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.


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


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…

Register now, or forever hold your piece (of charcoal)

Marvin Mattelson interviews himself!

Detail of Marvin’s drawing demo from a previous year:

My 5 Day Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop at the School of Visual Arts in NYC starts on this coming Monday, June 6th, and runs until Friday, June 10th, so I decided to pose some deeply probing questions to myself so that potential students could get a better idea of why they should sign up today.

Q: Why your workshop when there are so many to choose from?

A: Good question! First you’d be helping me line my pockets with gold. Just kidding, I will receive a check in payment for my services.

Q: No seriously. Why your workshop?

A: I think I offer a different level of understanding than what I’ve come to see in the teaching of others. The majority of teachers give rules and techniques to follow. Me, however, I feel very strongly that unless you know why you are doing something, you’ll never have free will.

Q: That’s a pretty bold statement. Care to explain more succinctly?

A: Yes, it’s like the parable about fishing, the difference between giving a man a fish and feeding him for one day or teaching him to fish and feeding him for a lifetime. Creating art is about making the appropriate choices, moment by moment. Rote reaction to any circumstance makes you a robot at best.

Q: What makes you think this rote way of teaching is so widespread?

A: I see students coming out of learning institutions and all the work looks pretty much the same stylistically. What other conclusions could I draw?

Q: Good point and clever pun (if I say so myself). So what will people walk away with if they sign up?

A: First they’ll have fun. It’s hard to learn in an uptight environment from people who take themselves too seriously. I’m a very irreverent person and I’m an artist because I want to spend my life doing what makes me happy. Being in a relaxed state encourages flow.

Q: Anything tangible beyond this new age mumbo-jumbo?

A: For those who want a more meat-and-potatoes kind of explanation, my students will learn, first, to see more accurately, also a function of being on the moment (Mumbo-jumbo or not…this is key!). They will learn how to convert what they see into a 3D representation on a flat surface. They’ll learn techniques that they can blend into their own way of working. Most importantly they’ll become far more adept at drawing, which is – as Ingres put it – the probity of art. To that end they can have far greater control whether drawing or painting or whatever their end game.

Q: Wow, you make a very compelling argument. I’d sign up for that in a minute. Any last thoughts?

A: Here’s the thing, far too many people get caught up in believing if they can only learn that one elusive technical tidbit, that’s the answer. I know, I’ve been there…and nothing could be farther from the truth. Basho, a Japanese poet said, “Don’t follow in the footsteps of the masters, seek what they sought.” I think anyone would benefit greatly from this approach.

Q: Thanks so much for the interview.

A: The pleasure was all mine!

5 Day Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop
June 6 – 10, 2016 • 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Find out more information about this workshop
Register online or call 212.592.2200

Where To Draw The Line; Marvin Mattelson’s SVA Summer Drawing Workshop

“Matt-Ellrod-2192"Workshop drawing by Matt Ellrod

G. K. Chesterton once observed, “Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.” For advice on morality you should seek spiritual guidance, but as far as where to draw a line, I think I may be able to help. I will be leading a portrait drawing workshop at the School of Visual Arts here in the heart of New York City from June 6-10.

Workshop drawing by Mandy BisestiWorkshop drawing by Mandy Basesti

In this workshop you will learn to create a portrait drawing using charcoal and white chalk on toned paper. It’s my take on a technique used by the great French draftsman Pierre-Paul Prud’hon in the late 18th and early 19th century. This technique, which actually dates back many hundreds of years prior to Prud’hon, allows you to develop a drawing in much less time than simply drawing on white paper. For that reason many artists such as Sir Anthony Van Dyck and Elizabeth Vigee LeBrun (both of which are currently featured in museum retrospectives here in NYC) have used this technique to save themselves valuable time.

Workshop Drawing by Carole KatzWorkshop Drawing by Carole Katz

Although the technical aspects of making a finished drawing will be covered in great detail, the primary focus of this workshop is learning to see proportions and tones more accurately. This will greatly enhance your ability to not only capture a faithful likeness, but also to better assess values, allowing you to render form more effectively. In class we will be working exclusively from live models. I will be demonstrating and explaining all aspects of my drawing methodology and the underlying concepts that govern my actions. You will come away from the workshop with a deeper understanding and a sound strategy for approaching any subject.

Workshop Drawing by Barry GraysonWorkshop Drawing by Barry Grayson

You will learn how to develop the illusion of three-dimensional form bathed in light and surrounded by air. Whether your goal is to improve your drawing for its own sake, or to enhance your drawing skills as a conduit to further improving your paintings, this workshop will provide you with the tools necessary to draw with more confidence.

Workshop drawing by Paul BeaudoinWorkshop drawing by Paul Beaudoin

Throughout this article you are seeing recent drawings by my workshop students. These drawings were done in approximately one day, not obsessively rendered over a period of either weeks or months. Notice the diversity of stylistic approaches. Rather than dogmatically insisting that my students draw in a particular way, my goal is to assist you in becoming the best possible version of yourself.

Workshop drawing by Pete GrillWorkshop drawing by Pete Grill

On Wednesday, May 11, there will be a Fine Arts Information Session: Painting, Drawing, Sculpture and Printmaking at the School Visual Arts at 133/141 W. 21st Street, room 602C, sixth floor from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. I’ll be there if you have any questions about my drawing workshop or my two-week portrait workshop from August 8-19, or just want to stop by and say hello.

Workshop drawing by Matt EllrodWorkshop drawing by Matt Ellrod

5 Day Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop
June 6 – 10, 2016 • 9:00AM – 5:00PM
Find out more information about this workshop
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
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 New York City Portrait & Figure Painting Classes

Continuing Education Classes At the School of Visual Arts

Portrait class in Marvin Mattelson's studio at SVA.

Portrait class in Marvin Mattelson’s studio at SVA.

Once again I’ll be teaching two classes at SVA in NYC for the fall semester on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information about the courses you can check out my site: www.fineartportrait.com. My goal is not only to make my students better painters but to transform the way they think. Here’s a couple of quotes from former students.

I thank Marvin most of all for the recent growth I have seen in my own art. His ability to communicate his knowledge of painting to students is, in my mind, unsurpassed.
Matthew Innis

It seems you’ve developed into the kind of instructor we all wish we’d had early on. I like your kid-in-the-candy-store enthusiasm for what you are teaching. Even the things I was already familiar with you presented so concisely that it made me know it better. The whole experience was well worth the time, effort and money. Not everyone can be fun and serious. It’s a synergistic mix.
Jeff Ott

Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting • FPC-2010-CE
Fridays • 12:00PM – 6:00PM • 12 sessions • First class: Sept. 25, 2015
Click here to register online for the Friday class.

Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting • FPC-2010-CE1
Saturdays • 10:00 AM – 4:00PM • 11 Sessions • First class: Sept. 26, 2015
Click here to register online for the Saturday class.

These courses may also be taken for undergraduate credit. For information call the Registrar’s Office (212) 592.2200.

I will be attending a fine art information session on Monday August 24 at 133/141 West 21st Street, room 602C, 6th floor, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Please stop by and say hello.