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.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The JAM at SAM

The annual Puget Sound region holiday party for the wedding and event industries was held this year at the Seattle Art Museum. Yes, those are Ford Tauruses hang from the ceiling. While it does make for a knockout party light show, this is actually a permanent art installation by Cai Guo-Qiang. It scores on a level near sharks in formaldehyde, on the scales of both wonderment and absurdity. After a few minutes of neck tilting, the contemplative viewer hopes for a return to more traditional art, like painting.
And for the next few hours, that’s just what I did.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The New York Times featured an article about live event painters today in the Sunday Styles section. I am quoted a couple of times in the article, and am one of eight artists featured in a slide show of our work in the online edition. I congratulate my fellow event painters, and look forward to all our fortunes rising with this publicity.

Friday, November 9, 2012

McClelland- Miller Wedding, Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas

McClelland-Miller Wedding (detail; click to view full image) November 3, 2012

This was my first trip to Texas. When I called my wife after checking into the hotel, she said I already had an accent. Texas can grow on you that quickly.
Since nothing is small in Texas, this was one of the largest weddings I’ve done, with nearly 500 guests. The soaring, white pavilion at the Fort Worth Zoo was the site of both the wedding and the reception. After a faith-filled service with a gospel choir, guests adjourned to an adjacent pavilion for cocktails while the main space was transformed from chapel to magnificent dining hall. Both spaces were filled with thousands of roses and hydrangea, punctuated with phalaenopsis. 
A band of extraordinary vocal force and suave instrumentality played as the guests came in and found their seats. But the flower girl and ring bearer, twin toddlers belonging to the brides’ brother, found the dance floor first.
As I never know how long children will last at a party, I didn’t waste any time painting them. They appear just to the right of the bride, playing on the stairs to the bridal party’s raised dining stage.
This was a dancing crowd, and the lounge end of the party accommodated enormous participation. White leather couches flanked the dance floor, with the most Texan of all possible coffee tables: diamond plate aluminum truck bed tool boxes. As the spectrum lighting changed the room from purple to magenta and back again, the tool boxes shone like mirrors.
The tall, elegant bride and her all-American groom are seen here surrounded by their friends on the dance floor. The gracious, tuxedoed father of the bride gives his toast. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pohl-Drake Wedding, Bainbridge Island, Washington

The Pohl-Drake Wedding by Sam Day
The Pohl-Drake Wedding, 2012, Oil on Canvas, 24 x 40 inches, by Sam Day

The Pohl-Drake wedding was, for the bride, just a visit to Grandma's house for some blackberry pie— along with 275 guests.
The bride rides horses, and has fond memories of visiting her grandmother’s summer house on Bainbridge Island, and picking blackberries. The groom rides everything else— but chiefly motocross bikes. That’s why, during his father’s toast, his brother rode through the tent on the front seat of a tandem bicycle, with an English saddle on the back seat, and a hobby horse tied to the front (I painted that in the lower left corner).
The grandmother’s summer house is situated in an enclave known as The Country Club of Seattle, wherein eighteen estates on a wooded hill are surrounded by a grassy apron of equestrian paradise, nine holes of golf, and Puget Sound. The ceremony was in a tent on the lawn looking south at Blake Island and west to Rich Passage.  Cocktails were held a few hundred yards to the east, in another white tent right on Restoration Point. I set up my easel in the final reception tent, northernmost of the three, pitched within a wooden railed equestrian circle, not far from the barn, looking east. The view stretched from Blakely Harbor on the left, to the cocktail tent on the right, seen just over the hill. One can see Seattle from here, over the blackberry bushes that line the shore. The tall skyline appears in my painting just left of the cocktail tent. Blakely Rock is just 800 yards off the pebbly beach, in the center of the painting, where a sailboat passes. A Washington State Ferry is seen leaving Eagle Harbor en route to Seattle.
The tent itself was a hundred and fifty feet wide, open to the view on the water side, and decorated with elegant antiques (Vintage Ambiance) in subdued colors. Erected as it was in a horse’s trotting ring, the floor was grass, cut golf course short, and combed clean as a carpet. I painted barefoot (by permission), and believe me, it was immaculate.
The wedding was semiformal. The groom wore a plaid suit with a bow tie, like an English gentleman. The groomsmen wore dark suits and bow ties of various colors; the bridesmaids each wore something boldly unique. The bride wore lace. Everyone wore broad smiles.
There was a dance floor and a stage. Dinner was serenaded by an unamplified bluegrass band, The Tallboys. After dinner, The Craig Lawrence Band played everything from jazz to classic rock and current pop.
Herban Feast catered, and floral magic was provided by Bainbridge Island based Rachel Bowes of Finch and Thistle. The maestro who brought it all together was Sarah Cabatit, of EventWise Planning.
Locally sourced Blackberry pie was served along with the coconut cake  (bottom right, on the table behind Grandma).

