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.

Making Rhyme Out of Reason: An Oil Portrait Painting Workshop with Marvin Mattelson

Portrait Painting: The Real Deal
New York City • August 14 – 25, 2017
@ the School of Visual Arts

Just to give you an indication,
Here’s Marvin’s last workshop demonstration.

I often post upon this blog my teaching offerings,
Like classes during the school year as well as other things.
It’s always a challenge to vary my message and avoid redundancy.
So this time around I’m communicating to you in the form of poetry.

At the School of Visual Arts each August, I lead an oil portrait workshop.
From the fourteenth through the twenty fifth, the learning is non-stop.
If you truly desire to become the very best artist you can be.
Sign up and take full advantage of this great opportunity.

For two weeks—Mondays through Fridays, nine to five—there’s much to ingest.
The middle Saturday is a field trip to the Met, while Sunday’s a day of rest.
I teach a contextual approach designed to enhance your individuality.
No, this isn’t a cookie cutter system and you won’t turn into a mini-me.

I think most artists searching for answers, are barking up the wrong tree.
It’s not about using some historical pigment or finding a long-lost recipe.
On the other side of the coin, if you’ve been told from your youth,
That making art is intuitive. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There’s a middle ground, a balance, that I find works the very best.
My students tell me my approach is more effective than the rest.
Michelangelo said, “A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.”
I believe this fundamental truth is something that every great artist understands.

What I teach is not rote learning. Why paint someone else’s way?
It’s the difference between learning to fish or being fed for a day.
Style’s a poor substitute for knowledge and shouldn’t be focused on.
Individuality should never be sacrificed, when all is said and done!

When you approach it step by step,
You will become much more adept.

Technique is important and I cover all aspects, but that’s not really the key.
The important fact is that at the core of all great painting is a logical philosophy.
Learn in a short span what might take you decades on your own to master.
Why struggle and suffer needlessly; when you can get there so much faster?

Painting from models is the best way to learn, ‘cause everything’s right there,
You can clearly analyze 3-D structure and the effects of light and air.
You’ll learn how to identify any color you see and to mix it efficiently.
As opposed to your typical hit or miss method, which is pure insanity.

I will clearly explain everything that I’m doing while I’m demonstrating.
At all other times I go from student to student; I’m continuously circulating.
You’ll learn ways to capture a likeness and to see more accurately.
And what it takes to convey on your canvas a real life-like quality.

A contextual methodology lies at the heart of everything I teach.
When you apply this framework all possibilities are within reach.
Please understand, painting isn’t a simple task, it’s very complicated.
But if you can approach it more logically, you won’t be so frustrated.

I hope these verses I’ve penned for you have given you some indication
Of the wonderful experience awaiting you that will enhance your art education.
My workshop, very much like this poem, is designed to keep you entertained,
Making information more easily processed and so it can be fully ingrained.

In three more lines my poem will reach it’s eventual conclusion.
If you want to turn your work around, I’m offering the perfect solution.
You may click on this line in the event you desire some additional information.
To sign up call 212-592-2200, or click this link to access online registration.

 

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…

Marvin Mattelson Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop

June 5-9 @ The School of Visual Arts in New York City

I’ll be leading a drawing workshop at the School of Visual Arts in New York City from June 5-9 (9 AM- 5 PM daily).

I believe that my workshops are fundamentally different than those led by other people. My main focus it is on changing the way you think about making art. Mark Twain said it best, “When you do what you’ve done, you get what you’ve gotten.” If you want to be a better artist, you need to learn to think like a better artist. It’s not about learning a little trick or two and it certainly isn’t about learning more rules. But don’t worry, the course is packed with more technical information than you could ever imagine.

But why listen to me. Although I’ve been at every workshop I’ve ever led, I’ve never had the opportunity to actually experience one first-hand.  Then it hit me, wouldn’t the best explanation come from a former student who actually participated in one of my drawing workshops. So what follows is the text from an email that my former student, Mary Beth Lumley, sent to me following the workshop she took. I’ve also enclosed some pictures of her exquisite drawing for your viewing pleasure.

Marvin, how can I ever thank you for this week?? What a wonderful, eye-opening adventure it was. I so enjoyed meeting you and having the honor of spending time with you. I can’t wait to put what I’ve learned from you into action and have been working all morning to rearrange my condo (read also: life) to create space for the development of my artwork. I know I’m only one of hundreds of students you’ve encouraged and artists’ lives you’ve helped to transform, but you made me feel so special and have left an indelible impression on my art and my life.

Going into your drawing workshop, I had hoped to gain a fresh perspective and learn some fundamentals I could apply to what I already knew about drawing. I had no idea what I was about to experience. Like so many of your students, I thought I had some knowledge on the subject, but right away I realized the smartest thing I could do would be to leave behind what I knew and fully embrace your incredibly unique methodology. You didn’t just teach me to draw, you taught me to see — a universal skill I can apply to everything I create, regardless of the medium.

So few people have the ability to operate at the level you do artistically, but even fewer have the skills and desire to teach others how it’s done. You took what you learned about us as individuals and you developed custom, innovative teaching methods using them to push each of us to new levels. You understand how people learn and seem to genuinely thrive off of your students’ progress. Selfless with your wealth of knowledge, you jumped at any opportunity to share what you know with your students. After only six days, every one of us walked away with more knowledge than we could have ever hoped to achieve in that time-frame and for that amount of money. This workshop was, without a doubt, the best investment I’ve ever made in the development of my skills as an artist.

