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Marvin Mattelson interviews himself!

Detail of Marvin’s drawing demo from a previous year:
Dustin-draw2

My 5 Day Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop at the School of Visual Arts in NYC starts on this coming Monday, June 6th, and runs until Friday, June 10th, so I decided to pose some deeply probing questions to myself so that potential students could get a better idea of why they should sign up today.

Q: Why your workshop when there are so many to choose from?

A: Good question! First you’d be helping me line my pockets with gold. Just kidding, I will receive a check in payment for my services.

Q: No seriously. Why your workshop?

A: I think I offer a different level of understanding than what I’ve come to see in the teaching of others. The majority of teachers give rules and techniques to follow. Me, however, I feel very strongly that unless you know why you are doing something, you’ll never have free will.

Q: That’s a pretty bold statement. Care to explain more succinctly?

A: Yes, it’s like the parable about fishing, the difference between giving a man a fish and feeding him for one day or teaching him to fish and feeding him for a lifetime. Creating art is about making the appropriate choices, moment by moment. Rote reaction to any circumstance makes you a robot at best.

Q: What makes you think this rote way of teaching is so widespread?

A: I see students coming out of learning institutions and all the work looks pretty much the same stylistically. What other conclusions could I draw?

Q: Good point and clever pun (if I say so myself). So what will people walk away with if they sign up?

A: First they’ll have fun. It’s hard to learn in an uptight environment from people who take themselves too seriously. I’m a very irreverent person and I’m an artist because I want to spend my life doing what makes me happy. Being in a relaxed state encourages flow.

Q: Anything tangible beyond this new age mumbo-jumbo?

A: For those who want a more meat-and-potatoes kind of explanation, my students will learn, first, to see more accurately, also a function of being on the moment (Mumbo-jumbo or not…this is key!). They will learn how to convert what they see into a 3D representation on a flat surface. They’ll learn techniques that they can blend into their own way of working. Most importantly they’ll become far more adept at drawing, which is – as Ingres put it – the probity of art. To that end they can have far greater control whether drawing or painting or whatever their end game.

Q: Wow, you make a very compelling argument. I’d sign up for that in a minute. Any last thoughts?

A: Here’s the thing, far too many people get caught up in believing if they can only learn that one elusive technical tidbit, that’s the answer. I know, I’ve been there…and nothing could be farther from the truth. Basho, a Japanese poet said, “Don’t follow in the footsteps of the masters, seek what they sought.” I think anyone would benefit greatly from this approach.

Q: Thanks so much for the interview.

A: The pleasure was all mine!

5 Day Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop
June 6 – 10, 2016 • 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Find out more information about this workshop
Register online or call 212.592.2200

Where To Draw The Line; Marvin Mattelson’s SVA Summer Drawing Workshop

“Matt-Ellrod-2192"Workshop drawing by Matt Ellrod

G. K. Chesterton once observed, “Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.” For advice on morality you should seek spiritual guidance, but as far as where to draw a line, I think I may be able to help. I will be leading a portrait drawing workshop at the School of Visual Arts here in the heart of New York City from June 6-10.

Workshop drawing by Mandy BisestiWorkshop drawing by Mandy Basesti

In this workshop you will learn to create a portrait drawing using charcoal and white chalk on toned paper. It’s my take on a technique used by the great French draftsman Pierre-Paul Prud’hon in the late 18th and early 19th century. This technique, which actually dates back many hundreds of years prior to Prud’hon, allows you to develop a drawing in much less time than simply drawing on white paper. For that reason many artists such as Sir Anthony Van Dyck and Elizabeth Vigee LeBrun (both of which are currently featured in museum retrospectives here in NYC) have used this technique to save themselves valuable time.

Workshop Drawing by Carole KatzWorkshop Drawing by Carole Katz

Although the technical aspects of making a finished drawing will be covered in great detail, the primary focus of this workshop is learning to see proportions and tones more accurately. This will greatly enhance your ability to not only capture a faithful likeness, but also to better assess values, allowing you to render form more effectively. In class we will be working exclusively from live models. I will be demonstrating and explaining all aspects of my drawing methodology and the underlying concepts that govern my actions. You will come away from the workshop with a deeper understanding and a sound strategy for approaching any subject.

