New York City Portrait Artist Workshop-Demo Day #4: Grand Finale

Like all good things, the workshop has come to an end. The two weeks really flew by. It’s amazing how everybody bonded over the love we share for painting realistically. The rate of growth was truly astounding. I’ll try to share some of the student’s work in a future post. I know that my methods always produce great results, but it still never ceases to amaze me. It’s a great validation that the fruits of my life long search for answers is so universally effective. It’s always sad when it’s over.

Last Thursday I painted the final layer on my demonstration painting for my New York Portrait Artist Workshop. One of the main points I wanted to convey to my students was that the finishing is something that takes place at the end. That’s the biggest problem I see with so many working methodologies, too many try to finish from the get go rather than setting up the big relationships first, and play the smaller aspects off of those. I’m not saying that my approach is the only one that works, but it makes learning much less cumbersome. Trying to emulate the working methods of someone with great experience doesn’t necessarily make sense, because if an artist is good, it doesn’t mean their approach is universally applicable.

As my demo progressed the steps became much less discernible since I was constantly resolving smaller and smaller areas. My first step was to scumble over the larger areas to further unify everything:

Next I painted into the scumble trying to create greater variation of color and intensity and further develop the solidity the forms:

This is as far as I got. For the last poses I refined the eyes. I try to hold back on the important parts until everything else is in harmony. The worst thing is to have to repaint something you’ve spent a lot of time on because it just doesn’t work. Had this been a commissioned painting I would have spent several days more, but that’s the nature of demonstrations. I wanted to make the painting look as illusionistic as I could. When I finished, Myriam, the model, looked at the painting and said, “That’s me!” She had a great spirit and I wanted it to shine through.

If any of the participants are reading this, I’d love to have you share some thoughts.

Until next time…


  1. Jason Keener says

    Hi, Marvin. Thank you for this great blog. When you say that you “scumble over the larger areas to unify everything,” are you using a fairly oily and transparent application of paint that allows the paint layer underneath to somewhat show through? What is your definition of a “scumble?” I’m asking because I sometimes have heard this final unifiying layer of oily paint that is applied as being a “glaze” or more like “glazing” in places like the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto, if I remember correctly. Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Jason, I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. The way I use the term, scumbling implies the laying down of a translucent veil of paint. It should not not contain much oil, as that would make for a weak paint film. For that reason I hardly ever employ glazing techniques, where there is much oil and little pigment. Scumbling is done with opaque colors–usually white is in the mix. Before I scumble I oil out the passage I’ll be painting over. In many older texts scumbling and glazing are both referred to as glazing. I think that has lead to a lot of confusion over what is what. I think glazing is best utilized for donuts.

  2. patricia cole says

    Marvin thank you for a superb workshop…Your considerate and thorough approach to sharing your methods and technique was so appreciated by all..take it from one of the more novice!!!!..It was an overall a great experience and look forward to the next ..

  3. Marvin,
    It has been great catching-up on your workshops via your blog. I enjoy watching your progressions just like when I took your workshop in Atlanta several years ago. I hope to be able to take one again, next year. Have a great school year and keep up the postings.

    • Hi Lucy, I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying my blog and pleased at the prospect of seeing you in my workshop again. You’ll find the next time through will be an even more enriching experience, at least according to those who have studied with me for a second goaround.

      I’ve been a little neglectful of my blog entries lately. Just very busy with commissions and preparing for the fall semester at SVA. But fear not, I have a lot of ideas percolating and once the dust settles I’ll be putting those into words.

      I look forward to seeing you this coming summer.

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