he was able to somehow be very kind, he said one good thing, he said I could render like non other, but that won't help any if I can't fix the rest of my problems.

I was crushed, but at the same time, I was motivated to prove myself to Ismael. I didn't want this artist that I looked up to so much to think I was horrible. So I began to work on the things that he pointed out flawed in my work. I drew hand after hand after hand. I worked on skulls, and bone structure, I studied cross hatching and form. I sent him email after email, everything I did, I would send to him. And every time, he'd slam me harder than the time before.

I kept coming back for more, time and time again. Eventually, we became close friends, and slowly, we also became "peers" and we began to exchange work with each other seeking perspective and ideas from one another. I still remember the first time he sent me one of his paintings and wanted me to be honest and tell him what I thought about it. As time went on, we began more and more to talk about our kids and how important they were and how blessed we felt to have kids. Occasionally we'd talk about art, but mostly about life and what we were up to that week.

This is me with Ismael last year at the ISCA's 17Th Annual caricature convention where I won the Gold Nosey as well as many other awards, including a Guest of Honor Awarded by Ismael. That award meant more to me than any of them, and receiving that award from Ismael felt like coming full circle as an artist. I remember seeing him in the crowd as I received my awards, he looked like a proud older brother. Ismael told me that the first email he sent to me was so harsh, because he wanted me to know the truth so I would improve, but mostly he didn't think I'd ever bother him again. It was to his astonishment that I wrote back again and again. He tried to get rid of me, but instead fused a friendship that I hold very dear.

I will never forget the kindness and time Ismael shared with me. He took me under his wing and I wouldn't be where I am today as an artist if it wasn't for his talent and kindness. I feel as if I have lost a friend, a mentor, an inspiration, but mostly, a brother.

Throughout the years, Ismael and I exchanged caricatures of each other. This is the most recent one that he did of me, and the most recent one that I did of him. We also exchanged originals, I own several originals of his. He also sent me books throughout the years of artists that he thought would inspire me. The man was generous.

Ismael, you will truly be missed!


Blogger Tina Steele Lindsey said...

Jason, I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend and mentor. I am certain by your words the friendship and bond was eternal, the connection will never be lost. You were certain to have been as much a blessing in his life, honored him in art and in life, and continue to do so. I am sure he was very proud of you, and cherished you as well.
I will tell you something something someone wrote me when I lost my art mentor and friend, my father, last year. They wrote, "Now you paint for the both of you." You do the same, Jason. Hugs and blessings your way.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its sad, my friend. I'm sorry for your loss. You are a great inspiration yourself to many of us!

7:36 AM  
Blogger Rock Cowles said...

Its sad, my friend. I'm sorry for your loss. You are a great inspiration yourself to many of us!

7:37 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Sorry for your loss, but I'm really glad you found such a mentor. Peace

7:40 AM  
Blogger Patrick LaMontagne said...

Thanks for sharing your grief, Jason, which is obviously very personal. This sort of thing is never easy, and reminds us how you never know how much time you have with those you truly care about. I'm sorry for your loss.

7:40 AM  
Blogger cableclair said...

Absolutely heartbreaking that he is gone so soon, especially after your inspiring story. I am extremely sorry for your loss. I wish you a ton of strength! Absolutely horrible to have to go through. My heart breaks for you. Stay strong!

7:45 AM  
Anonymous alisakg said...

Your posting was very moving and it made me wish that I had known him. I heard him speak at what as the NCN convention last year and when I talked with him after I let him know how much I enjoyed his lecture and pieces.

I have always felt that the highest honor I can bestow on people that have impacted my life in such a positive way is to share their wisdom with others.

His relationship with you help bring your talents to the people who are inspired by your work (myself being one of them) and for that I too was blessed.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Carlos Rubio said...

Oh man, That is a very sad news. He was a truly source of inspiration for all of us.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Larry said... always comes this seemingly moving always forward, then the carpet suddenly gets pulled out beneath you and reality hits.

Never easy....

You know I've lost some good personal friends, perhaps the most difficult was my dad..

My heart is with you today...and let God speak truth to you thru this. A time to have sensitive hearing in the deep inner man...

Your work will be a tribute and honor one day the work of others will be to you. You've given some good gems of deep truth as concerns how one gets better, the brutality of it. There is a bigger looming question that haunts us as we get older, which is the why(?) of it...and this is the place where deep speaks unto deep.

peace my son, and brother...


8:36 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

The world has truly lost someone very special. I am so sorry to hear about this. What a wonderful story of true friendship! Thanks for sharing with us.

8:41 AM  
Blogger J. Anthony Kosar said...

Hey Jason,

I truly am sorry for this loss. Nobody ever knows the reasons why people are taken from us, especially the great ones, and especially when they are taken so young. The best thing to remember is what they left behind. Not only did he create some amazing art, but he helped shape you into the artist and great guy you have become. Thats what is important to remember and to cherish. Take care my friend.

With Sympathy,


9:03 AM  
Blogger Kaexi said...

Sorry to hear this bad news. I also learnt a lot from him, I often visited his blog also, his such a good caricaturist...why suddenly...

9:17 AM  
Blogger Cody said...

