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.

Oil Portrait Painting Workshop 2016

11 Day Workshop with Marvin Mattelson

August 1 – 12 (No class August 7)

Includes a 1 Day field trip to the Met

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Workshop demonstration by Marvin Mattelson

Painting is a function of problem-solving; the key is understanding how to control pictorial space on a flat surface. Every paining is different, every lighting condition has its own specific issues, and every situation requires it’s own unique solution.

“Common observation and a plain understanding is the source of all art.”

Sir Joshua Reynolds

After having devoted myself to a life-long in-depth study of the old masters, I have come to the conclusion that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula which will solve the myriad of problems an artist encounters in the course of  creating a realistic painting.

Recently I went to see the Van Dyck portrait exhibition at the Frick Collection here in New York City. I went a total of four times. Each time I went back I was able to pick up on more subtle touches, which served to further validate the ideas that have been percolating in my head for over thirty years.

Van Dyck is one of my great heroes and he has played a significant role in my artistic evolution. In 1988, The National Gallery in D.C. had a show of over 100 Van Dyck portraits and figurative paintings. It was there my ideas about painting took a 180 degree turn when I realized it was possible to not merely replicate reality but to greatly enhance it. Compared to the people looking at the paintings in the gallery, Van Dyck’s figures appeared far more alive and dimensional. To be able to achieve that same enhanced sense of reality became my Holy Grail.

I wasn’t interested in having my paintings look like they were painted by Van Dyck. To merely copy his stylistic devices, would be the artistic equivalent of feeding myself a fish rather than learning how to catch them. I didn’t want to merely copy what he did, rather, my sole focus was to get inside his head and fully understand his thought process.

Understanding why and when he varied his approach seemed to be the key, since he solved seemingly similar problems in a plethora of ways. Little by little, I was able to assimilate his thought process and, I realized, when I began analyzing the paintings of the other great artists I admired, they too employed a similar strategic way of thinking and were also able, without compromising their own unique look, to achieve the same sense of enhanced dimensionality and aliveness as Van Dyck.

With each subsequent Frick visit, this past spring, I felt more and more validated in the approach I utilize when I’m painting and teaching. I believe that once understood, this knowledge can help any artist take their work to a higher level.

What I teach is not a dogmatic cookie-cutter solution but a context within which you can make intelligent and appropriate choices. Conventional thinking never worked for me. I don’t believe that keeping halftones cool or shadows warm or any specific action or series of actions comprise the secret to exceptional painting, No magic medium, fancy palette or specific color is going to transform you into a great painter.

I’m leading an eleven day portrait painting workshop at the School of Visual Arts in New York City from August 1-12. I will be demonstrating all aspects of my teaching. (You can see the demo above, from a previous workshop.) We’ll be working from live models and also be spending one day at the Met, where I’ll be analyzing some of the greatest portraits of all time, and showing you exactly what it is that makes them so effective. This is the only painting workshop I do all year, so if you’re interested in what I have to offer you can register online or call 212.592.2200.

11 Day Realistic Portrait Painting Workshop
August 1 – 12, 2016 • 9:00AM – 5:00PM • No class August 7.
Find out more information about the workshop
This course may also be taken for credit. Please call the registrar’s office @ 212.592.2200 for more information.

Until next time…