Marvin Mattelson Fall 2014 Continuing Education Classes at SVA in NYC

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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.

Masters Secret Summit & Moi!

Marvin-interview

An Online Interview With Marvin Mattelson, Portrait Artist And Educator

Check out The Masters Secret Summit. It’s the creative brainchild of Kathryn Lloyd: a series of 21 Skype interviews with a variety of artist/teachers of representational art conducted by Kathryn, a charming and most gracious west coast artist.

I talk about my evolutionary path from clueless art student to whatever it is you want to call what I’ve become, pitfalls you should try your best to avoid, as well as my thoughts on what it takes to become the artist you aspire to be. If you are interested, you can register for the series at this site: www.themastersecretssummit.com. After you sign up, you will be emailed a link and you’ll be notified when each new interview is released. Best off all it is free.

My interview is now available at www.juskathryn.com/blog/marvin-mattelson/. There’s a form for those who wish to comment.

Let me know what you think.

Until next time…

In the Dark About Black?

St-JeromeI consider black to be an indispensable and versitile color which I utilize wherever and whenever I deem it most appropriate. Obviously I’m in the minority, because conventional thinking seems to be leaning in the opposite direction. Black is apparently not too beautiful when it comes to it’s usage as a pigment. I think there are a lot of associated misunderstandings and misconceptions, so I’m taking this opportunity to set the record straight. Consider it my post-Christmas pre-new year’s gift to you!

If you’ve read my past posts, you know my biggest peeve (one of them anyway) is with regards to rules, and specifically, those that pertain to art making. I tell my students all the time: rules are for fools…the truth shall set ye free! The point of rules is to snatch decision making from the huddled masses incapable of formulating intelligent choices on their own behalf. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps it’s a subject better suited as a theme for a thesis on psychological deficiencies rather than a blog post by some random artist, so for the sake of brevity, I’ll move on to the subject at hand: that poor little misunderstood pigment, black!

Every artist is a creator. Being strapped with rules does nothing to enhance this capability. Rules are tremendously limiting. Making art is about being in the moment – in the now. Thinking what did so and so say about this situation takes us back into the past. Many teachers strap their students with a myriad of rules, as opposed to the conveyance of understanding. It’s easy to spot. When the work of students bears an uncanny resemblance to that of their teacher, rote non-thinking is in the air. It means the ability to make choices has been uncermoniously supplanted by dictatorial rhetoric.

As a result, options get buried under the banner of: never do this; always do that. The use, or more specifically, the non-use of black is the poster child of all art rules. After all, the almighty impressionists never used black!! They also demeaned the training they received at the French Academy. Many artists would rather have their eyes gouged out (I’m exaggerating here for dramatic effect) than put a dab of black on their precious palettes.

We’ve all heard the justifications. Black muddies your colors. Black kills the picture. Black in a landscape sucks away atmospheric effects. Black doesn’t exist in nature. Black isn’t a real color. It’s always better to mix your own black. Only amateur artists use black. Never use black, use blue instead.

Well, that’s all nice to hear, but the truth is: denying yourself the use of black would be like writing a novel using a truncated alphabet.

To put black in historical perspective:

  • Rembrandt used black.
  • Rubens used black.
  • Van Dyke used black.
  • Vermeer used black.
  • Lawrence used black.
  • Raeburn used black.
  • Bouguereau used black.
  • Gerome used black.
  • Paxton used black.
  • Sargent used black.
  • Zorn used black

Exactly what artist, of equivalent merit, eschews(ed) the use of black? Anders Zorn used four colors, one of which was black! So why did black get such a bad rap? Very simple, due to misuse through ignorance, the rule fairy came out, cast her wicked spell, and the masses bowed down. But lets not be so quick to throw the baby out with the bath water.

The question here, is how was it misused and what can be done about it? To the best of my knowledge, there are just two problematic issues. The first deals with inappropriate color mixing. In the past, certain artists, like El Greco (see the painting, above) used black to darken their colors – as evidenced in the painting of St. Jerome’s hands. The muddy lifeless color perfectly exemplifies the shortcomings of this approach. The second problem is related to cracking on the surface of paintings. If you go to a museum, you can see this phenomena is more prevalent in the darks. Ivory black is very, very…wait for it…very slow drying. Oil paint dries from the outside in. If you attempt to paint over a slow drying color – which hasn’t thoroughly dried – it will eventually crack.

