Marvin Mattelson’s Online Virtual Portrait Painting Class for Fall 2020.

Marvin Mattelson class demo painting of Erin.
Marvin Mattelson’s Online Workshop Demo Painting of Erin.

The above image is my demo painting of Erin, created during my online virtual August 2020 two-week portrait painting workshop.

I received an inquiry today regarding my virtual online portrait painting class for this upcoming Fall Semester. I wanted to share my answers with anyone who may be considering taking a class or course of study to up the level of their work. I’ve included his questions followed by my responses:

How does your course differ from the many other painting courses?

Most teachers, in all schools, take one of two basic approaches, either the provide specific steps (rules and regulations) to follow and memorize (rote learning) or a more “creative” or intuitive approach based on doing what feels good or “floats your boat”. 
Neither of those is all that helpful IMHO.
My teaching is based on conveying an understandIng of the underlying principles based on how artists of the past created paintings that appear even more alive than reality. 
Additionally I fully demonstrate every step in my process with a full explanation of what I’m doing and most importantly why. It’s like the Bible says, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for life.“ 
In my studio I have installed multiple high quality PTZ cameras which follow every action I take. You can see every brush stroke I make, in great detail, and how each color is first analyzed and then mixed on my palette. And, unlike watching a video, I will answer any questions that arise along the way. My approach is what’s termed, mindful learning. 
With regards to critiquing my students work, I have a computer running photoshop in which I can show them exactly what to do to correct problems and to move forward. I also have a wide range of graphics I incorporate into the lessons, as well as the ability to overlay important info and quotes. 
My goal was to create an educational experience that would take learning in a live classroom to an entirely new level.

Detail of demo painting from August 2020 online Virtual Portrait Workshop, by Marvin Mattelson
Demo portrait detail by Marvin Mattelson

Does this course focus more on photos and digital interaction as opposed to models? 

Since live models are not possible in Covid times, you will be working from high resolution photos, which I will provide for you to download. Classes that utilize Zoom models are working from very poor quality images taken with cell phones. I will also share what it takes to create high quality photos on your own. 

Will the skills learned in this class be applicable to people who are more illustrators than painters of what they see in front of them?

What you learn in this class can be applied to any area of the arts. Once you understand how to create the illusion of three dimensional form in space, you can choose to incorporate this knowledge to whatever degree you choose. You can go from full-form to flat, or anywhere in between. Former students of mine inhabit the fields of fine art, illustration, animation, concept art, matte painting, graphic design, advertising, etc. These underlying principles can be universally applied in every aspect of the visual arts. 

Detail 2 of demo painting from August 2020 online Virtual Portrait Workshop, by Marvin Mattelson
Demo portrait closeup detail by Marvin Mattelson

Here are comments from this past summer workshop’s participants:

I am so glad that I took both Marvin’s Drawing and Painting workshop this summer! It was a great opportunity. Marvin is a very generous in sharing his knowledge and expertise in drawing and painting. He teaches his proven methods of drawing and painting that you can carry with you in your artistic journey. You can start at any level and learn what you need to take you to the next level. He also has developed very successful way to do an online class with the best equipment available. It was truly a high quality online class experience and I hope to do another workshop soon. Thank you so much for the fabulous workshops!

Becky Bahas

This is a workshop that I have been meaning to attend for years, but never seemed to be able to coordinate, between the travel and time off etc. I am so glad I thought of checking out your plans for this workshop during our lockdown times.  When I saw that you placed the workshop online I jumped for it.  But you didn’t just add a camera to your “conventional” workshop. You thought this one out in a detailed way to make an amazing learning experience, including your demonstrations and even your Met tour.  The fact that the zoom recordings were available to review, allowed me to increase the workshop virtual time, by rewinding and reviewing much of the realtime workshop hours.  And since we used a reference photograph instead of a live model, we were able to continue working after (and before) workshop official times. This increased the value of the workshop even more.   

Regarding your basic methods, on top of your masterful world class portraiture expertise, you have developed methods that will always be of value, long after the workshop.  In school, objective and logical subjects were always easier for me to absorb. And you have been able to take fine art and treat its principals with logic in order to reduce the “subjective contamination”. Exactly what I always look for!  

Abbe Mendlowitz

Can’t believe it’s been over a week since we finished the workshop and I am still trying to catch up with all the things I didn’t have time to do then.

I meant to write as soon as we finished but the days just seem to have blown by. I still need to find the time to write a proper recommendation of both courses. They were amazing, and for me who had been completely apart from producing art for so long it was a great reintroduction in the best way possible.  

