Cleveland Ohio Portrait Workshop – June 9 thru 21, 2014

Here’s a little flyer I created for my June Ohio Workshop:

Cleveland 2014

I hope to see you there.

Included in the tuition are five lectures. For those who can’t attend the workshop but would like to hear these presentations, lecture tickets are available and can be purchased separately.

For further information about the workshop and lectures, you can check out my site: http://www.fineartportrait.com/cleveland2014.html or you can contact my friend Patty Joyce who’s running the whole shebang. Please call Patty at 216.258.5424 or send her an email at pjoyce55@yahoo.com

Masters Secret Summit & Moi!

Marvin-interview

An Online Interview With Marvin Mattelson, Portrait Artist And Educator

Check out The Masters Secret Summit. It’s the creative brainchild of Kathryn Lloyd: a series of 21 Skype interviews with a variety of artist/teachers of representational art conducted by Kathryn, a charming and most gracious west coast artist.

I talk about my evolutionary path from clueless art student to whatever it is you want to call what I’ve become, pitfalls you should try your best to avoid, as well as my thoughts on what it takes to become the artist you aspire to be. If you are interested, you can register for the series at this site: www.themastersecretssummit.com. After you sign up, you will be emailed a link and you’ll be notified when each new interview is released. Best off all it is free.

My interview is now available at www.juskathryn.com/blog/marvin-mattelson/. There’s a form for those who wish to comment.

Let me know what you think.

Until next time…

Take a Look at Yourself

Are You the Portrait Artist You Aspire to Be?

Self-Portrait_Renee

Bo Diddley sang: Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself. I think this applies perfectly with regards to our goal of achieving artistic fulfillment. Everyone has very real and legitimate excuses. The truth is, in life, you can either have reasons or results! So before you accuse your circumstances, take a good look at yourself.

I get a lot of inquiries from people asking for advice and hints about how to paint better portraits, often stating that painting is the most important thing in their lives. They ask me, “What colors do you use; what mediums do you mix in with your paints; is there a book you can recommend?” It’s obvious they’re hoping to find a spark or a breadcrumb that will magically convert them into the portrait artist they see in their minds eye.

I recently received an email, from my student Renee Finkelstein. In it was an image of her latest painting, the beautiful self portrait I’ve posted here. Renee signed up for my continuing education course, Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting at The School of Visual Arts a year ago. She followed up that class by attending my annual SVA summer workshop. You may recall that I documented her incredible progress in a blog post entitled You Can Get There From Here.

This is what she had to say in her email:

I told you during the summer workshop that I would send along my email address and a testimonial. For some reason I wanted to wait until I’d finished a new painting to send along as well. So here’s what I’ve done since your class, and the testimonial. I will likely be back this Spring if it works out schedule-wise. Thanks for all you do and I look forward to more! May the New Year be joyous and inspiring!

Self-Portrait_Renee-2
And here is her testimonial:

Before taking Marvin’s classes, I was looking at a journey of several years to develop myself as an artist. Several years, that is, if I had unlimited funds, time and patience to research approaches and palettes to see what worked through a great ordeal of trial and error. Taking Marvin’s class allowed me to skip that whole process. He generously offers students the bounty of his years of hard work and research, shows you all that he has found, and allows you to take it from there. Marvin once believed he would never be able to paint for his life. Having come so far, he truly believes that anyone can do it. That is what makes an exceptional teacher. There are other classes that are cheaper, but if you actually want to learn how to paint a portrait, take Marvin Mattelson’s class.

Realistic Figure And Portrait Painting – Fridays 12-6
Realistic Figure And Portrait Painting – Saturdays 10-4

Until next time…

SVA Spring/Winter Continuing Education Classes: Realistic Figure & Portrait Painting

Evan_full

Evan_face

Happy New Year!

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to start the new year than by taking a life painting class with me. Can you? Every time I take a class or workshop with myself at the helm I get markedly better. It’s like magic. That’s why I keep doing it. It’s exciting and inspiring and I truly believe there’s nothing like it out there.  If you want to raise up the level of your work, this is the time and place to do it. But don’t take my word for it. Follow this link to my site and read the comments posted by many of my former students. See what they have to say on the matter.

Above is a recent portrait commission I completed, Portrait of Evan. When I was in art school, the idea of being able to do anything even remotely resembling the painting displayed here was beyond my wildest dream. Back then I promised myself, if I ever had the fortune to actually figure this out, I would become the teacher I wished I’d had. It took a lifetime of study, dedication, frustration and perseverance to get to where I am today, but I eventually transformed that sad pathetic soul, who knew for a fact that he could never paint to save his life, and transform him into the artist responsible for the painting above! For those with similar goals the struggle doesn’t need be so drawn out. The kind of information and training I have created can make as huge a difference for you as it has for me.

