On Tuesday September 10, my portrait of Wil de Hollander, the recently retired CEO and president of Velcro Industries N.V., was unveiled. I assisted Wil's successor, Alain Zijlstra, in removing the drapery that covered the portrait. We had some difficulty pulling it off, so of course everyone joked that it had probably been attached with Velcro – it hadn't! After he spoke about Wil's legacy, Alain asked me to say a few words about the portrait's creation and this is what I said:
I’m very excited being here today for the unveiling of my portrait of Wil de Hollander. It was a great pleasure for me to get to know Wil and an honor to paint him.
I’m very passionate about what I do. If I were to win the lottery, I would probably build a larger studio, perhaps on the French Riviera, but I would still keep doing exactly what I love to do the most: paint portraits. I consider myself very fortunate, in that regard.My goal for each portrait I create is for it to be my best to date. In the words of Michelangelo, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
When Wil and I first sat down to discuss the portrait, I was impressed by his charming, down-to-earth and engaging nature; as well as his sharp wit and intelligence. He mentioned that, unlike most CEOs, his career path came via the manufacturing route, and not through the business side. So right off the bat I ruled out a formal standing pose. I’m a firm believer in allowing the best solution to reveal itself, and I immediately realized the way Wil sat before me, with the window light coming from the side, would make for a great portrait. The paneled wall and a low credenza behind him set him off beautifully. They also created a series of verticals and horizontals, which I felt could serve as a perfect metaphor for corporate structure. I felt that the painting still needed something to balance Wil and visually connect him with the background. I saw in the far corner of the boardroom a brass sculpture which demonstrated the basic way that Velcro worked. I removed it from its pedestal and placed it behind Wil. I liked the way it mirrored the arabesque of his pose and it's symbolism.
In terms of my technique, I build up of many thin layers of color to achieve a lifelike impression. It’s a very traditional approach and I feel is the most effective way to create the translucent and subtle transitions I seek. It’s very time-consuming but the results, I hope, speak for themselves, and the painting was well worth the wait.
A former client once told me that he felt people would always remember him based on his portrait. Being chosen to define someone’s legacy is a great responsibility, and in the case of painting Wil de Hollander, a very pleasurable experience as well.
Here are some close-ups and details of the painting: Wil de Hollander by Marvin Mattelson (detail)
After I spoke, Wil said a few words. He thanked everyone for coming and acknowledged me for my efforts, but what he was most emphatic about pointing out was a very small detail in the painting – which could have been easily overlooked – a Heineken bottle cap. During our first meeting I had asked Wil, as I do all my clients, if there was something I could add to the painting to personalize it. He immediately responded that he would love being painted holding a bottle of Heineken Beer. Heineken was the first company he worked for and it's his longstanding beverage of choice. Of course, he said, there is no way it would be appropriate for a boardroom portrait. I suggested that I could paint a Heineken bottle cap hidden in the sculpture's shadow. There would be no logo visible and unless someone was specifically looking, it would probably remain unnoticed. Wil loved the idea.
During my little speech, I had purposely said nothing – wanting to keep the secret intact – but Wil was so excited upon seeing it in the painting, he pointed it out to everyone. So much for keeping secrets!
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…
Marvin, this is an amazing portrait. I love studying the details you posted. It is just stunning. I’m sure Mr. de Hollander is is thrilled he chose the right artist.
Actually it was Mrs. de Hollander who selected me. She gave it two thumbs up!
Behind every great man is a a great woman decisionmaker….haha. I give it an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up as well.
Beautiful work, nuanced, warm, engaging!
Thank you so much for sharing the unveiling of Mr. De Hollander’s portrait! It is truly magnificent! I had been looking forward to hearing about this. Though I do not know the gentleman, I feel as though he would speak to me; you have surely captured his spirit. Every element of the painting is perfectly rendered and the composition pulls together and projects all of his being to the viewer. The beauty and application of your palette and turning of the form is perfection!
I enjoy your blog and as I read, learn more from each one. Thank you for continued sharing of your adventures ! I look forward to more! As well, the Cleveland workshop was another wonderful experience for me. I continue to learn as I draw and paint.
Thanks too for that tip from Michelangelo…he was certainly right on.
Say…when you get to the Riviera will you please plan a workshop and let me know? Thanks!
Thanks for your kind words. Looking forward to next summer.
Great story and amazing painting.
And if I won the lottery I would build a little cottage next to your large studio on the French Riviera so I could study with you every day.
And if I won a lottery I would love to get a RV, attend all your work shops!
If you won the lottery you could buy me a house next door to yours!
Thanks so much for sharing your portraits and comments through Brush Aside. I thoroughly enjoy your blog! Keep me on your list! Sharon Weaver
Thank you Sharon. If you haven’t yet you can sign up on my blog under where it says SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG VIA EMAIL. If you’re already signed up your in like Flynn.
I have to start, Mr. Mattleson, by congratulating you on your very impressive work in the portrait of Mr. Wil de Hollander, CEO of Velcro Corp. – I am simply flabbergasted and quite overwhelmed by the similarity of this paintig to a photographic work that could, no doubt, have been taken by our Canadian portrait photographer extraordinaire Yousuf Karch who, unfortunately, passed away some years ago. As a Canadian, I continue to admire your work. Wishing you all the best. MR
Hi Michael, I was a big fan of Karsh’s photos, so thanks for the acknowledgement. Personally I don’t think my original paintings look photographic. My intent is to make them look real and go where a photo can’t. There are many subtle adjustments and changes I employ to that end. I manipulate my values, colors, edges and drawing to a very great degree. These types of alterations form the core of what I teach my students.
In fact you’re so very right Mr. Mattleson. Looking at the painting again, one feels more like one is sitting next to you, as you paint, watching Mr. de Hollander being so relaxed. Again I hope there was nothing deragatory about my inference to a photographic accomplishment. Again thank you for sharing with us. The close-ups were amazing.
Another great painting, of courses I would not have expected anything but. The problem is you keep setting the bar so high. Damn you and Michelangelo! I was so happy aiming for my low marks.
Truly though, it is an inspirational story and painting. You have always forced me to aim higher. Thanks for all you have taught me and for providing a
Living example. Thanks for sharing this on the blog as well.
Thanks for the acknowledgement. It means a lot. I’m happy to be a living example. I think Michelangelo has the other option covered. It’s the success of my students I find most inspiring. That includes you pal.
It was such a treat to read the final chapter of the story of this amazing work of art, Marvin! It’s absolute perfection! Michelangelo would be proud….as are all of us that are lucky enough to know you!
You are very sweet. Much appreciated.
A beautiful painting! Kudos! Also, thank you for the close-up pictures. Very helpful.
Thanks Jason. I figured since I put all that time into painting it, maybe some folks would appreciate having the opportunity to take a closer look.