Workshop Drawing by Barry GraysonWorkshop Drawing by Barry Grayson

You will learn how to develop the illusion of three-dimensional form bathed in light and surrounded by air. Whether your goal is to improve your drawing for its own sake, or to enhance your drawing skills as a conduit to further improving your paintings, this workshop will provide you with the tools necessary to draw with more confidence.

Workshop drawing by Paul BeaudoinWorkshop drawing by Paul Beaudoin

Throughout this article you are seeing recent drawings by my workshop students. These drawings were done in approximately one day, not obsessively rendered over a period of either weeks or months. Notice the diversity of stylistic approaches. Rather than dogmatically insisting that my students draw in a particular way, my goal is to assist you in becoming the best possible version of yourself.

Workshop drawing by Pete GrillWorkshop drawing by Pete Grill

On Wednesday, May 11, there will be a Fine Arts Information Session: Painting, Drawing, Sculpture and Printmaking at the School Visual Arts at 133/141 W. 21st Street, room 602C, sixth floor from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. I’ll be there if you have any questions about my drawing workshop or my two-week portrait workshop from August 8-19, or just want to stop by and say hello.

Workshop drawing by Matt EllrodWorkshop drawing by Matt Ellrod

5 Day Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop
June 6 – 10, 2016 • 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Find out more information about this workshop
Register online or call 212.592.2200

11 Day Realistic Portrait Painting Workshop
August 1 – 12, 2016 • 9:00AM – 5:00PM • No class August 7.
Find out more information about the workshop
Register online or call 212.592.2200
This course may also be taken for credit. Please call the registrar’s office @ 212.592.2200 for more information.

Marvin Mattelson’s Winter/Spring Classes at SVA in NYC

New York City Portrait and Figure Painting Classes

KarenD_cropMore

I’ll be teaching two classes at SVA in NYC for the Winter/Spring semester on Fridays and Saturdays. Each course is comprised of 12 six hour-long sessions.

Most of the class descriptions I read all sound pretty much the same but the question remains, do they deliver on the promise? Are all instructors created equal? My students tell me that isn’t the case and they’re so glad they found me.

…one of the greatest teachers ever. Marvin Mattelson changes the lives of anyone paying attention. I know I wouldn’t be half the painter I am without his guidance.

Dorian Vallejo

With numerous classes being given in a wide variety of venues I’d like to take this opportunity to explain why choosing to study with me will not only teach you the technical aspects of painting but transform the way you approach painting altogether.

For me as an artist, being told what to do in any given situation was not nearly enough. Painting at the highest levels goes way beyond following dogmatic rules; it’s about making intelligent choices.

Michelangelo said, ”A man paints with his brain and not with his hands.” This can’t happen unless you understand the full ramifications of the options you have available to you at any given moment. Basho, a Japanese poet from the 17th century said, “Don’t follow in the footsteps of the masters, seek what they sought.” My teaching is about empowering students.

You will learn how to easily mix the colors you see, how to create the illusion of solid form in three-dimensional space on a flat canvas, how to capture a likeness and create lifelike figures and portraits, but most importantly, gain great insight to the mindset that informs the choices available to you.

During the course of the semester, I will be demonstrating every step of the painting process. (The above image is a detail from a class demo painting.) I will progress from the underpainting, to the color lay-in and and to the finishing stage. As I paint, I explain not only what action I’m taking, but also my reason for doing it. During the semester we will take a Sunday field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I will dissect many master works to reveal that the same logical approach that I am teaching you in class is in the DNA of all great paintings.

We will have two set-ups at all times, a figure model and a portrait model. Every student will have an unobstructed view of their model. The lighting is classically inspired. The duration of each pose will last for approximately half of the semester.