I’ll be teaching two continuing education classes for the upcoming winter/spring semester at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Both of the classes are titled, Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting. Each class is divided into 12 six-hour sessions. There will be two professional models posing for each class session, one portrait and one figure. Every student has a clear view of the model they are painting. The classes are not overcrowded like in many schools, where it feels like your model is in the next zip code. The facilities are top-notch. The duration for each pose is approximately half a semester. During the course I thoroughly demonstrate and explain my approach to realistic painting. I will demonstrate the underpainting phase, the lay-in of the color as well as finishing techniques. In addition, I will show you how I lay out my palate and explain a practical and bulletproof form of color theory. There is a reason for every action so while I demonstrate I clearly explain what I’m doing and why. I am present and teaching the entire duration of each class. There are no monitors or assistants giving second and third hand feedback. Just me, Marvin Mattelson!

This class is for artists of all levels, from rank beginners to the most advanced. My students progress is unfathomable, compared to what you see in other classes and workshops. A well known teacher of academic painting – who for obvious reasons chooses to remain nameless – said he had never seen the kind of progress he witnessed in my class, and that included his own teaching. By the end of the semester mind numbing progress takes place for those who surrender and cast off the shackles of myopic methodologies.

Old habits die hard…what you’ve done up to now is both the reason for your current success but, unfortunately, also the reason you aren’t the artist you aspire to be. I break down and streamline the key aspects of the painting process into digestible and understandable pieces, casting aside archaic rules and regulations and mythologies passed down from one uninformed instructor to the next. One of my recent students, Cynthia Brewster, eloquently stated:

“Each component is so logical, and allows me to review in my mind as I am reading. You always have something new to add, as well, from an historical or technical perspective. What I like best is that you have done the research from which I benefit! You do not create rules, but give a clearer path for making decisions.”

My goal is to develop artists whose full understanding allows them to manifest their own intrinsic artistic sensibilities without the constraints of rules and considerations. My teaching is an outgrowth of my own forty-year journey to discover the core truths that lie at the heart of all great painting. Whether you want to be a portrait artist, a figurative painter, a still life painter, a landscape painter or even an abstract artist, the valuable lessons that you will learn about painting will serve you in reaching whatever artistic aspirations you may have.

The Friday class begins January 31 and the Saturday class starts the following day, February 1. Sign up by clicking on the following links:  register for Friday’s class and/or register for Saturday’s class. Registration is now in progress. The classes are also available for undergraduate credit. For more info please call the Department of Continuing Education at 212-592-2050. If you’d like additional information regarding my teaching you can go to the teaching page on my website and follow the numerous links.

For those interested, there is an open house for fine art continuing education classes that I will be attending, if you would like to meet me and discuss my teaching or any other subject of your choosing. The fine arts information session takes place on Wednesday, January 8 from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM. It’s open to the general public free of charge. It will be held that 133/141 W. 21st St., room 602C in New York City. I hope to see you there.

Until next time…

In the Dark About Black?

St-JeromeI consider black to be an indispensable and versitile color which I utilize wherever and whenever I deem it most appropriate. Obviously I’m in the minority, because conventional thinking seems to be leaning in the opposite direction. Black is apparently not too beautiful when it comes to it’s usage as a pigment. I think there are a lot of associated misunderstandings and misconceptions, so I’m taking this opportunity to set the record straight. Consider it my post-Christmas pre-new year’s gift to you!

If you’ve read my past posts, you know my biggest peeve (one of them anyway) is with regards to rules, and specifically, those that pertain to art making. I tell my students all the time: rules are for fools…the truth shall set ye free! The point of rules is to snatch decision making from the huddled masses incapable of formulating intelligent choices on their own behalf. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps it’s a subject better suited as a theme for a thesis on psychological deficiencies rather than a blog post by some random artist, so for the sake of brevity, I’ll move on to the subject at hand: that poor little misunderstood pigment, black!

Every artist is a creator. Being strapped with rules does nothing to enhance this capability. Rules are tremendously limiting. Making art is about being in the moment – in the now. Thinking what did so and so say about this situation takes us back into the past. Many teachers strap their students with a myriad of rules, as opposed to the conveyance of understanding. It’s easy to spot. When the work of students bears an uncanny resemblance to that of their teacher, rote non-thinking is in the air. It means the ability to make choices has been uncermoniously supplanted by dictatorial rhetoric.

