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

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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…

Marvin Mattelson Portrait Unveiling: Wil de Hollander, President & CEO, Velcro Industries N.V.

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On Tuesday September 10, my portrait of Wil de Hollander, the recently retired CEO and president of Velcro Industries N.V., was unveiled. I assisted Wil’s successor, Alain Zijlstra, in removing the drapery that covered the portrait. We had some difficulty pulling it off, so of course everyone joked that it had probably been attached with Velcro – it hadn’t! After he spoke about Wil’s legacy, Alain asked me to say a few words about the portrait’s creation and this is what I said:

I’m very excited being here today for the unveiling of my portrait of Wil de Hollander. It was a great pleasure for me to get to know Wil and an honor to paint him.

I’m very passionate about what I do. If I were to win the lottery, I would probably build a larger studio, perhaps on the French Riviera, but I would still keep doing exactly what I love to do the most: paint portraits. I consider myself very fortunate, in that regard.

My goal for each portrait I create is for it to be my best to date. In the words of Michelangelo, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

When Wil and I first sat down to discuss the portrait, I was impressed by his charming, down-to-earth and engaging nature; as well as his sharp wit and intelligence. He mentioned that, unlike most CEOs, his career path came via the manufacturing route, and not through the business side. So right off the bat I ruled out a formal standing pose.

I’m a firm believer in allowing the best solution to reveal itself, and I immediately realized the way Wil sat before me, with the window light coming from the side, would make for a great portrait. The paneled wall and a low credenza behind him set him off beautifully. They also created a series of verticals and horizontals, which I felt could serve as a perfect metaphor for corporate structure.

I felt that the painting still needed something to balance Wil and visually connect him with the background. I saw in the far corner of the boardroom a brass sculpture which demonstrated the basic way that Velcro worked. I removed it from its pedestal and placed it behind Wil. I liked the way it mirrored the arabesque of his pose and it’s symbolism.

I terms of my technique, I build up of many thin layers of color to achieve a lifelike impression. It’s a very traditional approach and I feel is the most effective way to create the translucent and subtle transitions I seek. It’s very time-consuming but the results, I hope, speak for themselves, and the painting was well worth the wait.

A former client once told me that he felt people would always remember him based on his portrait. Being chosen to define someone’s legacy is a great responsibility, and in the case of painting Wil de Hollander, a very pleasurable experience as well.

Here are some close-ups and details of the painting:

Wil_deHollander_halfWil_de_Hollander_faceWil_deHollander_face_cropWil_deHollander_face_crop2Wil_deHollander_chairWil_deHollander_sculpt

After I spoke, Wil said a few words. He thanked everyone for coming and acknowledged me for my efforts, but what he was most emphatic about pointing out was a very small detail in the painting – which could have been easily overlooked – a Heineken bottle cap.

During our first meeting I had asked Wil, as I do all my clients, if there was something I could add to the painting to personalize it. He immediately responded that he would love being painted holding a bottle of Heineken Beer. Heineken was the first company he worked for and it’s his longstanding beverage of choice. Of course, he said, there is no way it would be appropriate for a boardroom portrait. I suggested that I could paint a Heineken bottle cap hidden in the sculpture’s shadow. There would be no logo visible and unless someone was specifically looking, it would probably remain unnoticed. Wil loved the idea.

Wil_deHollander_cap

During my little speech, I had purposely said nothing – wanting to keep the secret intact – but Wil was so excited upon seeing it in the painting, he pointed it out to everyone.

Marvin_Wil

Until next time…

Marvin Mattelson’s Fall CE Classes at SVA

I’m teaching two continuing education classes this fall. My Friday class at the School of Visual Arts is called Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting. It’s 12 sessions from 12 PM to 6 PM starting September 20, 2013. You can register and find more info here. My Saturday class, Classical Portrait Painting, runs from 10 AM to 4 PM. It starts September 21 and it’s 12 sessions as well. You can click here to sign up or to learn more. These classes are also available for full college credit at a substantially higher fee, which is why each class is listed twice.

Rather than me harping on why you would greatly benefit from studying with me I thought I’d have one of my students share her experience.

Free-fullThe above portrait was painted by my former student Kathleen Speranza. It’s an outstanding portrait and I’m so proud of her. When I saw this painting posted on Facebook I immediately asked Kathy for permission to reproduce it here. And this was her response:

I would be honored to have my painting up on your blog! I love reading it and anything you might say would be great. For my part there were many things that I learned in your class that are very visible in the portrait of Jeffree. Most important would be the large mass organization and the clear division between light and dark shapes. Keeping the shadow masses in the front of the face joined together aids in the impact of the gaze which is obscured but implied by the turn of the head and the light on the lashes. Free is a very gentle, soulful individual and I thought this use of light helped to depict those qualities. The color shapes are pretty obvious and are not fully covered by subsequent layers of paint. This may be of use to students since the process is “on the surface” For me, your class jump-started an investigation of classical form and composition in all of my work. It has been a great way to simplify and organize my compositions in still life, and landscape as well as portraits and figures. Something I never learned in art school! The palette is of course the most complex part of the process and has been of enormous help. There is much more but that’s probably enough for now.

Here’s a closeup:
free-cropped

Kathy took a two week workshop with me about five years ago. At the time she had the following to say:

It was a fantastic experience for me to participate in the workshop. My instincts had been pointing me in that direction for some time now and it’s very gratifying to know that they were correct. I was able to connect to a part of myself that has been dormant for many years. The supportive environment and the excellent instruction were exactly what I needed to become involved with portrait painting again. I’ve decided to put all of my other obsessions on hold and pursue this direction for the entire next year. I’d also love to make studying with you an ongoing “habit”. I know that I have only scratched the surface of the knowledge you can provide.

I searched the web for examples of contemporary portrait painters and was disappointed to find that 98% of the work I saw was not really painting. Most of these works were clearly copied from photographs with little to no understanding of effective composition or color structure. Your paintings stood out clearly as luminous and elegant images that also happened to be portraits. It was clear that you were creating sophisticated color harmonies as well as classically structured compositions. Your extensive study of masterworks was evident and the paintings combined naturalistic likeness with pictorial integrity. Your were the 2% I needed to study with.

I would also like to say that I think your generosity is rare indeed. All of the hard work and research you have done over the last several years is a gold mine for your students. Your own work is a testament to the beauty and logic of the color system. I have been describing it to my friends as a typewriter analogy. I have been hunting and pecking for 25 years and have finally been given a keyboard I can understand. I’m confident that with practice I’ll be able to reach that all important “flow state” with respect to color and value.

At no time in my education, which includes a BFA from Boston University and an MFA from Yale, did I encounter anyone who was qualified to teach on this level. I believe you have isolated some of the core truths in figurative painting. Thank you so much for helping me to see them. I feel that a whole new direction in painting has now opened before me.

And one last amazing detail:
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The bottom line is, reaching your full potential doesn’t necessarily involve years of servitude. It’s about understanding. Kathy took a two week workshop — the equivilant of a one semester continuing education class — and it transformed her approach to painting. Just sayin’!

Until next time…