The rapid growth I experienced at SVA was only made possible due to the quality of your instruction. It was your roadmap for me to follow. Like a sage boxing couch you showed me what to train and how to go about it. Above all else you fostered an incredible appetite for oil painting and a strong desire to know more, be that through rummaging through yellowing Vermeer notes or staring down Raeburn at the Frick.
What was so enthralling and captivating about oil painting anyway?
I’d like to think that a huge part of the allure and magic, was just how fun and endlessly rewarding you made the medium out to be. You turned what ought to have been a basic freshmen introduction painting class, into the veritable quest for the holy grail.
It takes a very special artist and teacher to set up such an environment. To design such a system of approach and reward, and do it with such seeming ease, that even maddeningly counterintuitive principles comes off as the most natural and beautiful thing in the world.
Your training and the mission you gave me was so jam packed and undeniable that SVA was nearly bursting at the seams to contain it. I am forever indebted to your brilliance as an artist, as a teacher and the deep generosity that powers both.

Billy Norrby

You can read more about my portrait painting and figure painting classes here.

Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting • FIC-2221-CE
Fridays • 12:00PM – 6:00PM • 12 sessions • First class: Jan. 29, 2015
Click here to register online for the Friday class.

Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting • FIC-2221-CE1
Saturdays • 10:00 AM – 4:00PM • 11 Sessions • First class: Jan. 30, 2015
Click here to register online for the Saturday class.

These courses may also be taken for undergraduate credit. For more information please call the Registrar’s Office (212) 592.2200.

I will be attending a fine art information session on Wednesday Jan. 6 at 133/141 West 21st Street, room 602C, 6th floor, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Please stop by and say hello.

Until next time…

Paxtonesque

The Boston School –  A Portrait Painting Pilgrim’s Progress

 

Paxton2Models

William McGregor Paxton – Two Models

 

There are a relatively small number of artists whose work I would classify as extraordinary. These artists all make paintings that showcase finely modeled form, enveloped by atmosphere and bathed in light. When artfully applied, those effects make compelling images that much more so, and are, most importantly, never an end unto themselves. Though each great artist has an easily recognizable and seemingly unique style, it occurred to me that there must be common denominators, some kind of underlying framework they all share. After all, don’t all great minds think alike?

Looking at reproductions offered very few answers. I needed to see originals, to analyze the actual colors and the way the paint was applied. So I made it a point, whenever the opportunity would arise, to check out original art by the painters I admire the most: Rembrandt, Velasquez, Vermeer, Van Dyke, Ingres, Raeburn, Lawrence, Kramskoy, Bouguereau, Gerome, Monsted, Paxton and DeCamp.

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Joseph Rodefer DeCamp – The Kreutzer Sonata (The Violinist II)

 

Living just a hop, skip, and jump from New York City, I’m privy to great museums, galleries and auction houses. So in essence, a plethora of great works have practically deposited themselves at my front door, so I rarely feel the desire to travel afar. However, I recently paid a visit to Vose Galleries on Newbury Street in Boston to see their current offering, The Boston School Tradition: Truth, Beauty and Timeless Craft, a collection of close to seventy paintings by Boston School artists, including six each by two of my very favorites: William McGregor Paxton and Joseph Rodefer DeCamp. The show runs until July 18. If you have a chance to check it out, I think it would be well worth your while, if not, here’s a little summary of the highlights of my pilgrimage.

DecampDetail

Joseph Rodefer DeCamp – The Kreutzer Sonata (The Violinist II) – detail

 

According to my calculations, at one time or another, I’ve seen 23 original Paxton paintings and a mere three by DeCamp. Paxton’s Tea Leaves at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, here in New York, and DeCamp’s The Blue Mandarin Coat at the High Museum in Atlanta, have had as profound an effect on my ideas about picture making as any other paintings I’ve seen. This would be the first opportunity for me to see and compare so many by both artists. Carey Vose, one of the galleries’ owners, told me that having that many DeCamps available — something that had never previously happened — was the impetus behind putting this show together. And just to sweeten the pot, for me, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston – according to their website — had two paintings on view, one by each artist, that I had never seen in person. That’s seven paintings each!

