Live Event Paintings

I paint oil paintings, live, at wedding receptions and events, anywhere in the world. Click my profile to find my email, or call (206) 382-7413.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Painting at the Wedding MBA, Las Vegas

More than a week has gone by since the convention in Vegas, and I haven’t stopped to catch my breath. The Wedding MBA (Wedding Merchant Business Academy) draws over 2000 wedding professionals from all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico— and a few from overseas, as well. It’s a three-day pow-wow of speakers from the top of the industry, including publishers like Carley Roney, co-founder of The Knot, and Kathy Ireland, CEO of pretty much everything.

The morning of the first day is a general session, with the remainder of the conference broken into hourly classes of specific concern to various segments. I was asked to paint the general session.

Two thousand people fit quite snugly into a corner of a big exhibit hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center. There was a modest stage, and four big screens spread out in front of tables arranged as a massive classroom. I set up my easel about one screen away from the stage, and began at 8 a.m. with the opening talk. As I commonly do at weddings, I painted a view of about 180 degrees, like a wide-angle lens. But the painting only shows half the crowd; the other half is behind me. That's Carley Roney at the podium.

I finished at noon, as Andy Ebon wrapped up his remarks. He spoke about individuals who are distinctive in their disciplines, such as wedding planners or photographers, whose work separates them from their peers by excellence, creativity, or unique vision. I was the last professional he featured. The applause after his conclusion seemed just the right time for me to sign the painting, and take a little bow.

I’m deeply grateful to Andy for his remarks, and to Peter Merry for suggesting, and Shannon Underwood for allowing, me to be there.

The resulting attention was overwhelming. By the end of the afternoon, it was suggested I move my easel to a vendor booth, where I continued handing out business cards and responding to questions about my availability. I was, fortunately, able to attend some of the breakout sessions the other days, but convention goers were still asking to have their pictures taken with me until I packed the painting up at the end of the convention. (Shannon Underwood went home with the original.)

My expectations usually exceed actual results, because I’m a starry eyed artist, and I always expect my dreams to come true. I expected this event to get me gigs from the west coast to the east coast, and maybe Hawaii. I did not expect to be asked to travel to New Zealand and India.

This week I expedited a renewal of my passport.

I’m spilling gratitude everywhere I go.

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 11, 2011

It is the tenth anniversary of the Twin Towers tragedy, and I’m in New York to paint a wedding. The Manhattan couple chose 9/10/11 for the auspicious sounding date.

Last night’s wedding was in the Hudson River valley, at the Pearl River Hilton. Although actually in New York State, about fifteen miles from the George Washington Bridge, some people at the hotel said, “Welcome to New Jersey.” It was a beautiful drive up the river: fall foliage, an almost cloudless sky, and amber evening light on the cliffs. The hotel looks like a French chateau. There were groundhogs on the lawn.

The ballroom was filled with thousands of white flowers. The florist told me just the roses alone numbered six thousand. They were accompanied by fresia, orchids, peonies, and flowered branches.

A chuppah was built of columns topped with enormous balls of these flowers and branches, arching over the ceremony like a canopy. Foot lights cast shadows of the branches on the ceiling.

Three hundred chairs faced the chuppah, and behind that the ballroom was curtained from the reception tables. An archway through the curtains was made of flowering branches, through which the wedding party entered, two by two.

Herein lies the challenge for a wedding painter.

I was positioned to the left of the chuppah, with a long view down the room. But I could only see three fifths of it, until after the ceremony. As I lay the foundation of a painting, my first task is to draw the lines and surfaces of the room, establishing perspective, light and mood. This is done with oil washes and a broad brush, blended afterwards with a fan brush for soft focus. I then work into this background all the features of the painting. If there is anything I cannot change later in the process of the painting, this is it.

I found my workaround above the archway. What I called “curtains” were really sliding and folding walls, typically found in modern ballrooms. They went all the way to the ceiling. But they were open to the width of the makeshift archway, above which I could see the decorative lines and partitions of the ceiling, all the way to the back wall. It was a narrow glimpse. I could not see the back corners of the room, but I could see enough to imagine them.

I rarely paint ceremonies. Receptions last much longer. But that chuppah was so beautiful, and my position was so perfect. And as I began my architectural background, the wedding party came in with the rabbi for rehearsal. I had not expected this, but it gave me an additional hour to paint them in the positions they’d occupy during the wedding.

After the beautiful and reverent ceremony, the assembly adjourned for cocktails, the lights came up, and the hotel crew “flipped the room.” The flowered archway was rolled to the side, the partitions folded back into the walls, the tables brought forth, candles lit, and the lights dimmed once again.

Of course, as people left the room after the ceremony, many of them stopped by my easel for a closer look. When they came back in for dinner, they found a very transformed painting. On the left, the ceremony is bright, and on the right, the room is dimmed as it was seen later. Between the two, the couple descends a little stair, greeting their future. I spent the rest of the evening painting guests.

Every wedding painting I’ve done is a portrait of a space of time— four to eight hours— as the light changes and people move about. But this was the first time I put the ceremony and reception on the same canvas.

And the bride was pleased.