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contact portrait artist Marvin Mattelson
The School of Visual Arts • NYC • Spring Classes
Registration Now Open
Classical Oil Painting - Continuing Education Classes
These courses may also be taken for undergraduate credit. For more information call the registrar's office 212.592.2200.
Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting from Life • FIC-2221-CE
Friday 12:00PM - 6:00PM Jan 26 - Apr 27 • 12 Sessions
310 East 22nd Street
For more information or to register online or call 212-592-2200

Classical Portrait Painting from Life • FIC-2219-CE
Saturday 10:00AM - 4:00PM Jan 27 - Apr 2811 Sessions
380 Second Avenue
For more information or to register online or call 212-592-2200

Portrait Workshops • Summer 2018
Registration begins April 2018

The School of Visual Arts • New York City
Department of Continuing Education

11 Day Realistic Oil Portrait Painting Workshop
Portrait Painting: The Real Deal
August 2018 • Dates T.B.A.
Click here to find out more information about the workshop

5 Day Realistic Portrait Drawing Workshop
June 2018 • Dates T.B.A.

Click here to find out more information about this workshop

Marvin Demonstrating in Santa Fe, NM

Marvin Demonstrating at the Andreeva Academy in Santa Fe, NM

In addition to being an award winning portrait artist, Marvin Mattelson has created a "career altering" approach to teaching oil portrait and figurative painting which is both broad in scope yet simple to comprehend. Marvin is an acknowledged master artist and communicator who leads oil painting workshops around the country. He also teaches ongoing painting classes in New York City at the School of Visual Arts, in both the undergraduate and continuing education programs.

Marvin's teaching is based on conveying an understanding of the painting process, not on steering you towards a specific style. A broad based approach to the mechanics of painting offers each artist the greatest opportunity to develop their own personal artistic voice.
Aping someone's style is not the way to achieve understanding. It's confining because it denies you the opportunity to make your own choices. Teachers who teach specifically what they do may lack a deeper understanding. This doesn't diminish the quality of their work, it just means that what works for them may not necessarily work for you.

Shying away from tricky techniques and gratuitous effects, Marvin focuses on the most effective approach for creating realistic imagery that enhances your ability to express your true artistic vision. Marvin's methodology is based on his observation that reasoning, not alchemy, is at the core of all great painting. Those who know the truth are freed from the limitations of frivolous rules. Marvin's teaching goes far beyond mere rote learning. He shows his students how the great artists of the past were able to create the illusion of three dimensional space on a flat surface through their understanding of the principles of visual perception. His students become empowered to create paintings which support and not compromise their own artistic voices.

Marvin believes that by demonstrating and explaining every action, he can most effectively teach his students. Marvin is very hands on and refuses to use assistants to do his teaching. His students can watch his every stroke, interact with and question him, and be guided by Marvin personally. This makes his painting workshops far more compelling than watching a DVD or reading a book.

Marvin's painting workshops and classes are designed for artists of every level, regardless of their painting styles. He believes that the success of any painting has little to do with how tight or loose it is. Marvin teaches his students how to orchestrate color, shapes, edges and values into a cohesive work of art.

Portrait painters from around the world seek out Marvin's oil painting workshops. He has been a distinguished member of the faculty at the School of Visual Arts in New York City for thirty-five years and has conducted professional artist training programs and critiques for organizations like The Portrait Society of Atlanta, The New York Society of Portrait Artists, The Connecticut Society of Portrait Artists, The Andreeva Portrait Academy, Syracuse University and the University of Kansas.

You can view examples of his SVA student's portraits and figure paintings as well as look at artwork from many of his portrait painting workshop students. You can read feedback from former students. If you're looking to enhance your portrait or figure painting skills and deepen your understanding of the painting process, you can find more information on Marvin's course description page, see some examples of his in-class demonstrations including a musically enhanced version of one demo and read his teaching philosophy.

Award Winning Student
Marvin Mattelson with his former School of Visual Arts' student, Joseph Daily, at the Portrait Society of America's 2005 Annual Portrait Conference, The Art of the Portrait. Joe's portrait painting "Ben" was awarded Best of Show by a panel of distinguished judges. In addition Joe was selected as the recipient of the People's Choice Award by the hundreds of portrait artists in attendance.

Joseph Daily's thoughts regarding his studies with Marvin:

For as far back as I can remember, I was always the kid who “drew stuff.” The son of two illustrators, I practically grew up with pencil in hand, and by the time I had reached college age my purpose was clear: to learn to paint representationally to the best of my ability. I had seen that in the Society of Illustrators’ annual student competition, the strongest pieces for years had come out of the School of Visual Arts, and I was particularly impressed with the paintings by students of a man named Marvin Mattelson. In the fall of 2000, then, I ventured off to New York City to learn how to paint.

