Take a Look at Yourself

Are You the Portrait Artist You Aspire to Be?

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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!

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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…

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:

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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.

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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.

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Until next time…

You Can Get There From Here!

ReneeFinkelstein3Generally, we think of spring as the time of birth and growth. As far as educational institutions go, Fall is when the ball gets rolling. Fortunately, growth and learning are not seasonal, so with that in mind, I’m happy to announce that my continuing education fall classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York City will be starting on Friday and Saturday September 20th and 21st, respectively.

As a teacher it’s always exciting to watch my students evolve. Generally they make great strides, however, everybody develops differently, but it’s always satisfying knowing that I help people keep moving closer towards achieving their goals. Occasionally, when the stars are properly aligned, mind-boggling progress will occur. A case in point are two students, Renee Finkelstein and Zuzanna Kozlowska, both of whom started studying with me this past spring. They had both done well during the semester, so much so that each signed up for my summer workshop. The summer workshop at SVA is 10 eight hour sessions – the approximate equivalent of a full semester of painting classes. The progress that each made during the two weeks of the workshop was quite mind-boggling, superseding their wildest expectations. Above, is the first of the two fantastic portrait paintings that Renee painted of Kyli during the workshop.

Below is the second, from the same workshop:
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Compare it to the one she did in the Spring.
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How does this happen? I believe that my teaching methodology facilitated both students because my approach to teaching painting is based on aligning one’s mind to the mindset of great painters, not by weighing them down with a set of constraining rules and bylaws, which is time intensive. Rather, my goal is for them to discover their own capabilities while maintaining their own uniqueness. I teach my students how to make choices, not which choices to make. The problem with a regimented approach, is that individualism can be easily crushed. My approach is unique, time tested – I’ve been teaching for 40 years – and highly effective.

Bellow, are Zuzanna’s two paintings. First is her workshop painting of Megan:
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Followed by her painting from the Spring semester.
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For those interested, 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 runs 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.

There will also be an open house for Fine Art Continuing Education classes on Thursday, September 5 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. at the school. I’ll be there if you’d like to come and meet me. The address is 133-141 West 21st Street in room 602C.

Hope to see you there.

Until next time…

New York Portrait Artist Workshop Demonstration – Day 3

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Today, was the beginning of the end, or the phase I refer to as the initial finish later. As always, my priorities were: first drawing, then values and lastly color. I’m encouraged with how the likeness is coming together and especially the way that Megan’s spirit has begun to emerge. Since the base colors were established in the previous demo, I was able to introduce translucency and color-nuance and start the process of really bringing the portrait to life.

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My last demo day for this workshop will be Thursday.

Until next time…

Marvin Mattelson’s Teaching Schedule • Summer 2013

Oil Portrait Painting & Drawing Workshops

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Workshop drawing by Carol Katz

I’ve heard it said again and again that when you take a workshop, don’t expect to take away too much, maybe at best a few little tricks or oil painting techniques. Anyone who’s had that experience simply didn’t do their homework. My workshops are hugely different; they’re about transformation. My goal to change the way my students look at the world and think about making art. Carol Katz took my drawing workshop in New York last summer. (See above.) This is what she had to say about her experience:

A lot of people think they can’t draw. They think you’re either born with the ability to draw or you’re not and you can never learn. In reality, it’s something that can be taught to anyone with the right teacher and method. Just as a musician needs to learn the notes and the language of music, an artist needs to learn the language of art.

Through years of school, my teachers never seemed to offer the kind of art education that I knew I was missing. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I knew I would know it when I found it. I took drawing, figure drawing and painting in college and for years after in many different schools, always searching for the education that eluded me – until I took Marvin’s painting class and drawing workshop.

I never seemed to be able to get beyond a certain level in my drawing. However, in one week Marvin’s drawing workshop brought me to a level that I’ve been striving for my whole life. It is by far the most awesome drawing course – and I’ve taken countless – and as an artist, I can honestly say it was a game changer for me and a life changing experience. I’ll continue to study with Marvin because I believe the sky is the limit studying with one of the most gifted artists and teachers around.

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Class painting by Jane Cronk

Jane came to my class after a five-year hiatus from formal painting instruction. Her progress since September has been breathtakingly stunning. Nothing is more exciting to me than to witness these transformations.

This summer I’ll be leading three Oil Portrait Painting Workshops. They’ll take place in Cleveland, Atlanta, and New York City. I’ll also be conducting a Portrait Drawing Workshop in New York as well. These are appropriate for portrait artists of all levels, from experienced to aspiring.

The dates are as follows:

New York Portrait Drawing Workshop: June 3-7

Atlanta Oil Portrait Painting Workshop: June 10-27
Cleveland Oil Portrait Painting Workshop: July 15-27
New York Oil Portrait Painting Workshop: August 5-16

For more info please click on any of the above.

I will also be attending two information sessions at the School of Visual Arts on May 6 & 7, 2013. If you’re interested in meeting me and finding out more about my workshops here are the times and locations:

Summer 2013 Fine Arts Information Session – May 6, 6:30-8:30 PM
133/141 West 21st St. Room 602C, New York City.

Summer 2013 Illustration Information Session – May 7, 6:30-8:30 PM
209 East 23rd Street, Room 311, New York City.

Call the office of Continuing Education at 212-592-2050 for more info about the info sessions or about any of my New York offerings.

Hope to see you this summer and help you change your game!