Alla Prima Portrait Painting Demonstration

Marvin Mattelson’s One & Done Technique

This past Saturday I did a portrait painting demonstration for my class, alla prima style. The point was to show the students how I approach painting oil studies during my initial meetings with clients. I primarily work from reference photos for my finished portraits, due to the time limitations of my busy clients. This quick approach gives me the opportunity to study their facial structure, get a better sense of who they are and, most importantly, to record their complexion. Judge for yourself, by looking at in the above photo, how I’ve done with regards to matching Simone’s skin tones.

This painted study took me three hours and forty minutes – not counting breaks, although in the past I’ve done them in as little as one hour.

Here’s a little movie I put together showing how the painting evolved:

Don’t Try This at Home!

When going the Alla Prima route – trying to nail everything at once – if you are not in complete command, your results will suffer. If you’re having problems, you need to reload; first learn to do things correctly by mastering each of the major aspects of painting: drawing, value and color. That’s the way I break things down for my students. If you wanted to learn to ride a unicycle on a high wire while juggling burning axes would you try to do it all at once? When you break it down in digestible bites you get to dessert way faster?

Sound appetizing? Come study with me, this summer. I’ll be leading a portrait drawing workshop in June and a portrait painting workshop in August at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Also, there’s a Fine Arts Information Session on Monday, May 11, from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. It will be held at 133/141 West 21st Street, room 602C, 6th floor. If you want to stop in and say hello I’ll be there and I’ll be bringing Simone (the painting) with me.

Until next time…

Marvin Mattelson’s Portrait Workshops – Summer 2015

Take Your Portraits to the Next Level


Due to my heavy work schedule, this summer I only have time to teach two workshops. Both will be taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. These two workshops address, in my estimation, the most troublesome aspects for artists interested in figurative and portrait painting: drawing and mixing color accurately. I will teach you to gain control with far less expended effort. The conventional way artists typically approach these aspects is unnecessarily overcomplicated and convoluted. I know many people feel that they must soldier on by themselves and eventually by putting in enough time they’ll overcome their shortcomings. Based on my experience the way to change your results is by changing your approach. The definition of insanity, according to Rita Mae Brown, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Regardless of whether you want to paint with broad strokes or great refinement you will learn how to take your work to the next level.

First up is my workshop Realistic Portrait Drawing, an intense 5 day workshop designed to improve drawing accuracy; Monday June 1 thru Friday June 5, 9am to 5pm. Click here to register for Realistic Portrait Drawing.

Drawing lies at the heart of all representational art and unity is the key component. The purpose of this workshop is to develop your ability to approach drawing in a contextual way, where each small part serves the greater whole. We will start with exercises designed to sharpen your ability to see objectively. Working with live models, you will learn how to identify the specific proportions and structure unique to each individual. By weeks end, you will understand what it takes to achieve a full-fledged tonal portrayal of your subject, bathed in light and surrounded by air. Draftsmanship is an easily learned skill. The techniques and approaches you will learn can be readily adapted to any type of subject matter and style. All aspects of this method will be presented logically and coherently. Every step will be fully demonstrated and explained. NOTE: A complete supply list will be sent to you prior to the start of the workshop.

The second workshop is Realistic Portrait Painting. It runs from Monday August 3 thru Friday August 14. There is no class Sunday August 9. The hours are from 9am to 5pm. Click here to register for Realistic Portrait Painting. If you’re interested the course can be taken for undergraduate credits at an additional fee. Click here to register for realistic Portrait painting for college credit.

There’s more to painting a great portrait than capturing a likeness; it’s about creating the illusion of life. Portraiture should reveal the character of the sitter and exude a lifelike essence. During this course, taught by an award-winning portrait artist, you will learn how to analyze, interpret and convincingly portray the human visage. The methodology presented is both broad in scope, yet simple to comprehend. It’s based on the idea that logic, not frivolous rules nor superficial techniques, lies at the core of the greatest portraits ever created. Working from live models, you will discover a simple and straightforward way to achieve accurate drawing and to easily replicate any color you see, particularly the subtle translucent tones of the human complexion. You will also learn how to model form and to simulate the effects of luminosity, illusionistic depth and atmospheric space. All of the information covered in this course will be fully demonstrated and explained. NOTE: A complete supply list will be sent to you prior to the start of the workshop. The Saturday session will be held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Saturday, August 8, Hours: 10:00 am-5:00 pm).