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Adkins-Harris Wedding, The Rainier Club, Seattle

Wedding painting by Sam Day
The Adkins Harris Wedding, Rainier Club, Seattle, ©2012 by Sam Day. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches.

The Rainier Club is the oldest, and arguably the most important private club in Seattle. Founded when the city still had mud streets, the club hosted the first trade delegations from Japan to the United States. A century later, a US president broke bread here in Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings with Japan, China, and other Pacific Rim nations— the first APEC meetings in the United States. Lesser events within these walls are too numerous to mention, with the notable exception of the Adkins-Harris wedding of August 25, 2012.

The architecture is appropriately grand. Designed by Kirtland Cutter in 1904, in what was later called the Jacobethan style— a mixture of Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture; in short, a mash-up of everything. There are curvilinear parapet gables on all facades. The exterior is flash-fired clinker brick. And in room after room, one finds homage to a different age. In this one, ten solid Doric columns as thick as a Douglas Fir are illuminated on the west by peaked, gothic church windows, and on the east by a walk-in fireplace big enough for a half a cord of wood to be stored in the shadows (no longer used). The east walls are painted a dark crimson/Venetian red, from which the clinker brick of the fireplace recedes. But the other walls are a glowing Georgian yellow, trimmed in cream. The Doric columns are a glossy Van Dyck brown, looking chocolate in sunlight, and nearly black at night.
The art collection is one of the best in the city. The lobby has the usual Northwest Masters such as  Morris Graves and Kenneth Callahan, as well as living masters like Alden Mason. The halls are lined with photogravures in their original Art Nouveau frames by Edward S. Curtis, the famed photographer of Native Americans who lived in the club for a time, and paid his rent in original prints. There’s an Albert Bierstadt oil painting of Mount Rainier in the room where dinner was served. Among period seascapes, an incomparable portrait of Emma Frye hangs in the room where this couple was married.
It is into that room that we glimpse on the right side of my painting, and from which the couple emerges to join their guests.
The bride, a high school classmate of mine, wore a gown of pure sunlight refracted by something much softer than sequins— designed by Reem Accra—, and carried a bouquet by Aría Style. The groomsmen wore carmine colored orchids; the groom’s was white.
On the far left of the painting, the groom’s daughter sits at the Steinway, effortlessly embellishing Beatles songs. His son stands tall in the center with hereditary aplomb, next to the bride’s sister and the father of the groom. The genial best man and his wife are in the lower left, and a niece and nephew hold up a pillar with great interest. The mother of the bride is seated (in white) in mid distance in a room crowded with friends and family.
Along the north wall the band A New Groove belted out 70s R&B and rock classics, and Geoffrey Castle, a soloist on six string electric violin, fused musical styles with unparalleled virtuosity.
It was a great evening, in a great place, with great people. It was great to be there, and a privilege to paint it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Billy and Ingrid at Melrose Market Studios

What can be more elegant than the basement of an old urban produce warehouse, with exposed brick and old growth fir beams? Said basement dressed up by Tacoma based wedding designer Amanda Rose, who’s company Oak & Cyprus Weddings and Events also did the flowers. The small bouquets were simple and colorful, with surprising elements, like succulents. She brought in carefully selected antiques from Vintage Ambiance. Cake by People's Cake. The band played exquisite, understated jazz. The gathering was intimate, with only about 70 guests. There were nieces and nephews aplenty.
 A seven year old named Liam kept me on my toes with questions about oil painting— citrus thinner, linseed oil, the particular use of a four inch wide badger fan brush, and how to erase mistakes. (I can do that with oils, since they stay wet for quite a while.) Perhaps his best question was in response to my comment that I used to have a friend named Liam: “Do you still have a friend named Liam?”
There was a baby in attendance who was just old enough to crawl. As she played with the latches on the antique trunk that centered the makeshift living room, I painted her as fast as I could. One never knows how long a baby will pose for a portrait.
The bride and groom eventually stood for a few minutes for me to paint them, sometime after the first dance. The parents of the bride are on the couch, and of the groom, standing in the lower right.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A 60th Birthday Party at Newcastle Country Club

