Fall Continuing Ed Oil Painting Portrait Classes at the School of Visual Arts with Marvin Mattelson

It’s been a very busy summer for me. I completed two portraits and went down to Bermuda to gather reference for a series of paintings I’ve been commissioned to paint of  Bermudian architecture.

First of all, I wanted to share my latest commission with you, a portrait of Robert Cripps, the retiring Chairman of the Board of Velcro Industries. I feel like I’m learning so much with each painting I complete, and I love sharing my newfound knowledge with all my students.

Robert Cripps Portrait by Marvin Mattelson

If  you want to take the next step forward in your artistic evolution or maybe you just feel stuck, refocusing on the core principles that I teach can be a big boost to your progress. By constantly reviewing these principles I continue to deepen my understanding and this is what fuels my artistic growth.

I’ll be teaching two Continuing Education classes at the School of Visual Arts during the fall semester. If you or a friend are interested in attending, please don’t wait until the last minute to register. The classes start a week from this coming Saturday and Sunday, on September 21st and 22nd. If you’ve already signed up, thank you, and I look forward to seeing you soon. 

Marvin Mattelson demoing at SVA

All principles are fully explained while being clearly demonstrated.

I hope to see you in a class.

To Be An Artist You First Need to Think Like One

Noor Chadha - Sarah

Noor Chadha – Portrait of Sarah

Painting is an extremely complex endeavor. Personally, I think that realistic painting is the most difficult task a human being can hope to undertake. My reasoning is: there are so many variables to contend with. Any difficult task is more easily overcome if you have a clear understanding of what’s involved. However, if you are trying to master anything inherently complex, and have no insight, or even worse, an overcomplicated theory, a difficult task becomes that much more formidable. To me, that’s the problem with most art training.

I have a theory about how teaching painting evolved. Whenever a lesser artist tries to replicate something they see in a masterpiece, the typical reaction is to compartmentalize it by making it into a rule and rigidly applying it. And then there’s the worst rule of all, “First you must learn all the rules before you can break them!” Rules are crippling because they eliminate any opportunity you have to think for yourself.

A prime example of this is the rule about halftones: “Halftones should always be cool”. The truth is, to save time, artists would often scumble their lights over the shadows to create a transition between the two, rather than mix an intermediate value. When a warm translucent light color is laid over a warm shadow tone, the result is more neutral. When a neutral is surrounded by warm tones it appears cool. I don’t know the physics behind this, but it’s the same phenomena that makes the blood vessels below your skin appear blue (yes grasshopper, blood is red!). But many artists, such as Sir Henry Raeburn, Rembrandt and Velasquez, used warm colors to bring halftone planes forward.

The problem with following rules is that a rule is by nature formulaic. Always do this: never do that. For example, the rule stating that chroma should stay consistent within the value range of color depicting a singular object. But, William Bouguereau, Jean Leon Gerome and William McGregor Paxton, shifted chroma extensively.

Even worse, rote learning is self-cannibalizing. A small number of precociously talented students may intuitively supersede the rules they were taught, and produce outstanding results, in spite of and not because of the rules they learned. But as they move up the food chain and eventually become teachers themselves, they will, in all likelihood, reiterate the same rules they were “taught” because there is no way to explain intuitive choices.

Though a school may be run by an accomplished artist, the rule following majority is screwed. When rote learning, which is essentially the memorization of rules, forms the basis of any methodology, the potential for true artistic development is severely curtailed and progress is slowed down considerably. When student work bears a strong stylistic footprint, rule following is at the root.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “practice must always be founded on sound theory… Those who are in love with practice without knowledge or like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going.” Sound theory is based on understanding, not following rules.

Noor Chadha - Before & After

Noor Chadha – Before & After

Above, are two paintings done by my student Noor Chadha, who has studied with me for exactly one year. The first painting done last fall was her first attempt at a color portrait. She painted the second one this summer. Her progress is astonishing. The number of class sessions she has taken with me is approximately 30. If she were studying full-time at an atelier, for example, she would be about 1 1/2 months in and still rendering her first barge plate. It’s not about the time spent studying, it’s about time well spent.

My goal is to transform the way my students think. l believe my approach can dramatically cut down on the amount of time it takes anyone to progress and reach higher and higher levels. Not because “that’s the way you’re supposed to do it” or “that’s the way so-and-so does it”. As Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Classes begin this Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16th.

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.

#PortritPaintingClasses

I gotta crow: Jocelyn Joyah Henry

 

A Student of Marvin Mattelson’s @ The School of Visual Arts

Jocelyn Henry - Geisha

Jocelyn Henry – Geisha

One of my pet peeves are teachers who teach painting in a rote manner. You know that’s the case when all the student’s works coming from a specific school or teacher have a strong stylistic imprint. I see it as a symptom of superficial training when the students’ works look just like their teachers’. There are logical underlying principles that are easily distinguishable when examining the works of truly great artists (assuming you know what to look for) and I pride myself on the fact that these principles are at the core of everything I teach. Case in point: my recently graduated student: Jocelyn Henry. She is now in training at Scenic Art Studios, who create sets for the likes of the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera. In addition to her outrageous talent, she is one of my all-time favorite people, totally down-to-earth, very clear about her own convictions and smart as a whip! She says what she means and means what she says. Here are some examples of her work from this past year in my portfolio class, and a brief description of the all-too-short time we spent together.