For now, I am glad to tell you that I have managed to keep painting, even if only a couple of days a week, and have started a portrait of my son Nicolas. Will send pictures soon but so far I think it’s the best thing I’ve done!

Irena Moreno

Thank you again for an incredible workshop. It was a truly amazing educational experience. I can’t thank you enough for all the hard work you put into making the virtual workshop the best it could possibly be.

I’m not sure if you remember, but back when I completed the painting of my mother in your foundation class, I told you that I was learning an insane amount, but that I absolutely didn’t want to be an oil painter, and was still very committed to the graphic novel/comics path. However, you planted an extremely powerful seed in my mind, especially by way of exposing me to amazing painters/illustrators/draftsmen such as Leyendecker, Paxton, Cornwell, Escher, Raeburn, Sargent, (and Mattelson!), etc. In the year and a half since then, that seed has grown tremendously – this led me to switch majors so I could focus my entire efforts on picture making. The more I dig into myself to seek what it is that I truly want to create in life, the more clear my place at the easel becomes, and the more grateful I am to have such an incredible mentor on this journey.

Noah Klavens

 If you’re interested in attending or would like more information, please contact me at fineartportrait@gmail.com for specifics.

Until next time…

To Be An Artist You First Need to Think Like One

Noor Chadha - Sarah

Noor Chadha – Portrait of Sarah

Painting is an extremely complex endeavor. Personally, I think that realistic painting is the most difficult task a human being can hope to undertake. My reasoning is: there are so many variables to contend with. Any difficult task is more easily overcome if you have a clear understanding of what’s involved. However, if you are trying to master anything inherently complex, and have no insight, or even worse, an overcomplicated theory, a difficult task becomes that much more formidable. To me, that’s the problem with most art training.

I have a theory about how teaching painting evolved. Whenever a lesser artist tries to replicate something they see in a masterpiece, the typical reaction is to compartmentalize it by making it into a rule and rigidly applying it. And then there’s the worst rule of all, “First you must learn all the rules before you can break them!” Rules are crippling because they eliminate any opportunity you have to think for yourself.

A prime example of this is the rule about halftones: “Halftones should always be cool”. The truth is, to save time, artists would often scumble their lights over the shadows to create a transition between the two, rather than mix an intermediate value. When a warm translucent light color is laid over a warm shadow tone, the result is more neutral. When a neutral is surrounded by warm tones it appears cool. I don’t know the physics behind this, but it’s the same phenomena that makes the blood vessels below your skin appear blue (yes grasshopper, blood is red!). But many artists, such as Sir Henry Raeburn, Rembrandt and Velasquez, used warm colors to bring halftone planes forward.

The problem with following rules is that a rule is by nature formulaic. Always do this: never do that. For example, the rule stating that chroma should stay consistent within the value range of color depicting a singular object. But, William Bouguereau, Jean Leon Gerome and William McGregor Paxton, shifted chroma extensively.

Even worse, rote learning is self-cannibalizing. A small number of precociously talented students may intuitively supersede the rules they were taught, and produce outstanding results, in spite of and not because of the rules they learned. But as they move up the food chain and eventually become teachers themselves, they will, in all likelihood, reiterate the same rules they were “taught” because there is no way to explain intuitive choices.

Though a school may be run by an accomplished artist, the rule following majority is screwed. When rote learning, which is essentially the memorization of rules, forms the basis of any methodology, the potential for true artistic development is severely curtailed and progress is slowed down considerably. When student work bears a strong stylistic footprint, rule following is at the root.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “practice must always be founded on sound theory… Those who are in love with practice without knowledge or like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going.” Sound theory is based on understanding, not following rules.

Noor Chadha - Before & After

Noor Chadha – Before & After

Above, are two paintings done by my student Noor Chadha, who has studied with me for exactly one year. The first painting done last fall was her first attempt at a color portrait. She painted the second one this summer. Her progress is astonishing. The number of class sessions she has taken with me is approximately 30. If she were studying full-time at an atelier, for example, she would be about 1 1/2 months in and still rendering her first barge plate. It’s not about the time spent studying, it’s about time well spent.

My goal is to transform the way my students think. l believe my approach can dramatically cut down on the amount of time it takes anyone to progress and reach higher and higher levels. Not because “that’s the way you’re supposed to do it” or “that’s the way so-and-so does it”. As Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Classes begin this Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16th.

Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting from Life

Fridays • 12:00PM – 6:00PM • Sep 15 – Dec 15 • 12 Sessions • Click here to register or find out more information about the Friday class.

Classical Portrait Painting from Life

Saturdays • 10:00AM – 4:00PM • Sep 16 – Dec 16 • 11 Sessions • Click here to register or find out more information about the Saturday class.

#PortritPaintingClasses

Marvin Mattelson’s Fall 2017 Continuing Education Classes @ SVA

Class Demonstration Painting by Marvin Mattelson

Summer’s winding down and I’m excited to announce that my Continuing Education classes at the School of Visual Arts for the fall semester are now registering.

I’ve been asked many times why is it that today’s painters seem to fall short when compared to artists of the past? Why is it that although there are many classes and schools focused on replicating the technical aspects of the artists of yesteryear, as well as manufacturers offering so-called historically accurate pigments and mediums, the result tends towards gray, stiff and lifeless? To me it’s pretty obvious what’s missing: a strategic picture making mentality that goes way beyond copying, which I rarely see in contemporary realism.

A mere copier of nature can never produce anything great.
Sir Joshua Reynolds

When I attended art school, at eighteen, it was with the expectation that I was going to learn how to paint. I wanted to be able to recreate the world around me. Unfortunately, the school that I attended emphasized creativity over technical facility (as did the majority of schools at the time) so my expectations were summarily dashed. In fact painting proved so frustrating to me that I didn’t pick up a brush again for almost ten years.

Could we teach taste or genius by rules, they would be no longer taste and genius.
Sir Joshua Reynolds

At that point, it became pretty obvious to me that the books and instruction I was privy to lacked any kind of logical foundation. Although there were multitudes of rules, recipes and regulations, there was never a practical explanation of how it all connected. Then one day I happened upon a reproduction of a small portrait by Sir Anthony Van Dyke and although I couldn’t put my finger on how he did it, I saw that he went beyond mere copying. He was coming from a space of knowing and the painting had such life to it. And thus my quest began in earnest: to discover the contextual way Anthony Van Dyke approached painting.

Based on the way I process information, I realized that only by understanding why something works and knowing the full ramifications of using it, could I truly claim full ownership. Interestingly, I began to realize, that when I studied the works of all the artists I admired most, their choices all seemed to mirror Van Dyke’s mindset.

Practice must always be founded on sound theory… Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going.
Leonardo da Vinci

After years of study, practice, experimentation and discovery I have been successfully implementing these concepts in both my painting and my teaching. As it turns out, understanding the whys and wherefores makes learning so much easier. My students make astounding progress.

Yes, I teach my students to draw accurately and paint with great facility. But if you want to recreate the life-like essence that distinguishes truly great realistic art, you need to shift your mindset. I believe my focus on the salient underlying principles employed by the greatest painters in history is what differentiates my teaching.

When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.
Wayne Dyer

I don’t teach a cookie cutter approach or try to turn my students into a mini-me. My goal is for each of my students to become the very best version of themselves with the freedom to paint any subject they choose with great flexibility. All aspects of my teaching are fully demonstrated (see above) and clearly explained. I also take my classes on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I reinforce the ideas I’ve taught in class with prime examples from the museum’s robust collection.

This fall I’ll be teaching two continuing education classes; my Friday class covers both portrait and figure painting in oil while the Saturday class focuses on oil portrait painting. All my teaching is easily adaptable to any genre and medium. We work from live models and all aspects of my teaching are fully demonstrated and precisely explained. I look forward to seeing you in class.

Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting from Life

Fridays • 12:00PM – 6:00PM • Sep 15 – Dec 15 • 12 Sessions • Click here to register or find out more information about the Friday class.

Classical Portrait Painting from Life

Saturdays • 10:00AM – 4:00PM • Sep 16 – Dec 16 • 11 Sessions • Click here to register or find out more information about the Saturday class.

On Monday August 28 from 6:30-8:30 there is an open-house information session for fine art continuing education classes. I’ll be there. Please stop by to say hello, have some snacks and learn more. 133/141 West 21st Street , Room 602C, 6th floor.

Roots and Wings: The Tao of Teaching


Yesterday I received an email from my former student Roger Derrick, which jump-started this post in my mind. Roger wanted to show me some new works in progress. I was astonished to see how far he had come since being in my class. The goal of my teaching is to cultivate each student’s understanding of the underlying principles that inform the decision-making process, giving them the ability to come up with the appropriate course of action in any situation. This approach allows an artist to continue to develop just the way Roger has, through determination, hard work and applied logic.