This celebrant’s friends appreciate her sense of style. They all came dressed in black and white; only the guest of honor was dressed in red. Prestwick Terrace, the permanent party tent at The Golf Club at Newcastle, was likewise festooned with black table cloths and white flowers.
As always, I arrived early enough to get a head start painting the room (big top) and the view. This is a magnificent place to watch a sunset, and the last time I painted here I depicted the evening at dusk. This time I chose the bright summer sunlight. By the time the sun went down, all I had left to paint were faces, anyway. Oh, and one tireless birthday girl in a bright red dress.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Peterson-Clawson Wedding, Alderbrook Resort, Hood Canal

I really should start offering an Alderbrook package deal. This venue was the first place I ever painted at a wedding, almost eight years ago. I love coming back here, especially when my wife and I get to stay over.
Being in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains, one has to plan for a rain contingency. I brought an extra canvas, just in case I might have to start over completely in the ballroom. But as I set up my easel on the lawn at about 3:00 p.m., the clouds began to scatter, and the sun came through the trees. The yard umbrella, provided for me by a thoughtful catering manager, became a parasol.
 The peak of Mount Washington still trailed clouds, and the mile wide Hood Canal was as flat as a lake. A harbor seal dove for shellfish in the shallows (he’s represented only by a ripple in the painting.) A row of yachts moored along the dock. The children spotted a family of raccoons high in a Douglas Fir tree, and I eventually painted the critters chasing the flower girls and ring bearers across the lawn. I painted the landscape, the lawn, and the tent set up for cocktails first. But the people were all behind me, where lounge chairs surrounded a fire pit. Photographs were being taken, conversation was warm, and they could watch me painting, instead of me watching them. But at 5:00 p.m. the D.J. called them to cocktails, and they moved down where I could see and paint them.
But all the while, the children ran on the lawn.
 I decided to place the couple front and center, dividing the ceremony from the cocktail hour in a symmetrical composition. After the wedding, the guests went into the ballroom for dinner, and the brides retired to the spa area for a respite before making their appearance to the ballroom. But before their entrance, they came back to the lawn and stood for their portraits for a few minutes. I usually manage this task late in the reception, and rarely get more than five or ten minutes with a couple before they get pulled away again by their guests. There were some complications with a bustle, and as the day-of coordinator pinned her up again, I got a luxurious fifteen minutes or more to paint their likenesses.
For the first time in all the years I’ve been painting weddings, I was done, and signed the painting, before dinner!
And then my wife and I enjoyed a relaxing weekend at a wonderful resort.
Please don’t tell the staff we fed crab to their cat. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Esselbach-Gwinn Wedding, Newcastle Country Club, Bellevue, WA

When I paint a wedding, one of my pleasures is the individuality and character of each couple, their event design, and the culture specific to their family and friends. This couple were part of Wazzu culture, the epicenter of which happens to be my hometown. I’ve painted at a few Cougar weddings. It was great to hear the WSU fight song again. (John Candy sang it in the movie ‘Stripes.’)
It’s also a pleasure to paint beautiful people, and this bride was so beautiful, it felt like a sacrifice to paint them on the dance floor instead of up close, where you could see her smile better. But the couple spent so much of the evening on the dance floor, it was quite appropriate to depict them there. These are the challenges of a wedding painter. Unlike a photographer, I’m creating just one image over the course of several hours. It is a montage of the event and the scope of its time, but depicted as a snapshot as if it all happened at once. Parents aren’t any easier to pin down to stand for a portrait, since they’re so happily mixing with their guests. But that’s why I stay ‘til the last dance, if need be. They’re here in front, as proud as they should be.
The venue was the Golf Club at Newcastle, perched a thousand or so feet above the suburbs of Seattle, almost in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, with one of the most spectacular views of any venue in the region. The ceremony, and later the dancing, were held on Prestwick Terrace, a tented pavilion of circus proportions. Dinner was inside the clubhouse, in the St. Andrews Ballroom.  I painted the tent before and during the ceremony, including the expansive view, while anticipating how the light would change as the sun went down. But it wasn’t until nine o’clock, when the guests came back from dinner, that I was able to begin painting people.
And that’s my favorite part.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Painting the Tacoma Heart Ball 2012, Hotel Murano

