Can any thrill compare to that of being a proud parent? When my sons were growing up, the amount of prideI tookfrom even their smallest achievements far eclipsed whatever I experiencedfrom my own. It was gratifying to feelthat I might have contributed to their successes, even it happened to be in the smallest of ways. Now that my sons have grown upand flown the nest I no longer have the opportunity to experience their achievements on a daily basis. Fortunately, teaching allows me to share the knowledge I’ve been cultivating my entire life and to watch it utilized by my students in their artistic pursuits. To this day, when a student takes anything I’ve told them and manifests it in a constructive way, I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction.
One of the classes I teach at the School of Visual Arts in New York is Foundation Painting. Each class is run at the discretion of the teacher. My approach is a pretty rigorous training program for kids right out of high school. This past year’s class was great. My students were very talented, extremely motivated and hard working. What more could a teacher ask for? They really bought into my methodology and applied themselves whole heartedly. The Foundation Painting class is unique in that itspans a full school year. It’s a two semester class, while all my other classes are one semester long. The extended time frame gives me the opportunity to bring the students around more slowly and reinforce all the various aspects of my teaching.My goal is to give the students as thorough an understanding of the technique of oil painting and more importantly, of how to control the illusion of light, solidity, depth and atmosphere. It’s important to me that what they learndovetails with their own intrinsic artistic identity. I want them to develop their own style, and not be clones of myself.
In class we work exclusively from live models. I think it’s important that my students experience the spacial aspects of reality, so in the future they know how to integrate these effects if they need to work from photo reference. During the first semester we focus on working from the nude, starting with charcoal drawings to learn better accuracy. Then we move on to doingwash-in (imprimatura) monochromatic under-paintings. From there wego to color mixing and ultimately, building up layers of color to achieve the finished effects.For the second semester we workfrom a costumed figure and eventually transition to a complex two figure set-up with props and drapery (see the above painting by Elisa Karjalainen which was painted this semester). The students are also required to create paintings on their own as homework assignments. At the end of the year the school holds a Foundation Painting exhibit. The work wasjuried from over 300 students. Each was permitted to submit one painting. When I walked into the studioI was stunned to see that out of all those those submissions only 22 were selected to hang in the galleryand be eligiblefor award consideration. I thought it was astounding that out of all those students, five of mine had been includedin the show and that my student, Mary Searles, had been awarded the medal for third place. The chair of the Fine Arts Department, Suzanne Anker, was at the opening and was extremelycomplimentaryaboutthe quality of the work my students had produced. It was a great night.I’m very proud to present the paintings here:
Now if that wasn’t gratifying enough, I just received the following notification. At the end of each semester every student is asked to rate their teacher’s performance. On the form there's an option to anonymously comment and I wanted to share what one student wrote:
Marvin is an extremely well rounded artist, if that's even a valid term. I am thankful for what I learned in this class, and I will keep it with me for as long as I live. Learning traditional painting techniques was one of the best things I participated in this school year.
It just doesn’t get better than that.
Marvin Mattelson is now conducting both these 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...