Teaching is no different than parenting. When people learn that I am a father, the first thing they ask is, “Are your kids artists?” My reply is always, “No, they’re not me! They get to choose their own paths.”

Now, many parents want their children to follow in their footsteps. They want their kids to come back and ask for advice when there are important decisions to make, regardless of their age. Obviously, these parent’s intentions are good. They want what’s best for their children, but they base their counseling on their own priorities. It’s only natural to want what’s best for your offspring! Right? But natural for whom? I raised my children to think for themselves based on understanding and good judgment. I chose to support their interests rather than imposing my own. As a result, they grew up to be independent thinkers, more than capable of making their own life choices. I couldn’t be any prouder or happier of them, regardless of the paths they follow.

My goal as a teacher is the same as my goals as a parent, to allow my students to develop into the best artists they can be, and not a replication of myself. There’s a very famous poem by Dennis Waitley about parenting, entitled “Roots and Wings”. Here’s the poem:

If I had two wishes, I know what they would be
I’d wish for Roots to cling to, and Wings to set me free;
Roots of inner values, like rings within a tree;
and Wings of independence to seek my destiny.
Roots to hold forever to keep me safe and strong,
To let me know you love me, when I’ve done something wrong;
To show me by example, and helps me learn to choose,
To take those actions every day to win instead of lose.
Just be there when I need you, to tell me it’s all right,
To face my fear of falling when I test my wings in flight;
Don’t make my life too easy, it’s better if I try,
And fail and get back up myself, so I can learn to fly.
If I had two wishes, and two were all I had,
And they could just be granted, by my Mom and Dad;
I wouldn’t ask for money or any store-bought things.
The greatest gifts I’d ask for are simply Roots and Wings.

When it comes to teaching art there are two basic approaches:

1)You can teach what you do.

2)You can teach the underlying fundamental principles of understanding.

Those who teach what they do have very specific rules regarding not only technique but what to do in every given situation. In other words a strict edict to follow. Unfortunately this results in students whose work strongly mimics that of their teacher. The better the student, the closer the adherence. Everyone turns into a some version of the master!

I choose the fundamental understanding route. If you know why things work then you have choices in every given situation; you do what you do based on your artistic intent and not anyone else’s. That doesn’t mean I eschew technique. On the contrary, my teaching is very technical because it’s vitally important to have the ability to manifest the choices you’re making.

I love it when no apparent stylistic imprint of myself is evident in the work of a former student. It’s my understanding that Jean Leon Gerome – the great academic painter of the 19th Century and one of the most revered educators of his time – shared the same philosophy. This enabled him to develop students as diverse as Thomas Eakins and William McGregor Paxton. Each of those artists took what they learned and were able to form their own unique personality and point of view.

I thought about the past week, where I had the great privilege of seeing a new show of paintings by my former student, TM Davy, a series of beautiful unique and innovative paintings of horses at the 11R gallery in New York City. I also saw, on Facebook, two great paintings by former students Billy Norrby and Martin Wittfooth. I received an email from Steve Birmbaum, the Assistant Director of Media at SVA. Steve had interviewed another long ago student, Brian Donnelly (aka KAWS), a highly successful Chelsea gallery artist. Steve wrote, “The interview went great and Brian had a lot of wonderful things to say about you and your class during his time at SVA.” A few weeks ago, I learned another of my past students, Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, was developing, for 20th Century Fox Animation, a feature film based on “The Dam Keeper”, his 2015 Academy Award-nominated animated short. The incredible thing about all these artists is that you would never know they all studied with the same teacher. They took their roots and flew to the heavens.

This week my new continuing education classes at the School of Visual Arts will be starting. It’s a perfect opportunity to self-reflect and ask yourself, “Do I follow in someone else’s footsteps or do I want to grow roots and wings?”

Portrait Painting: The Real Deal • Fridays
12:00PM – 6:00PM  • Jan 27 – Apr 21 • 12 Sessions
Register online now for the Friday class or call 212.592.2200.

Portrait Painting: The Real Deal • Saturdays
10:00AM – 4:00PM  • Jan 28 – April 29 • 12 Sessions
Register online now for the Saturday class or call 212.592.2200.

For more information please call the Department of Continuing Education at 212.592.2050 or go to this page on my website.

These classes may also be taken for undergraduate credit. Please call the registrar at 212.592.2200 to register or to find out more information.

