Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Marvin Mattelson Teaching Schedule at the School of Visual Arts, NYC

Marvin Mattelson
Wil de Hollander, President & CEO of the Velcro Corporation

When I was in college, I was greatly disappointed by the lack of practical art training I was receiving (I know, I know - we could have a club if we could ever find a clubhouse big enough for all of us. . .).  To try and make up for this rather large shortcoming in my art training, I turned to magazines and books  to learn how to paint.  I could only afford so many subscriptions, and so many books, and unfortunately, if the university library had the manuals I needed, I was never able to find them to borrow.  

The magazine I settled upon was Step-by-Step Graphics, a great periodical which sadly, is no longer published.  It was thick, printed on glossy stock paper, and most issues featured a pictorial description of a then-current illustrator's working method.  I learned several things while reading the articles, but those techniques were often like shortcuts, and without first knowing the long way around, I really did not gain the most from those instructions.

Most of my initial book purchases were monographs (John Singer Sargent, George Inness, Maxfield Parrish, and Michael Whelan were among the first), but there were another couple of books I picked up  which were equally inspiring.  These books were the Society of Illustrators Annuals.

Each year, the Society of Illustrators holds a juried competition, and all of those illustrators who are chosen have their accepted works printed in a large, hard-bound volume.  The pictures in these books are ostensibly the best artworks by the best illustrators working.  

I poured over those catalogs.  The images were beautiful, and I loved looking at them.  But those images also served another purpose;  they were my bar.  I knew if I ever had a shot at making it as an illustrator, I had to be as good as the people who made it into those Annuals.

The illustrator I was always drawn to in those books was Marvin Mattelson.  His work was always so clean, and his ideas were always so intelligent, but it was his ability to make the unreal appear real that attracted me the most.  I wanted to learn how to paint like that.  

As it turns out, Mattelson was (is) a teacher.  And I knew he was a good teacher, because in the back of those same Society of Illustrators Annuals there was a selection of juried student work, and Marvin's students were always justifiably making the cut.  I would have transferred schools then to learn from Mattelson, but I lacked the confidence and the right support to make such a big change.

Years later - and after many art books had been digested - a class catalog from the School of Visual Arts arrived in the mail.  I had no intention of going back to school, but as I casually leafed through the booklet while downing a bowl of cereal, I came across Mattelson's name, and it caused me to pause.  In addition to his regular undergraduate courses, Marvin was teaching a portrait painting in oils class for the continuing education department at SVA, and it just so happened to fit my schedule.  It was finally my chance to study with him.

I intended to take a single semester with Mattelson;  I ended up studying with him longer than I had with any other teacher.  In the first class alone, he covered in his demonstration practically everything I had spent a decade absorbing from books.  It was a great class;  I only wish I had taken it earlier.

Marvin Mattelson's Classical Portrait Painting class at the School of Visual Arts in New York City run from 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturdays. You can click here to sign up or to learn more. 

A demo painting from one of Mattelson's workshops.

Course description: There's more to painting a great portrait than capturing a likeness; it's about creating the illusion of life. Portraiture should reveal the character of the sitter and exude a lifelike essence. During this course, taught by award-winning portrait artist Marvin Mattelson, you will learn how to analyze, interpret and convincingly portray the human visage. The methodology presented is both broad in scope, yet simple to comprehend. It's based on the idea that logic, not frivolous rules nor superficial techniques, lies at the core of the greatest portraits ever created. Working from live models, you will discover a simple and straightforward way to achieve accurate drawing and to easily replicate any color you see, particularly the subtle translucent tones of the human complexion. You will also learn how to model form and to simulate the effects of luminosity, illusionistic depth and atmospheric space. All of the information covered in this course will be fully demonstrated and explained. NOTE: A Sunday afternoon field trip to the Met is included. Please bring a notebook and pen to the first session. A complete supply list will be distributed at the first session. This course may be taken for undergraduate credit. Please refer to FPD-2348-CE in the credit courses section of the SVA web site for details.


  1. Your post sent me right back to my college days! A professor of mine, Ben Jones, suggested we subscribe to Step by Step (and other periodicals) if we were serious about our art career. I followed his advice and never regretted it.

    Mr. Mattelson's work has been an inspiration to many artists, I wish I had the same opportunity to study with him.

  2. I wish I could take this class! It sounds great.

  3. Marvin Mattelson is by far one of the best teachers I ever had. He explains everything so clearly and is very passionate about teaching and his work. Thanks for posting this Matthew..t is truly deserved of such a genrous teacher and talented portrait artist and great illustrator!

  4. The beautiful demo piece of the young woman from Marvin's recent workshop was done at my studio in Cleveland, Ohio this summer. It was truly inspirational and awe inspiring to watch Marvin work and see his step by step process. I, too, went to art school back in the days of no instruction in painting...and I can honestly say, I learned more in the first day of the workshop than I did in four years of college! Marvin is not just incredibly talented, but an articulate, engaging and fun teacher. For anyone interested in the opportunity to learn from a Master, Marvin will be back in Cleveland to teach next summer...info will be available on his website.