     The Tacoma Heart Ball is the annual gala auction for the Tacoma chapter of the American Heart Association. Friday, April 27, 2012 was the third year I’ve painted this event. The venue this year was the über-stylish Hotel Murano. Formerly the Sheraton Tacoma, a stark, mid century Modern high rise, the Murano is now a veritable art museum. It’s namesake is the famed glass blowing island in Venice, where centuries of tradition have refined the glass art that lives on in the Pacific Northwest, in large part because of Tacoma’s native son cum patron, Dale Chihuly.

     In this tall lobby, enormous glass canoes hang like chandeliers— an homage yet again, this time to the Salish tribes of Puget Sound. They appear distant in my painting only because they are. I set up my easel on the third story of a four story atrium, looking down the long hall toward the ballroom. We see the canoes lengthwise, so in the painting, alas, they look like hanging vases. 
     The nearer chandelier is a magnificent tangle of reflective glass from the isle of Murano itself, and the largest that glass artist has ever made. Another hanging feature— for one night only— is a trapeze artist in the stairwell, serving champagne to the guests. 
     The hotel lobby bar is to the left on the main level. Unfortunately hidden beneath the balcony from my view, the bar’s north wall is almost entirely covered by a framed print, my favorite work of art in the building: a full size Chuck Close (another Washington favorite son.)
This labyrinth of architecture was a challenge to paint, and per usual, I bent the perspective to include all that I could see. At charity auctions, I always paint the buyer of the painting into the foreground, and we see him here approaching as if he’d just come off the elevators (unseen, to the right.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Brooks Wedding, Hotel 1000, Seattle

Hotel 1000 is a swank West Edge venue in downtown Seattle. The wedding was on the outdoor terrace, Which became the scene of the dance floor after cocktails and dinner. My view looks west (on the left of the painting) into the Library, and north on the right, into the hall where dinner was served. When I visited the venue with the bride to plan my location, there was a floor to ceiling window here. But it was removed, frame and all, at the bride’s request, and replaced with these flowing curtains.
 A creamy, conservative northwest palette was punctuated with brilliant spring colors, in small bouquets. Similarly, the bride’s unassuming but oh-so-beautiful dress was accented with carmine red pumps, and her bridesmaids’ shoes were orange. Noticed perhaps by only the wedding party, there was also a covert theme of black and white stripes, on the groom’s socks and the bride’s heels. Having had this pointed out to me, I made sure they were in the painting. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Voila Wedding Show, Woodmark Hotel, Kirkland Washington

This was the third year for the Voila! Wedding Show, at the Woodmark Hotel, Yacht Club and Spa at Carillon Point in Kirkland, Washington. I painted at the first Voila, and last year I did caricatures instead. Yesterday I returned with my easel.

Harpist Alishia Joubert tickled my ears throughout the afternoon, and made a lovely centerpiece for the painting. Tania Shepard of Azzura Photography happened to bring her parrot. Outfits by La Belle Reve stand in front of a cut paper backdrop by artist Celeste Cooning, whose work always lifts me into the clouds.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Coming up: Voila! Wedding Show, Kirkland, WA

This Sunday, March 25th, I'll be painting at the Voila! Wedding Show at the Woodmark Hotel, Yacht Club and Spa at Carillon Point in Kirkland, Washington, from 12:30-4:30pm.
This video of last year's show pictures me— wait for it, it's towards the end— doing caricatures.

I'm always pleased to be asked to do caricatures, but the truly rare service I offer is a live oil painting, created during a wedding or reception. The painting I produce on Sunday will be done in just three hours.

Voila! Wedding Show from Lorbaniah Cameography | Cinema on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Burchardt-Nelson Wedding, Mount Baker Community Club, Seattle

The Mount Baker Community Club was founded in 1909, and continues to serve this gracious Seattle neighborhood. Their Arts and Crafts building, with its high, schoolhouse-style double hung windows surrounded by ancient trees, can be rented for events. (Northwest art and architecture fans, if you visit, be sure to go upstairs to see their original Sydney Laurence.)

My long time figure model, Tessa, and her partner Iowa chose this vintage Seattle hall to exchange their vows.