But black can also be a very potent and powerful tool. Black is the lowest valued pigment and gives us the ability to indicate the darkest accents. It’s also very useful if you want to darken an already dark color. Now, it may lower the chroma a bit, but how much chroma is actually evident in the deep shadows of nature. The hue shifts that may occur when adding black to lower the value of dark colors are inconsequential in my experience – since, in a low value range, the chroma is fairly subdued to begin with. Sometimes you need to make a choice: value vs chroma. Give up black and you no longer have that option.

Using black to darken light colors is another story. That’s a fools errand for two reasons. It grays everything down – whether you want to or not – and can cause unwanted and disharmonious hue shifts, the technical term for muddy colors. These shifts result from black always manifesting some evidence of an underlying hue. Ivory black is, in reality, a very dark low chroma blue. If you add white to it, you can easily see this. That’s the reason why, when you darken yellow with black, you get green.  (When people say they use blue in place of black, it makes me laugh. They’re essentially saying, instead of blue, I use blue.)

As far as cracking goes, make sure your under layers are thoroughly dry before over painting. When using ivory black, that may mean up to, or greater than, a six month wait. The other option: don’t use pure black in your under layers! If you add raw umber (the fastest drying of all pigments) to your black, it will speed up the drying considerably. Save the pure black touches for your final layer. Even in my darkest accents I add raw umber. (To be safe, make sure you wait a sufficient amount of time before varnishing.)

So use black appropriately and you won’t have any problems. And then you can reap the rewards of using it for, what I believe to be, it’s greatest property: as a component in the mixing of neutrals. Ivory black will make a very useful and practical neutral gray when mixed with the aforementioned raw umber, plus white. I prefer to use grays and not complements to knock down the intensity of my color mixtures, when need be. Since both raw umber and ivory black have weak tinting strength, their resulting neutrals do not cause any significant hue shifts when mixed with other pigments. These grays exhibit no evidence of color bias, even when mixing into delicate pastel yellows. As a portrait artist I need the ability to control the myriad of subtle hue, value and chroma shifts evidenced in the human complexion. These grays, which include ivory black, are for me, the answer to a lifetime of prayers.

As far as mixing blacks go, they’re fine to use as is, but if you use them to create chroma controlling neutrals, the end result would be unpredictable and erratic shifts. Just because two colors appear to look the same it doesn’t mean they will mix the same. Mixing colors is akin to playing with a chemistry set. The wrong mixture – say cadmium and sulfur – and… BOOM!!! One thing that is often overlooked when setting a palette is whether there are potentially volatile pigments in the mix.

In the end, the addition of black paint on your palette will give you the widest possible dynamic range available and a powerful mixing ingredient utilized by arguably the greatest realist painters in history. Remember, black is beautiful.

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…

Put a Fork In It, the Road That Is!

Yogi Berra said, when you come to a fork in the road…take it. Forks are just a folksy way of saying time to choose. Life is a series of choices. Astrophysicist or homeless person? Some choices are more obvious than others. I chose artist, but, as it’s been said, every solution creates a bigger problem. Each fork in the road precedes the next one. Abstract or realist?

During the course of creating a painting, there are a myriad of choices that need to be made. These choices could be dictated by a variety of catalysts. Unfortunately, choices can be predetermined by prejudices rooted in belief systems. That’s a fancy way of saying, your rules choose for you. If this is how you navigate your course, it could turn into a very long and winding road.

Of course there is another option. You can choose in which direction to go, based on your intended destination. This is the road far less traveled. Probably not even on the map for most. You can make the best choice by responding to the task at hand, based on understanding the consequences of each action. You use your knowledge and savvy to figure out which fork will get you to where you want to go. The key here is intent. Time management guru, Steven Covey says, “begin with the end in mind.”

A rule may direct me to sharpen an edge, but understanding my intent I might choose to soften it.

My intent is to be an illusionistic realist. I want my portraits to come to life. When someone stands before one of my paintings, it’s my intent for them to feel that they’re looking at reality. That’s the main reaction I’m after. Once they get past their first reaction, I’d like them to think, wait a minute, this is actually a painting–by portrait artist Marvin Mattelson! That’s my secondary intent.

If my intentions are clear, I can approach each fork in the road as if it were a walk in the park.

Until next time…