Paxton-BluJar

William McGregor Paxton – The Blue Jar

 

Vose Galleries is located in a brownstone built in 1899. It’s composed of a series of rooms located on 5 levels. According to my fitness app I walked up (and down) 17 flights of stairs going back and forth comparing aspects of one painting to the next. The most impressive DeCamp at Vose was The Kreutzer Sonata (The Violinist II). It’s a painterly tour de force. Virtuosic! The violinist’s left hand is pure alchemy, simultaneously understated, and at the same time, profoundly informative. Unlike most of the artists who attempt to work this way, DeCamp never swirls the brush for its own sake. By his own volition, he was first and foremost a tonalist, like his idol Velasquez. The credo of another Velasquez disciple, Carlos Duran, perfectly sums up the genius of DeCamp: to achieve the maximum by means of the minimum. DeCamp’s brushwork is unparalleled but his ability to break the form down into totally abstract yet supremely coherent shapes is also second to none. Unfortunately, DeCamp’s portrait Mr. Joseph Baker which I was very interested in viewing — since I have never seen an original by him of a male subject — had already been shipped to a buyer. That was disappointing.

Paxton-BluJar2

William McGregor Paxton – The Blue Jar – detail

 

I was taken aback as I stepped up to examine Paxton’s The Blue Jar. Based on the reproductions I had seen — including the one I’ve posted above — the light areas look very smooth and bleached out. I couldn’t believe how much broken color and impasto paint texture was there. It was interesting to compare the painterly head to his Portrait Of A Young Woman In Blue with its enamel-like surface, which is more indicative of the way he normally rendered flesh.

WmnBluDress

William McGregor Paxton – Portrait Of A Young Woman In Blue – detail

 

However, the Paxton which impressed me the most was his figurative masterwork Two Models. I had seen it reproduced numerous times previously – I even possess a 4×5 transparency — but I wasn’t expecting what I saw. The original just blew me away. The contrast was far more subtle. The cast shadow on the back wall wasn’t nearly as dark as I assumed and there were more subtle value shifts within its shape. The modeling of the flesh was absolutely exquisite, with very life-like coloration. I could almost discern the subtle rise and fall of the ribcage on the closest model.

Paxton2Models3

William McGregor Paxton – Two Models – detail

 

Paxton’s chroma and hue gradations created so much spacial illusion. His deft turning of the form, using neutrals, was perfect. He created such a convincing sense of space and atmosphere, a quality I’ve rarely seen matched. When he’s at his best, Paxton’s paintings feel like dioramas set within the picture frame.

Paxton2Models2

William McGregor Paxton – Two Models – detail

 

My two favorite details were: a neural plane next to a chromatic halftone, of the same value, on the near cheek of the closest figure, and the way he alternated soft and sharp edges to model the back of the far figure. I also love the neutral edge plane under her breast, as well as the hue and chroma shifts starting from her right arm and progressing over to her left arm. These are the kind of touches which clearly demonstrate to me just how intelligent a painter he was. Every aspect worked perfectly. The boldly stated smaller touches never called attention to themselves or superseded the overall effect. As I closely examined the painting, I felt like I was inside Paxton’s head and could fully appreciate the decision making behind each stroke. It was a very validating moment for me.

Paxton2Models4

William McGregor Paxton – Two Models – detail

 

Eventually I departed and I made my way over to the Museum of Fine Arts, which I had last visited ten years ago. Since then the Museum had expanded significantly, perhaps almost doubling in size. Last time there I had seen the The Guitar Player by DeCamp and Nude Seated by Paxton. Now, thanks to the additional gallery space, a greater number of Boston School artists were on display. This time, both artists were represented by two works apiece, the aforementioned ones plus The Blue Cup by DeCamp and The New Necklace by Paxton. Both paintings at the MFA were gorgeous. A reproduction of The New Necklace was actually the first Paxton I had ever seen. It was on the cover of the catalogue for a Paxton show that took place at Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1974. While browsing at the Met’s gift shop in 1988, I serendipitously picked up a copy. So finally seeing the original brought me full circle. It’s a great work but my all-time favorites are Tea Leaves and The Breakfast, and now of course Two Models.

DeCamp-BluCup

Joseph Rodefer DeCamp – The Blue Cup

 

Decamps’s The Blue Cup was a breathtaking symphony of brushwork and subtle tones, even better than the The Violinist II that I had just seen at the Vose. I love the way he reduced the chroma on her left arm to push it back into the atmosphere. I still love the The Blue Mandarin Coat, but this one comes within a whisker.

