Why Settle for Conventionality When Greatness May Be Around the Bend?

Last chance to register for Marvin Mattelson’s portrait drawing workshop in New York City!

A number of years ago Apple had a great advertising campaign entitled “Think Different!” It was quite brilliant, placing the emphasis on innovation by those who went against the norm. One would think that artists in particular would be able to relate to that, because by nature we are different than the majority of people who are non-artists. In lieu of that, I find it really amazing how fearful artists seem when it comes to thinking differently.  I guess there is comfort in the road most commonly traveled. It appears that far too many of us cling to convention as far as creating art goes. Thinking similarly? I tell my students, all the time, that conventional thinking makes for conventional artists.

Several weeks ago I went to a couple of auction previews at Christies and Sotheby’s as well as to an exhibit of contemporary realists. To me the Bouguereau painting entitled “Petite Berg” (see above) was by far the most impressive painting that I saw that day. It wasn’t great solely based on his technique, there were other paintings I viewed where the paint handling was top notch, but Bouguereau’s superior decision-making made it, for me, a far more compelling work of art. The way Bouguereau handled his color, edges, values, light and atmosphere put him in the league of his own. The great thing is, once you understand his thought process – which can be discerned in the works of all great artists – you can adapt these things to your own work in your own style and make yourself the best version of yourself, not a secondary clone of someone else.  It’s not about the application of paint, it’s about the application of knowledge.

Far too many who seek to be better artists think that the end-all is in achieving better technique. As a result the majority of students coming out the schools and teaching academies create work that looks eerily similar to their classmates. Based on the way paint is applied, the choice of colors, the composition and other telltale stylistic artifacts, the work tends to lack the handprint of the individual. When teaching is technique-centric what else can you expect?

There seems to be such a proliferation of artists out there consumed with understanding the exact techniques of any particular artist they admire. “If only I knew how so-and-so painted, then I could paint just like him/her.” Playing on this mind-set, manufacturers are now offering the traditional pigments and mediums used by artists of the past. Do you seriously think that’s going to make a difference? Not that it’s bad to use these materials, but it’s certainly not the end-all.

The truth of the matter is, it’s never the particular technique of any artist in question that makes them great.  In fact many great artists have changed their painting methodologies many times over the course of their careers. Don’t kid yourself, it’s the underlying thought process that makes great artists great. Yes, in my teaching I too cover a myriad of technical aspects – you still need a way to manifest your ideas on a canvas – but it’s this strategic thinking that lies at the heart of it all. It’s exactly what Michelangelo meant when he proclaimed, “A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.

So in my workshops and classes I offer a different point of view. This decision-making is at the heart of all my teaching. Once you understand it you will be able to forge your own path and no longer need to rely on technical convention.  So anyone looking to think differently should think about taking my drawing workshop which starts this coming Monday or my painting workshop which is scheduled for the second week of August, both at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

And it all starts with the drawing. To attend the drawing workshop please call 212-592-2200 or you may register online now. If you are interested in further information, you can read about the course here.

I’m also leading a 2 week workshop: Portrait Painting: The Real Deal from August 14-25. You can register online as well, or call 212-592-2200.

Until next time…

New York Portrait Artist Workshop Demonstration – Day 4

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Today I completed my demonstration of Megan. I followed the same procedure as the previous day’s demo, but focused on smaller and more subtle nuanced shapes and transitions. I’m very happy with the way it came out and would have loved to keep working on it. When Megan came down from the model stand, after her next to last sitting, she looked and the painting, gasped and then hugged me. It was very touching. I’ve never had anything like that happen before.

Below are the progressive steps today’s journey took, followed by a few details. Unfortunately, there is some glare on these last images. I’ll try to get a better shot of the finished painting and post it soon.

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My workshop schedule for this year will be complete come tomorrow. For those interested, my continuing education classes at the School of Visual Arts begin in mid-September. Should be fun.

Until next time…

New York Portrait Artist Workshop Demonstration – Day 2

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Yesterday I demonstrated my procedure for mixing up the colors on my palette. Today I laid in the color in a logical and methodical way and even had time at the end of the day to start the edge handling. Next up: the refinement stage. Below you can trace my steps, starting with the drawing correction and finishing up with the complete coverage of the underpainting.

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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!