Wis. native paints Pope for Time's "Person of the Year" edition

CHICAGO (WITI) -- An artist's goal is to be seen, and a Wisconsin native achieved that goal many times over in 2013. You may not know his name, but you've likely seen the world as he sees it. His gift for faces shaped his most important piece of work for 2013.

Artist Jason Seiler draws his inspiration from the city of Chicago and its faces.

"I'm a little bit obsessed with people. I'm pretty much addicted to it.  I can never get bored of drawing people," Seiler said.

Born in Green Bay, raised in Rice Lake and Eau Claire, Seiler always wanted to draw and dreamed of having his work seen all over the world.

"There were times when my father grounded me because I drew too much.  We went to the movie theatre once, and I was drawing instead of watching the movie. He's like 'you've got problems,'" Seiler said.

It was clear he had a gift -- not just for drawing people, but drawing something out of them.

"If there's anything that I really care about, it's having a life in your work.   There's a lot of work in my opinion -- it might be a really good likeness and it might be rendered very well -- but there's something about it that's lifeless, and to me the trick is the eyes and the expression, subtle expressions.  When someone smiles, their eyes smile," Seiler said.

The 36-year-old's arms are inked, but he focuses his pen on caricatures. Largely self-taught on oils and acrylics, he learned how shadows and light create the illusion of depth, and soon, he would become a mustachioed master of the portrait -- his artwork appearing in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and more.

Due to the shrinking deadlines in a "now" world, he is on the forefront of an artistic transition. His canvas is now a computer, and he uses a 21-inch LCD screen that is pressure sensitive.

"I created my own brushes.  You still have to mix your colors.  Some people get confused and think, 'oh, you're just pushing some buttons.'  I have a screen. It's a 21-inch screen that's pressure sensitive, so I actually draw right on it, then select my color, make a palate, just like I would with oils. I do underpainting, just like I would with oils, and I build up texture and layers," Seiler said.

Seiler's stylus mimics different brushes -- but soon came a brush with fame that Seiler had always dreamed of.

He received a call from Time Magazine to paint Edward Snowden -- the government contractor who leaked classified national security secrets.

"I had to make up most of him as well, because there's not very good pictures of him.  That was the reason time hired me. They said 'could you make a cool image of him?' I wanted to make him look like a cool spy, like something from Bourne Identity or something. So I just dressed myself that way and lit myself and took pictures. I drew him attached to me sort of thing," Seiler said.

Then, Time called again, and asked for another portrait. This time, they requested a picture of a person whose humility and holiness have captivated the world -- Pope Francis.

"They wanted a nice, very calm, peaceful smile. They wanted to capture his humbleness and just the nature of this guy with just his face and his whole posture and his pose," Seiler said.

He didn't know why Time wanted it, just that Time wanted it.

"They gave me a very specific type of expression that they were looking for and I agreed with them. They wanted to capture his humbleness," Seiler said.

Seiler went to work. For 70 hours, he labored on what would become Time Magazine's "Person of the Year" cover.

"To me, this is like winning an Academy Award. As a kid, I would go to a book store, flip open Rolling Stone, and look at the art and say 'I know I can be doing this.' So to actually be doing it? I never take it for granted," Seiler said.

Snowden was the runner up for "Person of the Year" -- so Seiler painted two of the most widely-seen images of the year.