Drawing the line: A Virtual Portrait Drawing Workshop

July 13 – 17, 2020 • 9 AM – 5 PM • Online learning @ sva.edu

Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.

G. K. Chesterton

I’ll be leading an intensive 5 day drawing workshop starting Monday July 13, 2020.

Drawing Workshop: This starts one week from today, so please register quickly if you’re interested.


This is not a typical drawing workshop where you may pick up a trick or two. Throw out all the typical rules and regulations. The purpose of this workshop is to transform the way you think about drawing and making art.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Wayne Dyer

My teaching is rooted in mindful learning, allowing you to contextually assess the situation at hand and make appropriate decisions based on your artistic intent. The actions you take are unique to you.

Most art courses are based in rote learning – the memorization of steps to take and rules to follow. When decision making is based on somebody else’s blueprint, the best possible scenario is that the work of the student winds up looking just like their teachers’.

In this workshop you will learn to truly see what’s in front of you and how to make it appear three dimensional on a flat surface. Understanding how to achieve this end gives you the flexibility to control the effect your drawing has on the viewer. It’s all about decision making.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have chosen to migrate my workshops to online learning. I instituted this new approach over the last six weeks of school (due to the manditory closure of all of the school’s buildings) and I discovered it offered advantages which enabled me to teach even more effectively. 

The core of my teaching approach is to convey true understanding (through mindful or conceptual learning). This allows students to relate new information to prior knowledge. I demonstrate each step, while explaining my every action and answer whatever questions arise. It’s the best way for visually oriented people to learn and is the antithesis of rote learning (rule following), which is the way most art is taught. 

My main emphasis is on the important roll that stratigic thinking plays in the creative process.

An artist paints not with his hand but with his mind.


The purpose of this workshop is to create a contextual shift in the way you approach drawing – to be more mindful. 

Summer 2020 Workshops
Until the current pandemic is under control, and personal safety can be 100% guaranteed, my teaching will be conducted online exclusively. These classes will be unlike any you have ever experienced. There is limited space available. Register quickly to secure your spot. This summer in addition to the one-week portrait drawing workshop, I’m also leading a two-week portrait painting workshop.  

Painting Workshop: Starts the first week in August. https://sva.edu/academics/continuing-education/fine-arts/online-courses/realistic-oil-portrait-painting-from-photo-reference-20-cu-fic-2221-a

There are many approaches to painting.

What should be the first object and principal aim of a painter? The first aim of the painter is to make it appear that a round body in relief is presented upon the flat surface of his picture; and he who surpasses others in this respect deserves to be esteemed more skillful than they in his calling.

Leonardo DaVinci

In the fall, I will be teaching my Continuing Ed class through SVA on Saturdays. I will also be offering other classes outside of the SVA environment, on other days, assuming there’s an interest. Let me know if this is something you would like to participate in.

Take care, stay safe and be well. Hope to “see” you soon

NYC Realistic Portrait Painting Workshop • August 5-16 2019

Marvin Mattelson’s Realistic Portrait Painting Workshop At The School Of Visual Arts In NYC: August 5-16; 9am To 5pm.

This coming August I will be teaching my annual two-week portrait workshop at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. The dates are August 6 – August 15, 2019. This workshop is designed to accelerate your growth as an artist. My methodology is based on the time-honored approach that dates back more than 500 years. I teach the same mindset that guided artists such as Rembrandt, Velasquez, van Dyck, and Paxton. It’s not about the technique, or the medium, or the colors. All of the above will not make you a great artist; just like wearing Air Jordans will not make you into a superstar basketball player.

The finished demo of Bradley

It’s all about the decision-making if you want to take your work to a higher level, creating paintings that have depth, space, light, and air surrounding the figure. This workshop is not only for portrait artists but for all artists of every genre. It’s been said that if you can paint a portrait you can paint anything.

The initial drawing

This is not a cookie-cutter approach where all the students come out with paintings that look exactly the same. In the same way that the aforementioned artists have their own unique and easily recognizable styles, you should be able to have your work be specific to you, looking like your hand was holding the brush on the best day you have yet to experience as an artist.

The wash-in underpainting

Many people, both artists, and teachers will tell you that it will take years of study for you to be the best artist you can be. Not true! It will take years of practice, not study. Perfect practice with-in the framework of the mindful approach to painting which you will learn in this workshop.

The first lay-in of color

All ideas, techniques, philosophies and methodologies will be fully demonstrated and explained in great detail. These two weeks will transform you as an artist. As my student Dorian Vallejo stated, “Marvin Mattelson changes the lives of those students who pay attention!” In addition to the 10 days you will be painting the live model in the studio, we will spend the intervening Saturday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I will take you on a tour of some of the greatest portraits ever painted and point out with great exactitude how those artists are utilizing the same exact strategies and methodologies that you will be learning in class.

The refinement of the color transitions

There are two ways to approach a painting, the direct, or alla prima, method or the indirect, or layering approach. During the workshop you will learn the latter. By building up the painting with layers you have far more control and the ability to subtly adjust the various aspects of the painting to enhance the illusion of three-dimensional reality. By the nature of the fact that oil paint is translucent, you have the ability to paint far more lifelike skin tones than if you paint directly since all skin is translucent. You can see the progression in the demonstration painting I have posted here of my model Bradley.

Once again, the final portrait

These 11 days have changed the lives of numerous artists. My students say they will never look at art or the world in the same way. Registration is now open. You can register for the workshop and find out more information by clicking here for the School of Visual Arts website.

I’ll be attending the Fine Art Info Session which will take place at the school on Wednesday evening, May 8, 2019, from 6:30 – 8:30 PM at 136 West 21st Street in room 418F, 4th floor, if you’d like to stop in and say hello and find out more about my teaching.

