Generally speaking, most artists develop their skills in one of two ways; they either study under someone more experienced or they go the self-taught route. Rest assured, in the future I'll weigh in on both.
But since this is my first blog entry I'll keep the focus on your's truly, because my painting methodology evolved in a peculiar way. Therefore, I hereby officially start this blog by providing a little context.
I began drawing at the ripe old age of two. I drew incessantly while growing up and eventually enrolled in an art college with the hope of becoming a great artist. I was very comfortable with my drawing ability and I looked forward, with tremendous anticipation, to learning how to paint. However, this was the late 1960s and the prevailing philosophy, with regards to art education, was that technical knowledge inhibits creativity, so I left with a diploma in one hand and in the other, the knowledge that I would never ever be able to paint to save my life.
Thanks to my innate drawing ability, hard work, a little moxie and a pinch of savvy, I was able to carve out what eventually evolved into a high-profile career in the world of illustration. Initially, I developed a style which caught on quickly, and miraculously, I was asked to join the faculty at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
I started out doing cartoon style drawings–ironically, the same kind of work I did in high school–which over a ten-year span evolved into a more refined realistic drawing style. However, my desire to paint never went away, but as a busy illustrator I could ill afford the time to experiment or study with an established painter. My only viable option was to incorporate painting into my illustration work. That way I would get paid to learn how to paint. Brilliant! Only one problem, I didn't have a clue how to do it. I tried to read as much as I could on the subject, but quickly discovered each book presented virtually the same set of confusing and illogical rules, what I now refer to as myth-information.
So, I reasoned, since the methods they professed seemed so clueless, I would do the exact opposite of what they said.
What made my situation so unique was that I had students who were intrigued with all my newfound ideas and were eager to put them into action. I was the mad scientist and we were all guinea pigs. There was no agenda to be reckoned with, and no philosophy to be navigated. If something worked across the board I knew it was bulletproof, and if it didn't, then I had to keep searching for a better solution.
Little by little, a logical methodology of universal truths began to evolve.
My illustration career was taking off, too. I was painting covers for Time Magazine, illustrating national ad campaigns and creating movie posters. In each illustration assignment I painted, I would keep experimenting, always trying out some new twist or turn, all the while getting paid to learn how to paint.
As hard as it is to imagine, every single painting I did was a paid assignment. I learned how to paint by virtue of a collaborative effort funded by my illustration clients. The result is an extremely effective and sound methodology that allows me to be the kind of artist I dreamed I would one day become.
Marvin Mattelson is now conducting his classes and workshops online in Full HD 1080p through his Fine Art Portrait Academy. For further information, or to register for an upcoming offering, please follow this link to his teaching page.
Until next time…
I could not find anyone to give me a quote on mowing my lawn by Friday!!! Maybe they are in such awe of your talent that they think that talent bypasses all need for effort? This has had me laughing for ten minutes!
When I first read the email I thought, somebody must be pulling my leg. Turns out it was just my funnybone.
I don’t see what was so odd about the request. After all, the website portrait is only about 5 inches high (on the emailers laptop). How hard could that be?
Oh goodness, I’ve run into this stuff before – especially around Christmas & Valentine’s Day & birthdays. “I forgot to get Pookie a Christmas present. Could you do a portrait of her? I can stop by in two days to pick it up.”
Sure, I have this magic wand that I gracefully wave over a canvas and these things, I can just whip them out like an assembly line. Would you like fries with that as well?
When I first started doing portraits I would do outdoor art fairs. I had a number of people that thought I could do a finished painting while they waited.
Don’t you do all that on computers now anyway? Surly you could knock it out by Friday. I’m surprised they even asked for a quote. Usually people like that want you to work for free. “Exposure” is good enough for compensation isn’t it?
First a quickie, now exposure. Does this bog need an X rating?
This is hilarious! Love the blog, Marvin!
Nothing is funnier than reality. I’m really enjoying working on the blog.
May 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm
That’s a funny story!
Today I got a call from someone who wanted me to paint a portrait of a bride and groom one or two hours before their ceremony this Saturday.
It makes me so mad when people assume I can just hit a big red ‘create’ button and out it pops.
On the other hand though, I remember an apocryphal story told by Maroger about Tintoretto. The Council of Ten announced a competition to see who could produce the best cartoon for a painting the theme of which was Paradise. Artists were given a week to submit their sketches. According to Maroger, Tintoretto put the week to good use and produced the finished painting measuring more than thirty feet!
Maybe Maroger was smoking a little of his magical medium? 😉
Wow. She’s reading Adam Rex’s ‘True Meaning of Smekday’. Fantastic book, and somewhat ironic that she’s reading a book written by an illustrator!
Good catch Dan. That was the family’s favorite book. The mother would read to the kids and assume the voices of the different characters. You’re the first to pick up on that.
Oh my god. I can’t tell you how moved I am by this. Knowing that my book meant enough to them to have it included, and in a portrait by a painter I’ve admired since art school…anyway, I’m overwhelmed. Thanks for calling my attention to this, Dan.
What a small world. Thanks for your high praise. I’m sure many have experienced great joy through your work. As artists we are so fortunate to be able to make our way while inspiring others.