Archives for August 2012

Meet the real Marvin Mattelson, Portrait Artist & Educator

No this isn’t me. It’s a portrait of the great model Dustin, painted by my student Sam Zanger during the last workshop I led at SVA, a couple of weeks back. This was a breakthrough painting for Sam, who has been studying with me for the equivalent of six semesters. Sam is a regular in my Saturday class.

I’ve been very busy lately finishing up my summer workshops, and trying to get everything ready for the fall semester at the School of Visual Arts, where I teach, so I’ve had to put my fledgling career as a blogger on temporary hold. Once I get things settled I’ll once again be churning out more provocative points of view, and when I have time, working on my commissioned portraits–just kidding, the portraits always come first.

This coming Wednesday and Thursday there will be two open houses at the school for students interested in finding out more information about continuing education classes–of which I teach two. I will be attending both these sessions, so if you’re in the neighborhood please stop by and meet the man behind the blog.

Wednesday, September 25

School of Visual Arts

133 West 21st St., Rm 602C, New York, NY.

6:30PM to 8:30PM.

Here’s one the following night.

Thursday,  September 26

School of Visual Arts

209 East 23rd St., Rm 311, New York, NY

6:30PM – 9:30PM

Until next time…

New York City Portrait Artist Workshop-Demo Day #4: Grand Finale

Like all good things, the workshop has come to an end. The two weeks really flew by. It’s amazing how everybody bonded over the love we share for painting realistically. The rate of growth was truly astounding. I’ll try to share some of the student’s work in a future post. I know that my methods always produce great results, but it still never ceases to amaze me. It’s a great validation that the fruits of my life long search for answers is so universally effective. It’s always sad when it’s over.

Last Thursday I painted the final layer on my demonstration painting for my New York Portrait Artist Workshop. One of the main points I wanted to convey to my students was that the finishing is something that takes place at the end. That’s the biggest problem I see with so many working methodologies, too many try to finish from the get go rather than setting up the big relationships first, and play the smaller aspects off of those. I’m not saying that my approach is the only one that works, but it makes learning much less cumbersome. Trying to emulate the working methods of someone with great experience doesn’t necessarily make sense, because if an artist is good, it doesn’t mean their approach is universally applicable.

As my demo progressed the steps became much less discernible since I was constantly resolving smaller and smaller areas. My first step was to scumble over the larger areas to further unify everything:

Next I painted into the scumble trying to create greater variation of color and intensity and further develop the solidity the forms:

This is as far as I got. For the last poses I refined the eyes. I try to hold back on the important parts until everything else is in harmony. The worst thing is to have to repaint something you’ve spent a lot of time on because it just doesn’t work. Had this been a commissioned painting I would have spent several days more, but that’s the nature of demonstrations. I wanted to make the painting look as illusionistic as I could. When I finished, Myriam, the model, looked at the painting and said, “That’s me!” She had a great spirit and I wanted it to shine through.

If any of the participants are reading this, I’d love to have you share some thoughts.

Until next time…

New York City Portrait Artist Workshop-Demo Day #3

Today was my next to last demo for the August Portrait Artist Workshop at the School of Visual Arts. I worked on in my first refinement layer. The goal was to tweak color, values and drawing–not to finish anything. The first step was to scumble the existing painting to unify the lights and shadows. I then painted into the wet scumble and restated everything. The painting is now set up for my final pass on Thursday.

Here’s the painting after I restated the hair and background and scumbled over the lights and shadows:


Here I’m about halfway through restating the flesh tones:


At this point, I’ve revisited everything. Lastly I repainted the blouse.


Until next time…

New York City Portrait Artist Workshop-Demo Day #2

Today, August 9, I laid in the color over my wash-in underpainting during the second demo for my New York City Portrait Artist Workshop.

I love brushing in the color. Compared to removing the lights with a rag wrapped around my finger–during the wash-in phase–using the brush makes me feel like an eagle soaring in the clouds. Since the underpainting is very thin, the canvas texture remains intact and the paint grabs on beautifully.

During the course of my workshop demos I’m continuously explaining to my students what I am doing and why I’m doing it. Today there were many ah-has. It’s amazing how fearful people are when it comes to color mixing. Can’t really blame them–can we?–based on the confusing color mixing rhetoric that’s so liberally bandied about these days. Knowing that I’m giving my students an opportunity to rise above the frustration and obfuscation is so satisfying.

Here’s the demo:

First I made drawing adjustments using a pastel pencil over the wash-in underpainting. Once the drawing is set, I began to lay in the shapes, from large to small, least important to most and from shadow to light:

Lastly I connect the lights and shadows with my halftones. Now, all the shapes are laid in. If I wanted to be another Sargent wanna-be I would just stop here:

Here, I go back over everything. I begin to readjust the colors and modify the edges:

Here’s the painting at the end of the day. Starting to look pretty solid.

I’ll begin building up the translucency when I resume next Tuesday. Good stuff.

Until next time…

New York City Portrait Artist Workshop-Demo Day #1

My New York City Portrait Artist Workshop at the School of Visual Arts began on Monday August 6. This is the last workshop I’ll be teaching until next summer. We have two great models, Dustin and Miriam. I’m using Miriam as my model since I’ve never painted her before and I enjoy the challenge of depicting a new face in paint. Below is the progression of my underpainting on the first day of my demo.

The first step is to establish my basic drawing relationships.

Next I subdivide into smaller shapes.

Once I feel the drawing is pretty well established I begin to develop the tonal structure.

After much tweaking of drawing and values I arrive at a base on which to build the color structure. It’s not my intent to have anything finished or precise at this point. I always work towards accuracy.

Until next time…