Marvin Mattelson’s Continuing Education Painting Classes – Winter/Spring 2015

Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting Classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York City


Mia by Carol Katz

“If I had your technique I would be a great artist!” I get this all the time, but nothing could be further from the truth. “If only I could paint tighter!” “If only I could be more painterly!” I hate to be the bearer of bad news; it’s not about technique. I tell my students that Rembrandt would have been able to create masterpieces with a bucket of mud and a mop! A lot of artists seem to feel that they will somehow magically figure it out all on their own. I know I did. Problem is, you can’t get there from here!


Katya by Sijia Xie

The way painting is generally presented in books and classes made no sense to me. Allegedly it’s visceral, but in reality you get a plethora of random rules. So how exactly can one learn the core truths that form the basis of representational art. When I looked at the work of the great masters, there was obviously a strong underlying logic. That’s what I tried to discover on my own, the hidden mindset! And as it turned out, I got pretty far, but not far enough. Eventually, I realized I would never get it on my own, so I found someone to study with and to help me fill in the blanks. His name was John F. Murray and I will be forever grateful for the time we spent together. John had been a student of the legendary Frank Reilly’s. Reilly was a man with a questioning nature, not unlike me, who believed the common bond shared by the best artists was deep understanding. To be a great painter you need to think like one.


Mia by Debby Waldron

From the beginning of my studies with John, I was amazed at how succinctly my own conclusions dovetailed with Reilly’s. I truly believe had I continued on my own, I would have eventually figured it all out. The only problem was, it would have taken me several lifetimes to get there. What I learned turbocharged my understanding, which I’m happy to say, is continuously evolving. It has allowed me, and so many of my students, to become the artists of our dreams. If you’d like to shave a couple of centuries – or at least a few decades – off of your struggle, you should come study with me.


Dayna by Jessica Pester

I’ll be teaching two continuing education classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York City that run for 12 sessions each:

Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting (FPC-2010-CE) is on Fridays from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM and begins January 30. You can register for the Friday class here.

Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting (FPC-2010-CE1) is on Saturdays from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM and begins January 31. You can register for the Saturday class here.

On Wednesday January 6th there is an open house for those interested in learning more about what the school has to offer. This information session will be held at 133/141 West 21st Street, room 602C, 6th floor. Session begins promptly at 6:30 PM. I’ll be there so please stop by and say hello.


Katya by Guilherme Ghignone E Silva

Sprinkled throughout this post are some painting from my continuing ed classes this past fall semester. Some are beginners and other’s more seasoned. They all took great strides forward.  Each was able to capture a true sense of liveliness and a feeling of solid form. Those qualities form the basis of all noteworthy figurative painting. I also feel it’s important to not lose your hand. I don’t try to turn my students into Mini Me’s. I love that each student’s work has a unique quality. The idea is to become the best version of yourself by making insightful choices.


Mia by Pablo Almonte

Until next time…

Marvin Mattelson Fall 2014 Continuing Education Classes at SVA in NYC





Figure and Portrait Painting in Oil

I’ll be teaching two classes this fall at the School of Visual Arts for the Department of Continuing Education. Each class focuses on both Figure and Portrait Painting and runs for eleven weeks. My Friday class starts September 19th and goes from noon until 6 pm. The Saturday class begins on September 20 and meets from 10 am until 4 pm. These classes are an opportunity to study with me and avoid the expense of being enrolled as a fully matriculated college student.

Every aspect of my oil painting methodology will be fully demonstrated and explained in a concise and logical way. You will learn how to draw more accurately and how to mix the colors you see, particularly with regards to the subtleties of flesh, and so much more. My goal is to demystify the process of painting. Rules bog down the mind and inhibit flow. Understanding and clarity free you to manifest your full creativity. There are always two models posing, one portrait and one figure.

For more information about these classes you can check out my website.
To register for Friday’s class click here. To register for Saturday’s class click here. For more info or to find out about taking these classes for full college credit please call 212-592-2050.

Fine Arts Information Session: Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Printmaking and Jewelry

There will be an open house at SVA for those interested and I will be there to answer questions and chat. Please stop by if you’re in the area. It’s Tuesday, August 26, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at 133/141 West 21st Street, room 602C, 6th floor. Session begins promptly at 6:30 PM. Admission is free.

Above are a couple of shots of the demo I painted in my August New York City portrait workshop as well as a couple of pics of me with my model, Nora, courtesy of Bruce Brand.

Take a Look at Yourself

Are You the Portrait Artist You Aspire to Be?


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!

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…