Marvin’s principles were refreshingly objective, and could be easily pieced together to form a larger whole. I came to regard his Friday life-painting class as an anchor for the week, and it soon became clear that his instruction would be the cornerstone of my painting education. The phenomenal transformation that my work underwent proved as much, and my parents were amazed at the leaps I was making. My mother even lamented that the kind of instruction Marvin provides wasn't available to her as a young art student. Though I would finish out my requirements to earn a Bachelor’s degree in illustration, my real purpose became simply to learn as much from Marvin as possible during my time at SVA.

The beauty of Marvin’s teachings is that he never lets his own individual propensities overshadow his objective understanding of light, color, and form. By learning to depict earth’s natural forms as convincingly as possible on the two-dimensional canvas, one thereby acquires an entire visual language with which to communicate. Thus, Marvin offers the student neutral tools for expression; the knowledge he shares about visual phenomena can be confidently applied towards any personal artistic endeavor.

Ultimately, I have yet to meet the man qualified to explain the true role of the artist in Creation and the responsibility that he therefore assumes with his paintings. Thankfully, Marvin’s guidance has freed me to focus on just these most important concerns. Without it, I may very well have been faced with decades of pursuing and assembling the technical knowledge that Marvin commands. He has provided me with firm ground upon which I may walk my own path, and for this I will always be grateful.

Joseph Daily

Can anything be more devastating than the anxiety felt by an artist watching the realization of his vision compromised by his impotence during execution?
William Bouguereau

A man paints with his brains, not with his hands.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change .
Wayne Dyer

Often the abstract is done by the undisciplined, sold by the unprincipled and shown to the utterly bewildered.
Albert Camus

Marvin's Teaching Philosophy:
When I attended art school, almost 40 years ago, the methodology commonly employed was to avoid teaching anything tangible, for fear that it would inhibit creativity. I swore that one day, were I ever to become the artist I aspired to be, I'd try to be the kind of teacher I'd wished I had.

My goal as a teacher is to introduce a contextual shift in the mind-set of the painter. A new way of seeing and thinking about painting that is, I believe, what is missing from the vast majority of other teaching programs, be they modernistic or highly academic in their orientation. This is why so many of my students, regardless of the length they choose to study with me, feel transformed. Obviously, repetition and reinforcement will have a tremendous impact on anyone's progress, but once transformed, you will never experience either the creation or viewing of artwork in quite the same way.

My classes are open to one and all, from beginner to seasoned pro. Each student is unique and my approach takes that into consideration. Everyone works at their own individual pace. My teaching is broad based and profound because I present painting in a contextual way. Once someone has a integral understanding of what's involved, they can work to develop the appropriate component skill set necessary to advance their abilities further. Each person hears what is necessary for their own unique situation.

I feel that, deep inside, every teacher would like to believe that they have something valid and worthwhile to contribute to their students and wants to be a contributing factor with regards to their students' success. I know it's true for me. Unfortunately, when it comes to art education, this is not always the case, particularly, when finding the right teacher is so vitally important. A teacher, ideally, should be able to offer valid insight in regards to developing both the appropriate skill and mind-set.

Throughout history, the artists that we hold in the highest esteem, those we refer to as great masters, had at their disposal, an ever evolving systematic approach to painting, handed down from artist to apprentice. Each ensuing generation contributed their own refinements and insights and by the late Nineteenth Century, as evidenced by the curriculum taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, a new generation of artists, whose work had, arguably, reached the highest level of aesthetic beauty ever achieved came forth.

Sadly, their work became virtually unknown, usurped by wave after wave of "isms". This modern art defied the conventions that had evolved over hundreds of years and took center stage. Why this happened is not really important. What is important though, is that the vast body of knowledge which had evolved over five centuries had all but disappeared.

The modern art world now subscribes to a vast array of approaches and directions. The prevailing mentality, regarding art today is that if you can intellectually defend it, it has validity. No technical training is therefore required. This mentality has filtered down to art educators who assume the pose of proverbial deer in headlights, fearful that by teaching something tangible they may, in fact, inhibit the intrinsic creativity of their students. So, to a very large degree, anarchy rules and students are encouraged to do whatever they wish.

In any other discipline (medicine, law or business) the idea of a practitioner going out with little or no training would be ludicrous and, in fact, a would-be practitioner with no real training would be thrown in jail.

A growing number of artists today, myself included, are rejecting the accepted premises of mainstream contemporary art. We are questioning the validity and relevance of ideological justification as the defining factor in art. We are rebelling against the over intellectualization of art and looking to create work that instead evokes a response on an emotional and aesthetic level.

