Fall Portrait Painting & Figure Painting Classes with Marvin Mattelson at SVA in NYC

Featured Artist: Carole Katz

The Department of Continuing Education at the School of Visual Arts has a display case outside their offices where they exhibit outstanding work created by current students. For the month of September, my student Carole Katz is being featured. The work will be on view at 209 E. 23rd Street in New York City. Enter through the rear of the lobby.

I’m so proud of Carole and what she has accomplished. Despite running her family’s business and attending to her many familial responsibilities, Carole somehow manages to squeeze in my CE painting class each week. This is the only time she gets to devote to her passion of painting from life. The primarily focus of my teaching is on having each student develop the mindset of an artist. As Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.” I don’t teach a specific style, contrary to the way most academic painting is taught, today. It’s vitally important to me that my students do not to lose their sense of self. I feel teaching style, is the proverbial “throwing out the baby with the bath water”. The Japanese poet Basho said it best, “Don’t follow in the footsteps of the old masters; seek what they sought.” Carole’s sense of soulfulness comes through loud and clear. I’ve tried to nurture her ability to put on the canvas what she sees in her heart and I think she’s doing splendidly well.

Here’s what Carole has to say about her experience of studying with me:

“I’ve taken art classes for many years in both New Jersey and NYC. I’ve always felt that, being a realist artist, something was missing in every painting and/ or drawing class that I took. Because I didn’t know what I didn’t know, I couldn’t explain what I was missing, but I knew there were missing pieces to the art instruction that I was getting.

And then I attended Marvin’s portrait painting class, and I realized I had found the teacher with the knowledge and technique that I knew I had been missing. He was the teacher I had been looking for. His talent, ability, depth of knowledge and generosity in his teaching sets him far apart from other art teachers and puts him in a class by himself.

I feel very fortunate to have found him and to have been able to study drawing and painting with a true modern-day master artist.  His portrait painting class and his drawing workshop have both transformed my skills and brought them to a higher level. I will continue to study with him because every new class brings new insights and knowledge that help me continue to evolve in my art.”

I believe there’s a general misconception that in order to be a highly accomplished realistic artist one must put one’s life on hold and devote oneself to five years of intense study. Obviously the more you practice the better your chances of succeeding. According to Malcolm Gladwell it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. But practice alone guarantees nothing. The most important aspect of becoming masterful is learning to think like a master – it’s a contextual shift in the way one sees the world and I believe that’s what distinguishes my approach to teaching from others, and I know Carole, as well as many others, would wholeheartedly agree, as you can see by reading the feedback of many current and former students.

This fall I will again be teaching two continuing education classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Realistic Portrait & Figure Painting
Fridays • 12:00PM – 6:00PM  • Sep 23 – Dec 16 • 12 Sessions
Register online for the Friday class or call 212.592.2200.

Saturdays • 10:00AM -4:00PM  • Sep 24 – Dec 17 • 12 Sessions
Register online for the Saturday class or call 212.592.2200.

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

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.


“When you do what you’ve done, you get what you’ve gotten.” Mark Twain

Marvin Mattelson Summer Workshops at SVA@NYC


Recent Posthumous Portrait of Edward Cripps by Marvin Mattelson

Contrary to popular belief, doing the same thing over and over doesn’t necessarily make you better. Many great achievers, such as Mark Twain, have echoed this same sentiment. For example, the writer/philosopher Rita Mae Brown has stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

If you want to become a better painter, you need to transform the way you think about making paintings. Simply put, the idea of going to a workshop and picking up a trick or two is not going to make a significant difference in the quality of the work you do. “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading,” cautioned Lao Tzu.

So if doing what you’ve always done isn’t the answer, what is? Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” If you want to achieve greatness you need to approach what you do with the same mindset as the greatest painters in history. I have dedicated my life to uncovering the common threads that bind the greatest classical artists, such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velasquez, Van Dyck, Raeburn, Lawrence, DeCamp and Paxton.

This summer I’ll be sharing my observations at the School of Visual Arts in New York City during my one-week portrait drawing workshop and my two-week oil portrait painting workshop. In the past, people have made remarkable progress in a very condensed time period. Your mileage may vary. Hope to see you there.

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

11 Day Realistic Portrait Painting Workshop
August 1 – 12, 2016 – No class August 7.
Find out more information about this 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


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…

Portrait Painting: Not Just a Passion, but a Great Escape!



Is Anything More Dangerous Than a Frustrated Artist?

According to Friday’s New York Times, one of two escaped inmates bartered his portrait painting skills in order to get an unsuspecting guard to smuggle in tools which the convicts used to break out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. The escapee, Richard W. Matt, was pretty talented, as you can see from his above paintings of President Obama and Martin Luther King, Hillary Clinton, Julia Roberts and Marilyn Monroe. All in all, the guard wound up with 12 original paintings. That’s a lot of work for set of needle nose pliers, a screwdriver and a couple of tubes of white paint. Perhaps he broke out in order to attend my 2 week, August 3-14, Portrait Painting Workshop at the School of Visual Arts. Maybe he realized that if he had taken either a class or a workshop with me he may have been able to fully manifest his talents, like so many of my former students. If he had polished his skills, he might have been able to afford a better lawyer, rent a helicopter to aid in his getaway, or perhaps even have avoided a life of crime altogether. Unfortunately for Mr. Matt,  he was killed by police earlier today. A cautionary tale, no doubt!

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).