"If I had your technique I would be a great artist!" I get this all the time, but nothing could be further from the truth. "If only I could paint tighter!" "If only I could be more painterly!" I hate to be the bearer of bad news; it's not about technique. I tell my students that Rembrandt would have been able to create masterpieces with a bucket of mud and a mop! A lot of artists seem to feel that they will somehow magically figure it out all on their own. I know I did. Problem is, you can't get there from here!
The way painting is generally presented in books and classes made no sense to me. Allegedly it's visceral, but in reality you get a plethora of random rules. So how exactly can one learn the core truths that form the basis of representational art. When I looked at the work of the great masters, there was obviously a strong underlying logic. That's what I tried to discover on my own, the hidden mindset! And as it turned out, I got pretty far, but not far enough. Eventually, I realized I would never get it on my own, so I found someone to study with and to help me fill in the blanks. His name was John F. Murray and I will be forever grateful for the time we spent together. John had been a student of the legendary Frank Reilly's. Reilly was a man with a questioning nature, not unlike me, who believed the common bond shared by the best artists was deep understanding. To be a great painter you need to think like one.
From the beginning of my studies with John, I was amazed at how succinctly my own conclusions dovetailed with Reilly's. I truly believe had I continued on my own, I would have eventually figured it all out. The only problem was, it would have taken me several lifetimes to get there. What I learned turbocharged my understanding, which I'm happy to say, is continuously evolving. It has allowed me, and so many of my students, to become the artists of our dreams. If you'd like to shave a couple of centuries – or at least a few decades – off of your struggle, you should come study with me.
I'll be teaching two continuing education classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York City that run for 12 sessions each:Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting is on Fridays from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM and begins January 30. Realistic Figure and Portrait Painting is on Saturdays from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM and begins January 31.
Sprinkled throughout this post are some painting from my continuing ed classes this past fall semester. Some are beginners and other's more seasoned. They all took great strides forward. Each was able to capture a true senseof livelinessand a feelingof solid form. Those qualities form the basis of all noteworthy figurative painting. I also feel it's important to not lose your hand. I don't try to turn my students into Mini Me's.
I love that each student's work has a unique quality. The idea is to become the best version of yourself by making insightful choices.
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 is a wonderful teacher…..lots of information, and fun at the same time!
Lori Hollander …former student
Thanks Lori. No such thing as a former student as long as you apply the knowledge you learned, which I know you do.
I agree that there’s much ado about technique and not focusing on the essentials of good art, namely concept and composition. Portrait painting is more than just trying to achieve exact likeness. Rembrandt was capable of expressing the character of his sitters, sometimes with carefully planned details and other times with bold brushstrokes and texture. Underlying all great portraits is that sense of atmosphere that gives the illusion of actual presence, something photography, with its exact likeness, can’t do.
How to achieve a sense of form, bathed in light and surrounded by atmosphere are some of my major teaching points. Thanks for the reply.
Thanks for the compliment and thanks for the reminder. Happy new year to you too.
ANY ARTIST…who wants to know how to paint portraits, first and last needs to study with Marvin. Thank you for all you do. All the best in 2015!
Thanks Susan. I appreciate the endorsement.
Love how the beautiful pinks and peaches, subtle yellows look against the silvery greys….. such beautiful skin tones. And all done with a more subdued earth palette. Who knew the Reilly system could produce such lovely work? Though I suspect you could produce good quality work even using the traditional Reilly palette. I am hoping you will offer classes on other days than the weekend or even open your own atelier one day so I can attend one of your classes. I’ll have to sign up for one of your workshops but I know I will want more.
Thanks Julia for your response to the work. I really don’t adhere very strictly to the Reilly system. It was a fantastic basis for developing my understanding but I’ve also incorporated numerous elements from a wide variety of influences. Reilly was primarily focused on the illustration field. My ideas are constantly evolving and my approach is less systematized and more about making appropriate choices based on evaluating the situation on hand.
Unfortunately, I doubt that I will be able to add any additional continuing education classes. The just isn’t classroom availability at the school on the other days of the week. Also, I need time to work on my own paintings.
As far as starting my own school, I would need someone with very deep pockets to come along in order for me to create the kind of space that would support my goals. I know that if given the opportunity to work with a small group of students over the course of several years, the level of achievement and the quality of the work they would produce would be mind boggling. In the meantime, you should seriously consider taking my workshop in August 2015 at SVA. It’s the only painting workshop I’ll be leading this year due to my current workload. I’ll have the exact dates by the end of the week. The worksop will give you the context in which to begin your transformation.
Thanks again for commenting.