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Old 01-13-2009, 04:32 PM   #1
Mike Dodson Mike Dodson is offline
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Alive Flesh Tones

I attended Marvin Mattelson's lecture "Everything I Know About Art I Learned at the Met" (I think that was the title) a few years ago and one statement he made really stuck with me. He mentioned that he was noticing, while at the Met, that the paintings in the museum seemed more alive than those who were viewing them. For those of us who consider ourselves "realist" painters, what is the key to accomplishing this? I find that trying to reproduce a life-like image means painting with a fair amount of neutrals with a little color added, but on the opposite end of the spectrum I see alot of "orange-flesh" paintings that seem cartoonish to me (even my own I must admit). Is this just a disciplined to be learned through trial and error or a matter of taste? Does this make sense?
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Old 01-14-2009, 12:09 AM   #2
Julie Deane Julie Deane is offline
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I'm not so sure that the color is the key to this, Mike. Composition, contrast, use of values, any number of things working together would help. The lighting in a portrait, for instance, would give a face a much more coherent look than the lighting hitting the viewers' faces.
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Old 01-14-2009, 12:34 AM   #3
Marvin Mattelson Marvin Mattelson is offline
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Hi Mike,

The lecture was entitled, "Everything I know about painting I learned at the Met." You were close.

I would agree that the subtle manipulation of value, chroma and hue in the flesh is indeed the quintessential aspect in bringing that life-like quality to fruition. As Julie notes there are certainly other factors involved, but without subtlety controlled flesh color and luminosity I don't think it's possible.

It has taken me thirty years of "trial and error" to come to these very conclusions. I don't think taste factors in. It's a function of knowledge. It's also not a pat formula but a way of thinking.

The mechanics of exactly how to achieve this illusive feat are the very core of my teaching, which is based on careful observation of master artists who consistently accomplished this effect.

I'm currently working on a DVD version of my workshop in order to satisfy the appetite of all of the people who contact me and are unable to attend in person. I figure it will take 20+ hours to get this across.
Marvin Mattelson
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