DeCamp-BluCup2

Joseph Rodefer DeCamp – The Blue Cup – detail

 

My takeaway from all of this was an even greater admiration for both artists, but particularly Paxton. Both he and DeCamp were constantly searching out new ideas and approaches, technically as well as compositionally. To me, Decamp’s brushwork beats out Paxton’s by a nose, but I prefer the way Paxton handled edges. I am definitely nit-picking here, but I feel that Decamp’s edges are sometimes a bit too sharp and more apt to flatten the space. But it’s Paxton’s use of color that truly distinguishes him, in my book. The way he creates compositional color harmonies to convey a sense of illusion within a strong abstract design are incredibly innovative. I feel no artist, before or since, has so succinctly married academic form and the Impressionist notion of true color notes. Was either artist always successful? Of course not, but they both obviously learned from their miscues and were able to grow. In fact, The Blue Manderin Coat was the DeCamps’ last painting. I can definitely relate to their penchant for seeking more. Hunger is what drives an artist to excel.

Although I love many aspects of both artists’ works I have no interest in making paintings that resemble theirs. That, in my mind, is a fools errand. I see things differently and I am a product of another time. However there are very valuable lessons to be learned and I like to think I’ve been able to tap into this shared mindset with regard to the choices I make. These same ideas serve as the cornerstone for all my teaching.

When it comes to painting, the pictorial strategy used by great artists in their representation of spacial illusion, within the context of brilliant composition, is what intrigues me the most. I refer to any such a painting — in which every aspect comes together flawlessly, regardless of whomever painted it — as: Paxtonesque!

Until next time…

Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop with Marvin Mattelson in New York City

School of Visual Arts • June 1 – 5 • 9am – 5pm

Dustin-draw2

Dustin by Marvin Mattelson (detail) – Charcoal and white chalk on toned paper

Drawing is the backbone of all representational art. J. D. Ingres said, “Drawing includes three and a half quarters of the content of painting… Drawing contains everything, except the hue.”If you are interested in sharpening your drawing skills and/or improving your portraits, this workshop presents an opportunity to gain the kind of strategic thinking and technical know-how that great master artists have used for centuries. You will gain insight into achieving better accuracy, greater solidity and a life-like essence. This knowledge is not style or subject specific. When you incorporate what you’ve learned into your existing working method you will notice a big difference.

I believe the way art is taught today limits all but the most precociously talented from succeeding. The majority of realistic art instruction is rule oriented. That’s why so much work is easily identifiable by school or instructor. As a result, many potentially good artists are thwarted because they are not provided with the proper understanding and training necessary to seek their own paths. I want my students to fully understand all the options they have at their disposal. It doesn’t make sense to mandate a specific action for each particular circumstance. That kind of rigid thinking is the antithesis of the creative process.

A refreshingly logical and clear approach for artists of all levels.

Whether drawing or painting is your end game, a deeper understanding of the drawing process is the most crucial part. The essence of draftsmanship is having a well-trained eye. If you want to learn how to draw well, the first step is to transform the way you see. The ability to faithfully represent what lies before you is the major factor in achieving long-term success as a realist. When approached logically, mastery over your drawing is far more easily attainable. There is more to drawing than mindlessly copying and obsessively rendering what you’re looking at. Drawing is having the ability to understand what you see and the skill to clearly convey it’s essence.

Dustin-draw1

Dustin by Marvin Mattelson – Charcoal and white chalk on toned paper

We will be working from live models under ideal lighting conditions, the most effective way to learn how to represent the illusion of three-dimensionality. I will demonstrate and explain every step of my method throughout the workshop. I work one-on-one with each of my students during the times I’m not demonstrating.
Here are some of the key points of what I’ll be teaching:
• Achieving accurate drawing and values – which also happen to be the two most crucial aspects of representational painting.
• Creating the illusion of form and atmosphere.
• Varying edges intelligently (not formulaically) so that your drawing has more vitality.
• Understanding how to achieve pictorial unity.

To register online: http://www.sva.edu/continuing-education/fine-arts/realistic-portrait-drawing-15-cu-fic-2148-a

For more info or to register by phone, please call: 212-592-2200

Until next time…