A special bonus field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view and analyze some of greatest portraits in the collection will take place on a Sunday afternoon.

 

Portrait Painting • Spring 2017 Continuing Ed Classes at SVA in NYC


Artist: Indu Ramkumar

Marvin Mattelson teaches Portrait Painting: The Real Deal

It’s a new year, and if portrait painting is your passion, now is a great time to do something about it. I’d highly recommend taking a class with me at the School of Visual Arts. My classes go beyond the mere technical (which BTW is covered in great depth and fully demonstrated) to focus on the real crux of the matter: garnering a deeper insight into the mindset of the great classical painters of the western tradition. The purpose of my teaching is to transform and empower my students to be the best possible version of themselves.

Here are some examples from this past fall 2016 semester. These are students who come to one class a week and and have made incredible progress in their own artistic evolutions. Some have been in my class for a number of years while others are new to the program, but all have experienced tremendous growth in the short span of 12 classes. Here are some examples of their work as well as some of their thoughts.


Indu’s first and most recent paintings in my class.

Before joining Marvin Mattelson’s class, my experience taking painting classes was of being left alone, expected to find my own way and teach myself to paint. I wasn’t taught techniques or correct practices and was just told to express myself. Marvin’s class was a complete eye opener. You learn how to observe correctly and draw accurately. We learn to mix realistic skin tones and learn the best practices of painting in oil. You learn everything you need to paint a portrait capturing realistic color, three dimensional form and life-like appearance. On the way you also learn a lot about art history: about the works and styles of famous artists and how their work relates to your own.

Watching Marvin demonstrate painting a portrait is an amazing experience. He is a highly skilled painter and is confident enough in his abilities to paint in front of the class, all the while describing and explaining his methods. He is incredibly generous with his knowledge and has no problems sharing his methods and techniques with his students. He is patient and methodical and will answer any question you have.

Learning under Marvin has completely revolutionized my painting practice. Recently I looked at the first painting I had done in Marvin’s class and compared it to my latest one (see above). The difference between them was night and day. I couldn’t believe the progress I had made. My skill level has improved, I’ve learned to better observe, to mix the exact colors I need. These newly acquired skills can be seen in my painting practice in all its aspects, even outside of portrait painting.

Indu Ramkumar

 


Artist: Alma Ortiz

Artist: Barry Grayson

Artist: Claudia Mullaney

Artist: Debbie Waldron

I love my classes with Marvin Mattelson, Master of painting AND teaching! He has researched, tested, and refined each step of his method, leaving nothing to chance, and he shares everything with his students. His portraits look three-dimensional and alive and he does not wave a wand! There is no mystery or nonsense, simply instruction and practice. I always knew that painting involved skills and if ever I found someone who could teach those skills, that I could learn too. Marvin is just such a genius. His work is methodical and rational and he explains it all. You can learn how to produce realistic skin tones; how to give shape and form to a flat surface; how to  change how you look at a model so that your painting also changes – for the better.

He has apt quotations and beautiful resource material (including his own expert photographs of master works) to help answer any question. He encourages and critiques and demonstrates until – with practice – his students make these skills their own!  At the end of a studio day (with professional models in perfect light and great music playing) each painter who followed Marvin’s instruction is better since their last attempt. If you practice what this incredible painter teaches, your results  will improve. Guaranteed. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from Marvin Mattelson!

Debbie Waldron

Artist: Debbie Waldron

Artist: Donna Rollins

Artist: Larry Houser

Noor Chadha

This spring I’ll be teaching two continuing education classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Portrait Painting: The Real Deal • Fridays
12:00PM – 6:00PM  • Jan 27 – Apr 21 • 12 Sessions
Register online now for the Friday class or call 212.592.2200.

Portrait Painting: The Real Deal • Saturdays
10:00AM – 4:00PM  • Jan 28 – April 29 • 12 Sessions
Register online now for the Saturday class or call 212.592.2200.

For more information please call the Department of Continuing Education at 212.592.2050 or go to this page on my website.

These classes may also be taken for undergraduate credit. Please call the registrar at 212.592.2200 to register or to find out more information.

A special bonus field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view and analyze some of greatest portraits in the collection will take place on a Sunday afternoon.

Artist: Riley Yeun

Artist: Wenkai Mao

FINE ART INFO SESSION: Free and open to the public Jan. 04 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
133/141 West 21st Street , Room 602C, 6th floor
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
I’ll be there. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hello!