A mastery of technique can provide you with the means to achieve full self expression and engage people at this highest level. An artist needs to develop their sensitivity and intuition. I believe that only through discipline can one achieve the highest levels of creativity. This is certainly evident in sports and music. However, there needs to be a balance because too much discipline can be stifling as well.

I offer a unique logical and simple approach to painting based on the same concepts that had guided master artists for over five hundred years. Common sense, not alchemy, is at the root of all great painting. I believe the vast majority of successful artists working today are successful due to their god given talent. They are successful in spite of, not because of, their art education. When these successful artists are asked to teach they keep perpetuating the ideals they were taught, to the detriment of the vast majority of their students.

Elizabeth Cotton, the folksinger, was left handed and taught herself to play guitar upside down. Playing the base notes with her fingers while plucking the melody with her thumb. She was a good guitarist and a great songwriter. So should everyone who wants to play guitar learn to play the same way she did? Fortunately Segovia, the brilliant classical guitarist, didn't study with her. Learning to do something in an idiosyncratic way will be counterproductive for the vast majority of people.

Most painting books and classes perpetuate a convoluted potpourri of myths and conventions which serve to confuse, rather than clarify, the arduous task of learning to paint. I call this myth-information (misinformation, with a lisp). Why muddle your way through a labyrinth of regulations when mastering painting skills is challenging enough? Rules are based on generalizations and assumptions made by those incapable of reason and understanding. Great artists are routinely cited for having successfully broken "the rules."

My teaching is designed to help artists of all levels improve their painting skills, at an accelerated pace. Just as when building a house, if the steps are performed logically, things will progress in an orderly manor, resulting in a successful outcome. In painting each step needs to be mastered. Then it can become a foundation for the successful implementation of the next stage. It takes time to master the art of painting. Trying to jump ahead or learn several aspects simultaneously will most likely retard, rather than accelerate, one's progress.

I offer those who so desire, the opportunity to discover their full artistic potential. Gaining insight is no magic bullet because in the end it boils down to hard work. I can make your journey much less convoluted. Would you rather be given a path to follow or be forced to negotiate your way through a labyrinth. My goal is to demystify the process of painting so that my students may experience the tremendous satisfaction and enjoyment available as each step along the path is mastered.

I do not believe that any part of the painting process should be left to chance. The old masters were more than just talented and lucky. There is a distinct methodology in play if their work is any evidence. This methodology, however, allowed for the personality of each artist to manifest. The principles and techniques I demonstrate and teach allows my students to incorporate their own sensibilities into their work. I don't teach style. Nor am I a proponent of creating an obsessive exact representation of what lies before the artist. I teach an approach to painting in which the course of action is determined by the artist's vision and intent.

Painting is more than merely copying what is in front of you. It requires the ability to understand and interpret what you see. By working from a live model, students will be introduced to the principals of painting in the classical tradition for approximately six hours each class session. The emphasis of study will be on how to synthesize values, edges and color in order to achieve the illusion of light, atmosphere, form and depth. In order to best depict luminous and lifelike skin tones, I have developed a palette arrangement which simplifies the depiction of subtle life-like complexion variations while maintaining solidity of form.

Students will learn to analyze what they see in order to achieve a sound structural drawing and to create an underlying tonal pattern as the foundation for good solid painting. Drawing, color mixing, transparent underpainting, scumbling and wet into wet painting techniques will be demonstrated in class. Here are four examples of my in class demonstrations.

All aspects of the painting curriculum will be reinforced by lectures in a low keyed and supportive environment. My broad based approach to making paintings can be applied to any style or genre of art: from abstract, to impressionism, to classical, to digital. To see the kind of results my students experience, please view examples of student portraits and figure paintings as well as some artwork from portrait painting workshop students.

Portrait artists from around the world have sought out my assistance in their quest to take their paintings to the next level. My out of town workshop program is an outgrowth of artists discovering my work through this site and soliciting my expertise as a portrait artist.

For over thirty years I have taught at the School of Visual Arts. I have led programs for the Portrait Society of Atlanta, the oldest organization of it's kind in the USA, as well as both the New York and Connecticut chapters of The American Society of Portrait Artists. I have been designated as a charter member in Living Masters' Gallery at the Art Renewal Project, the largest museum of realistic art on the Web. They have also included me in their list of approved classical atelier training.

My approach to teaching painting has been met with such great enthusiasm. You can read what some of my former students have to say on the student feedback page. You can also read the web journal of Holly Snyder, a portrait painting workshop participant, highlighting her experience at my 2003 Atlanta GA workshop.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me and if my comments here strike a chord within you, trust your instincts; take this opportunity and make a commitment to become the artist you aspire to be. Register for a class or workshop.

Marvin Mattelson

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