I cannot thank you enough for everything you taught me this week, Marvin. You are a spectacular teacher and person, and I will be counting down the days until I can study with you again.

Mary Beth Lumley

 

 

If you’d like to hear what others have said regarding their experience of studying with Marvin, you can read additional student feedback here.

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.

There will also be an open house at The School of Visual Arts on Thursday, May 11, at 6:30. I’ll be giving a short presentation about my summer workshops. I’d love to see you there and I’d definitely love to see you at the workshop.

Until next time…

Roots and Wings: The Tao of Teaching


Yesterday I received an email from my former student Roger Derrick, which jump-started this post in my mind. Roger wanted to show me some new works in progress. I was astonished to see how far he had come since being in my class. The goal of my teaching is to cultivate each student’s understanding of the underlying principles that inform the decision-making process, giving them the ability to come up with the appropriate course of action in any situation. This approach allows an artist to continue to develop just the way Roger has, through determination, hard work and applied logic.

Teaching is no different than parenting. When people learn that I am a father, the first thing they ask is, “Are your kids artists?” My reply is always, “No, they’re not me! They get to choose their own paths.”

Now, many parents want their children to follow in their footsteps. They want their kids to come back and ask for advice when there are important decisions to make, regardless of their age. Obviously, these parent’s intentions are good. They want what’s best for their children, but they base their counseling on their own priorities. It’s only natural to want what’s best for your offspring! Right? But natural for whom? I raised my children to think for themselves based on understanding and good judgment. I chose to support their interests rather than imposing my own. As a result, they grew up to be independent thinkers, more than capable of making their own life choices. I couldn’t be any prouder or happier of them, regardless of the paths they follow.

My goal as a teacher is the same as my goals as a parent, to allow my students to develop into the best artists they can be, and not a replication of myself. There’s a very famous poem by Dennis Waitley about parenting, entitled “Roots and Wings”. Here’s the poem:

If I had two wishes, I know what they would be
I’d wish for Roots to cling to, and Wings to set me free;
Roots of inner values, like rings within a tree;
and Wings of independence to seek my destiny.
Roots to hold forever to keep me safe and strong,
To let me know you love me, when I’ve done something wrong;
To show me by example, and helps me learn to choose,
To take those actions every day to win instead of lose.
Just be there when I need you, to tell me it’s all right,
To face my fear of falling when I test my wings in flight;
Don’t make my life too easy, it’s better if I try,
And fail and get back up myself, so I can learn to fly.
If I had two wishes, and two were all I had,
And they could just be granted, by my Mom and Dad;
I wouldn’t ask for money or any store-bought things.
The greatest gifts I’d ask for are simply Roots and Wings.

When it comes to teaching art there are two basic approaches:

1)You can teach what you do.

2)You can teach the underlying fundamental principles of understanding.

Those who teach what they do have very specific rules regarding not only technique but what to do in every given situation. In other words a strict edict to follow. Unfortunately this results in students whose work strongly mimics that of their teacher. The better the student, the closer the adherence. Everyone turns into a some version of the master!

I choose the fundamental understanding route. If you know why things work then you have choices in every given situation; you do what you do based on your artistic intent and not anyone else’s. That doesn’t mean I eschew technique. On the contrary, my teaching is very technical because it’s vitally important to have the ability to manifest the choices you’re making.

I love it when no apparent stylistic imprint of myself is evident in the work of a former student. It’s my understanding that Jean Leon Gerome – the great academic painter of the 19th Century and one of the most revered educators of his time – shared the same philosophy. This enabled him to develop students as diverse as Thomas Eakins and William McGregor Paxton. Each of those artists took what they learned and were able to form their own unique personality and point of view.

I thought about the past week, where I had the great privilege of seeing a new show of paintings by my former student, TM Davy, a series of beautiful unique and innovative paintings of horses at the 11R gallery in New York City. I also saw, on Facebook, two great paintings by former students Billy Norrby and Martin Wittfooth. I received an email from Steve Birmbaum, the Assistant Director of Media at SVA. Steve had interviewed another long ago student, Brian Donnelly (aka KAWS), a highly successful Chelsea gallery artist. Steve wrote, “The interview went great and Brian had a lot of wonderful things to say about you and your class during his time at SVA.” A few weeks ago, I learned another of my past students, Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, was developing, for 20th Century Fox Animation, a feature film based on “The Dam Keeper”, his 2015 Academy Award-nominated animated short. The incredible thing about all these artists is that you would never know they all studied with the same teacher. They took their roots and flew to the heavens.

This week my new continuing education classes at the School of Visual Arts will be starting. It’s a perfect opportunity to self-reflect and ask yourself, “Do I follow in someone else’s footsteps or do I want to grow roots and wings?”

Portrait Painting: The Real Deal • Fridays
12:00PM – 6:00PM  • Jan 27 – Apr 21 • 12 Sessions
Register online now for the Friday class or call 212.592.2200.

Portrait Painting: The Real Deal • Saturdays
10:00AM – 4:00PM  • Jan 28 – April 29 • 12 Sessions
Register online now for the Saturday class or call 212.592.2200.

For more information please call the Department of Continuing Education at 212.592.2050 or go to this page on my website.

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.

A special bonus field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view and analyze some of greatest portraits in the collection will take place on a Sunday afternoon.