I feel ignorant that I have never heard of him until now, but he truly was a great artist, and a great person by the sounds of it. I wish more people were as open with their knowledge as he was. Thanks for sharing such a great story.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Wouter Tulp said...

That's very sad news. I was shocked to hear it.... I met Ismael in New York some years ago. He was such a nice an generous and talented man. I consider him a great artist and a good frind. I will miss him!

2:17 PM  
Blogger Nelson Santos said...

Jason i share the same experience than you i still remember when i started drawing caricatures i sent an email to Ismael and he was harsh as well but he made me realize the battle ahead. I have also exchanged with him a caricature and i am very proud of having the original sketch he kindly sent to me. One of my regrets is havent been in the convention last year and meeting him in person. God bless him for being such a nice person.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ismael was the first professional illustrator that I was ever actually aware of enough to follow his work.

The only email I ever sent him was to question some pen and ink techniques, and he did reply right away and was very polite. (I didn't send him any of my work.)

When I picked up my paints and pens again years later, I stumbled across Jason Seiler, and would tell people my favorite artists were Jason and Ismael.

And I didn't even know you guys were so close (though I had seen the Nosey pictures). I am very sorry to hear of his passing both because that is a loss to our overall culture of course, and to you personally Jason.

God bless

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And a testimony to how many people loved his artwork, his webpage - as of this writing - has crashed due to the overwhelming traffic.

8:24 PM  
Blogger LarsER Arts said...

I feel for you, and his family and I hope god will give you all peace!
I didn't even get a chance to met him and I remember when I couldn't make it to the convention with him as a guest speaker. I was telling my wife I really liked his style and I really thought I could learn something from him!
I am struggling with the agent and marketing myself to get more of my work published, soo if you don't mind I am going to start to send you my work as well! I know you are busy with balancing your family, and your art. But I will have to be honest and tell you that I really wish I could do my work full time, and if there is any advice you could give my that would be great!!! Once again I feel this world is a scary place when just a 45 year old (Just 7 years older than me, wow time flys) passes on with soo much more to offer! I will keep him in my prayers and I will make an annoucement at our bible study at my church tonight!

9:21 PM  
Blogger carl said...

Sorry to hear about the news. Mortality is a scary thing. The only thing we can do is live life the best way we can and tell those we love how much they mean to us. I'm sure Ismael is smiling down on you for your wonderful memories of him. Take care.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Mugshotz said...

I was shocked when I heard His art speaks for itself, hearing the kind words everyone is saying, and hearing your story makes things a little more bearable. I'm glad to have met him briefly. It was all I needed to know what a genuine person he was. I can say the same for you as well, my friend.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Javier Quijano Llicán said...

Buenos trabajos!!!

12:21 AM  
Blogger W. K. Moore said...

Seems not having a "yes" man in your early professional career paid off - at least in the case of Ismael. Mounting the challenge and overcoming obstacles... well what can I say.. impressive story. One way to not become a talented failure has just been told.. thanks for that.

12:45 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

No one is self taught. everyone elses art helps structure our own needs when persuing goals and ambitions. If an artist is honest 1st to himself and then to to others he will gain respect along with improvement in his own craft. Sharing knowledge is the only way we get to appreciate the hard work and skill someone puts into their art. Thanks to these blogs i feel that i have improved and become a better person. Thanks to Ismael.

1:10 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Aller said...

My prayers and thoughts go out to you and his family. It was such a moving story you shared with us and I thank you for doing so. I am sure he is smiling down and very proud of you and what you've done...god bless.

4:27 AM  
Blogger cabap said...

what a wonderful story of true friendship! Thanks for sharing with us.
My prayers and thoughts go out to you and his family,
jan .

5:52 AM  
Blogger pablo pablo said...

Great works!

7:19 AM  
Blogger ramanjit said...

sorry sir............
i just saw his blog you are very right a great artist and after reading your feeling i have tear in my eyes such a great love for both of you great friends.
sir larry is very right....."this is the place where deep speaks unto deep".

7:23 AM  
Blogger Aaron Wilkin said...

Hey Jason, sorry for your loss. I wasn't too familiar with Ismael's work, but I can see that he was a very talented artist!! Very sad!!!!! 45 is such a young age!!! Those harsh criticism's always sting a bit at first, but afterwards you are so glad that someone was being honest with you!!!

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason, this is a message from France.

I'm sad for Ismael, his family, wife and son...i hope in my heart that he is in peace...there are things so strange and sad in this life...we have to hope happyness and good life for everyone...

Sorry for my english, i can't explain my émotion in english better than this.


4:07 PM  
Blogger Asier said...

Sorry for your loss Jason.He was an incredible artist.

8:58 PM  
Blogger jagdish said...

hi ..., I like your style very very much.If you dont mind can
you join my blog in your blog list....? I'll very thankful...!
my blog is

5:19 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

I'm sorry for your loss Jason.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Adrian Lubbers said...

My heart goes out to you Jason. Words can never take away the loss in you have suffered, but know that his guidance and frienship has made you a better person and so many of us benefit from that as well. The reach of a great man extends far beyond his imidiate friends.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Daniel Paiva said...

you is monster!!!!!!!!!
parabéns pelas belas produções, estarei seguindo seu trabalho pelo blogger. Thanks

5:49 PM  

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