My time with Marvin :

I’ve been Marvin’s student for two years if you don’t count my first year at SVA when he’d sidle into my Illustration Principles class and slip me advice on the calamities I was working on at the time. At that point, I was strictly a pencil person. I could draw but was terrified of painting after many attempts with other teachers trying to explain how to create their personal style in abstract jargon when I didn’t even know that you’re supposed to at least wipe your brush if you’re going to paint a lemon after using black. Painting made me feel like an idiot and drawing didn’t, so I only drew even if I felt limited by my medium. But Marvin was able to recruit me into his classes after a year of nagging when he explained to me that drawing and painting are very much the same, and approached foreign concepts to me like chroma, value relationships, and not being an idiot, with clarity and logic instead of abstract jargon. I was shocked when I painted my first figure with him, because not only was it pretty darn good and loads of fun, but my outside projects drastically improved with the principles that I’d learned, so much so that I painted my entire junior thesis, with complicated spaces and multiple figures and light sources. The greatest thing is that after another year of his wisdom I look back at those pieces that, at the time, were the best and hardest images I’d ever done, and now I think they suck, which means I’m still growing. What’s kept me sold on Marvin (I’m now at the end of taking a full year of his Senior Portfolio class) is a couple of things. First, he makes sense. He explains thoroughly and patiently, and is willing to hold your hand as he kicks your ass and challenges you to bring your work further than you thought you’d ever go. He teaches with an objective and fact-based approach untainted by ego bias so you can learn how to stand before you dance and when you do dance, you can dance your own way. Stylization, to me, is something personal that the student needs to bring themselves when they’re ready. It’s an opinion. Marvin teaches you the facts so you can make your own fully informed opinion, which is why my work looks like my work and not a second-rate attempt at someone else’s, and I know how to make anything I want instead of relying on happy little accidents to do it for me. Second, Marvin is basically the Wizard of Oz of art and you may think that a classical portrait artist won’t be able to help you with sci-fi illustrations or inked comics or whatever weird crap you’re into. Well you’re wrong, because he’s earned his salt as an artist working just about every kind of gig there is, from ink cartoons to acrylic advertisements to scientifically accurate illustrations depicting creatures that went extinct a jillion year ago. Combined with his good sense of design, he’s got something in his pocket for everybody. Even you, scarecrow. And the greatest part is, if he DOESN’T know something, he’ll tell you. He’s not the type to act like he knows everything, and is willing to learn and grow along with you instead of being hung up in a stale routine. In puzzling times, he helps you look to previous masters and identify what it was they did that made them successful, and why. He’s shown me so many artists that I’d never heard of that have influenced the work I do now, as well as broken down and demystified their techniques so I can pick and choose from a huge buffet of genius to inform the way I approach making an image. Finally, he’s just a genuine and fun guy, and truly cares about his students’ understanding and growth. Work never feels like work and he’s more of a valuable and enriching friend to me than some professor I’m never going to think about after graduation. I’d be pretty scared for my future if it weren’t for him, but instead I’m looking at it with a relaxed and honest confidence in my abilities. So that’s pretty cool.

– Jocelyn Henry

Jocelyn Henry - Statue

Jocelyn Henry – Statue

 

Jocelyn Henry - Wet

Jocelyn Henry – Wet

 

Jocelyn Henry - Wet

Jocelyn Henry – Wet

 

Jocelyn Henry - Roo

Jocelyn Henry – Roo

 

Jocelyn Henry - Monkeys

Jocelyn Henry – Monkeys

 

Jocelyn Henry - Boots

Jocelyn Henry – Boots

 

Jocelyn Henry - Lizard

Jocelyn Henry – Lizard

If you want to see more of Jocelyn’s amazing work or to commission her to do some spectacular illustrations for some project that needs spicing up, here is her website: www.jhenry.work. Jocelyn was a full-time undergraduate at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Visit this link if you’re interested in applying to SVA. Fortunately, you can also study with me if being a full-time student isn’t practical. Click here if you’re interested learning about or registering in my continuing education classes at SVA.

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…

“When you do what you’ve done, you get what you’ve gotten.” Mark Twain

Marvin Mattelson Summer Workshops at SVA@NYC

Edward_Cripps_full

Recent Posthumous Portrait of Edward Cripps by Marvin Mattelson

Contrary to popular belief, doing the same thing over and over doesn’t necessarily make you better. Many great achievers, such as Mark Twain, have echoed this same sentiment. For example, the writer/philosopher Rita Mae Brown has stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

If you want to become a better painter, you need to transform the way you think about making paintings. Simply put, the idea of going to a workshop and picking up a trick or two is not going to make a significant difference in the quality of the work you do. “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading,” cautioned Lao Tzu.

So if doing what you’ve always done isn’t the answer, what is? Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” If you want to achieve greatness you need to approach what you do with the same mindset as the greatest painters in history. I have dedicated my life to uncovering the common threads that bind the greatest classical artists, such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velasquez, Van Dyck, Raeburn, Lawrence, DeCamp and Paxton.

This summer I’ll be sharing my observations at the School of Visual Arts in New York City during my one-week portrait drawing workshop and my two-week oil portrait painting workshop. In the past, people have made remarkable progress in a very condensed time period. Your mileage may vary. Hope to see you there.

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

11 Day Realistic Portrait Painting Workshop
August 1 – 12, 2016 – No class August 7.
Find out more information about this 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.

Edward_Cripps_hs