As a result, options get buried under the banner of: never do this; always do that. The use, or more specifically, the non-use of black is the poster child of all art rules. After all, the almighty impressionists never used black!! They also demeaned the training they received at the French Academy. Many artists would rather have their eyes gouged out (I’m exaggerating here for dramatic effect) than put a dab of black on their precious palettes.

We’ve all heard the justifications. Black muddies your colors. Black kills the picture. Black in a landscape sucks away atmospheric effects. Black doesn’t exist in nature. Black isn’t a real color. It’s always better to mix your own black. Only amateur artists use black. Never use black, use blue instead.

Well, that’s all nice to hear, but the truth is: denying yourself the use of black would be like writing a novel using a truncated alphabet.

To put black in historical perspective:

  • Rembrandt used black.
  • Rubens used black.
  • Van Dyke used black.
  • Vermeer used black.
  • Lawrence used black.
  • Raeburn used black.
  • Bouguereau used black.
  • Gerome used black.
  • Paxton used black.
  • Sargent used black.
  • Zorn used black

Exactly what artist, of equivalent merit, eschews(ed) the use of black? Anders Zorn used four colors, one of which was black! So why did black get such a bad rap? Very simple, due to misuse through ignorance, the rule fairy came out, cast her wicked spell, and the masses bowed down. But lets not be so quick to throw the baby out with the bath water.

The question here, is how was it misused and what can be done about it? To the best of my knowledge, there are just two problematic issues. The first deals with inappropriate color mixing. In the past, certain artists, like El Greco (see the painting, above) used black to darken their colors – as evidenced in the painting of St. Jerome’s hands. The muddy lifeless color perfectly exemplifies the shortcomings of this approach. The second problem is related to cracking on the surface of paintings. If you go to a museum, you can see this phenomena is more prevalent in the darks. Ivory black is very, very…wait for it…very slow drying. Oil paint dries from the outside in. If you attempt to paint over a slow drying color – which hasn’t thoroughly dried – it will eventually crack.

But black can also be a very potent and powerful tool. Black is the lowest valued pigment and gives us the ability to indicate the darkest accents. It’s also very useful if you want to darken an already dark color. Now, it may lower the chroma a bit, but how much chroma is actually evident in the deep shadows of nature. The hue shifts that may occur when adding black to lower the value of dark colors are inconsequential in my experience – since, in a low value range, the chroma is fairly subdued to begin with. Sometimes you need to make a choice: value vs chroma. Give up black and you no longer have that option.

Using black to darken light colors is another story. That’s a fools errand for two reasons. It grays everything down – whether you want to or not – and can cause unwanted and disharmonious hue shifts, the technical term for muddy colors. These shifts result from black always manifesting some evidence of an underlying hue. Ivory black is, in reality, a very dark low chroma blue. If you add white to it, you can easily see this. That’s the reason why, when you darken yellow with black, you get green.  (When people say they use blue in place of black, it makes me laugh. They’re essentially saying, instead of blue, I use blue.)

As far as cracking goes, make sure your under layers are thoroughly dry before over painting. When using ivory black, that may mean up to, or greater than, a six month wait. The other option: don’t use pure black in your under layers! If you add raw umber (the fastest drying of all pigments) to your black, it will speed up the drying considerably. Save the pure black touches for your final layer. Even in my darkest accents I add raw umber. (To be safe, make sure you wait a sufficient amount of time before varnishing.)

So use black appropriately and you won’t have any problems. And then you can reap the rewards of using it for, what I believe to be, it’s greatest property: as a component in the mixing of neutrals. Ivory black will make a very useful and practical neutral gray when mixed with the aforementioned raw umber, plus white. I prefer to use grays and not complements to knock down the intensity of my color mixtures, when need be. Since both raw umber and ivory black have weak tinting strength, their resulting neutrals do not cause any significant hue shifts when mixed with other pigments. These grays exhibit no evidence of color bias, even when mixing into delicate pastel yellows. As a portrait artist I need the ability to control the myriad of subtle hue, value and chroma shifts evidenced in the human complexion. These grays, which include ivory black, are for me, the answer to a lifetime of prayers.

As far as mixing blacks go, they’re fine to use as is, but if you use them to create chroma controlling neutrals, the end result would be unpredictable and erratic shifts. Just because two colors appear to look the same it doesn’t mean they will mix the same. Mixing colors is akin to playing with a chemistry set. The wrong mixture – say cadmium and sulfur – and… BOOM!!! One thing that is often overlooked when setting a palette is whether there are potentially volatile pigments in the mix.

In the end, the addition of black paint on your palette will give you the widest possible dynamic range available and a powerful mixing ingredient utilized by arguably the greatest realist painters in history. Remember, black is beautiful.

Until next time…