NYC Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop • June 3-7 2019

Workshop drawing by Jess Goldstein

Marvin Mattelson’s Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop at the School of Visual Arts in NYC: June 3-7; 9am to 5pm.

Next month at the School of Visual Arts in New York City I will be leading by annual portrait drawing workshop. It’s a five-day workshop that runs from 9 AM to 5 PM. My approach to drawing is more about strategic thinking as opposed to merely technique.

I’ve included a few examples of my students’ drawings done during last year’s workshop.

Workshop Drawing by Christine McBryan

That’s not to say that I don’t cover technique, because without technique you really wouldn’t have a drawing. But the way that a lot of drawing is thought these days, it’s really about copying what’s in front of you and if you want to obsessively copy the world around Perhaps you should save yourself a lot of time and buy a camera because what you get by copying is flat and static images. Beautiful and lively art comes down to the choices that you make. Every line every tone can be utilized to convey something far beyond just copied.

Michelangelo said, “An artist paints with his brains, not with his hands.” I think that this is all too overlooked in today’s teaching of art. I see a lot of schools were all the artists come out with work that looks exactly the same. This is something I just don’t understand. A methodology that dictates specific rules to be applied in every singular situation seems to be the antithesis of expressing oneself.

Workshop Drawing by Sandy Caracciolo

The point of this workshop is to train you to see objectively what’s in front of your eyes, whether from life or from photos and most importantly, to understand how to convey the experience of what you’re seeing. If you can become aware of the underlying structure, the spatial implications, and your emotional intent, you can make a far more convincing and engaging drawing. Interestingly my approach can pay huge dividends within a very condensed period of time.

Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” What I’m teaching I would refer to as a contextual shift. Contextual shifts can happen in a moment. We’ve all experienced circumstances that once they occur, change our perception forevermore. To illustrate this I’ve included two drawings by one of my students from last summer, Sarah Van Dorn. Sarah has dabbled in art, mostly abstraction, and had never taken a realistic drawing or painting class previously. I’ve included the first drawing that she did and the last strong that she did during the week. You can see the results are stunning and exemplify what artistic transformation is about. That’s the goal of the workshop.

Sarah Van Doren’s first drawing of the week.
And Sarah’s final drawing four days later.

All ideas, fundimentals and techniques will be fully explained and demonstrated.

Registration is now open and you can click the link to the School of Visual Arts’ website. to register or find out more information. I’ll be attending the Fine Art Info Session which will take place at the school on Wednesday evening, May 8, 2019, from 6:30 – 8:30 at 136 West 21st Street in room 418F, 4th floor if you’d like to stop in and say hello and find out more about my teaching.

Spring Continuing Ed Portrait Painting and Figure Painting Classes at the School of Visual Arts in NYC

Classes begin February 1st and 2nd

Class painting by Noor Chadha

Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting from Life

Friday 12:00PM – 6:00PM Feb 01 – May 03

Call 212-592-2050 or click here to register or for more info.

Class Painting by Tanya Stolstein

Classical Portrait Painting from Life

Saturday 10:00AM – 4:00PM Feb 02 – May 04

Call 212-592-2050 or click here to register or to get more info.

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be teaching two continuing education classes at the School of Visual Arts this coming semester. On Friday afternoons, from noon to 6 pm, it’s Realistic Portrait and Figure Painting and on Saturday it’s Realistic Portrait Painting from 10am to 4pm. 

Living and working as a professional artist in New York for more than 40 years has given me the unique opportunity to analyze some of the greatest masterpieces of Western Art. This has afforded me unfettered access to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Collection, as well as auction previews at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. I’ve examined and analyzed hundreds of of original works by legendary artists such as Rembrandt, Velasquez, Van Dyke, Ingres, Bouguereau and Paxton and have come to a deep understanding of what I believe to be the underlying mindset they all share. This forms the backbone of how I approach not only my painting but my teaching as well. 

Great painting is about manifesting intent. Having a deep understanding of visual phenomena. It’s definitely not about copying what’s in front of you, imitating brushwork, rendering something to death or finding that “magic” medium. A great painting has the potential to convey something more real than reality. 

My teaching is based on a simple premise: to own it, you need to understand exactly the way it works. I teach the underlying principles of what makes a great painting great. What differentiates my teaching from others is that I don’t teach rules, but the consequences of choices. 

My students don’t follow a dogmatic cookie cutter script where all the student’s work bears an uncanny resemblance to the teacher’s. I believe that making art is about discovering who you are. Once you understand the underlying mindset and techniques I teach you’ll have the freedom to express the real you. 

All aspects of my techniques and methodologies will be fully demonstrated in class. When not demoing I spend the remainder of class working with and critiquing my students one on one. You don’t need to be a full-time student to make great progress. My students often remark they learned more in the first day of class than they had in many years of so-called study.

In addition to the class sessions, we’ll take a Sunday field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I will break down the great masterworks and evaluate each work in accordance to the principles I teach. My intent is to transform the way you approach and look at painting.

See you in class!  

Underpaintings Blogspot – A Post About Me!

My former student and friend, Matthew Innis is the author of my favorite blog Underpaintings.

Underpaintings – A forum posted by Matthew D. Innis which celebrates excellence in Representational Art – past, present, and future.

Yesterday Matt posted about his experience as my student in the Continuing Education program at SVA and shared how he came to study with me. It’s a very nice read. If you have yet to visit his blog you’re in for a big treat.

Matthew also posted some of my pre-portraiture illustrations. If you’re not familiar with that aspect of my artistic development, you can see a little of what I used to do.

Another former student of mine, Nanci France-Paz, generously commented on her experience studying with me as well. I’m very grateful to all my past and present students who have nice things to say about the time we’ve spent together.