For almost all my indoor paintings, I begin with a wash of burnt umber— a deep, dark brown when used thickly, it mellows to a sandy amber when thinned. From that I can build the golds and browns that typify most ballrooms. But this ballroom was painted more like a room in my parent’s Craftsman home— something between beige and mauve, barely more than a light gray above the broad, white wainscoting, and a deeper saturation of the same below it. In full daylight, I was seeing a blue shade of purple. In mixing my color, I pushed it rosier. The result created this glow that fit well with the couple’s colors: lavender and sky blue.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Story about me in Santa Barbara News-Press

I'm tremendously grateful to Marilyn McMahon for the story she wrote about me in the Santa Barbara News Press, February 25, 2012. A link to the archived story is here.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Best of Santa Barbara, at the Rockwood Women's Club

On Sunday, February 26, 2012, I was delighted to participate in the Simply the Best of Santa Barbara Wedding Show. I was invited by Bonnie Hope, whom I met in Las Vegas last September. Bonnie produces this show twice a year. It was my first trip to Santa Barbara, a town of unrivaled beauty, perfect weather, and innumerable weddings.

The event is held in the Rockwood Women’s Club, a gracious 1927 Spanish Colonial Revival

building just up Mission Canyon Road from the historic Santa Barbara Mission. The club is still the home of regular luncheons for the town’s best connected ladies, but on the weekends it becomes a sought-after wedding venue.

I painted from the stage, which I shared alternately with guitarist Gilbert Herrera and a pianist Neil DiMaggio at the Steinway, whose wife joined him at times on the flute. From this vantage I could really appreciate something one doesn’t notice in most wedding venues: the hall has extraordinary acoustics. The position also gave me a marvelous overview of the show.

I look forward to coming back to paint in this room with an actual bride and groom as the focus of my picture.

Moved as I was by the architecture, I took my easel outside after the show, and painted the exterior of the building— then gave the painting to the venue. A manager said she knew just where to hang it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Simply the Best! Wedding Showcase of Santa Barbara

I'm off to Santa Barbara, California this weekend for a wedding show, thanks to Bonnie Hope of Music by Bonnie, who organizes two of these shows a year. I met her at the Wedding MBA show in Las Vegas last September. I'm eager to get a finger (and a brush) in this exciting wedding market!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

12 Baskets Catering Open House, February 9, 2012

Twelve Baskets Catering is a catering company so well established that they have their own wedding show— or at least an open house that functions as one. Andrea Harrison, an event coordinator on their staff, invited me to be a part of this year’s event. Some familiar faces were there, such as Olga Szwed of La Belle Reve, with her spectacular line of wedding dresses, whom we saw just a week ago at Weddings in Woodinville.

The venue, known as 415 Westlake, was a pleasure to paint. Under this great arch of wood beams, a warmly colored space was easily transformed into a bright party.

Weddings in Woodinville, January 29, 2012

This wedding show was unique among the many I’ve done in the seven years I’ve been painting weddings. Instead of one venue, there were seven: COLUMBIA WINERY, DeLILLE CELLARS, JM CELLARS, MATTHEWS ESTATE, NOVELTY HILL • JANUIK WINERY, WILLOWS LODGE, and WOODHOUSE WINE ESTATES.

Attendees were ferried around from one winery to another by the fleet of Butler Transportation, which provides first class busses and limousines. A showroom at each venue was decorated by a separate, selected wedding planner. I was invited by Erin Lindeman, of Lindeman Weddings and Events, to be part of the offerings at Columbia Winery. Erin’s brilliant design featured models wearing gowns designed by La Belle Reve, who took turns modeling under a chuppah at one end of the room, and on a small proscenium at the other, surrounded by small shrubs. The painting now belongs to Ms. Lindeman, with my fondest regards.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Joint Association Mixer Bubble Ball

The 2011 JAM Bubble Ball was held December 19th by the local chapters of the following organizations: Meeting Professionals International, International Special Events, National Association of Catering Executives (Seattle and Tacoma Chapters), Association of Bridal Consultants, and Wedding Network USA (Seattle and South Sound Chapters).

This is basically the holiday party for the Who’s Who of those who plan the parties in the greater Seattle-Tacoma area. So I was delighted to be invited to paint the event by organizers BreeAnn Gale and Adam Tiegs, who was also master of ceremonies. Adam appears in the painting as Santa Claus, on the right, near the tree. (BreeAnn is mingling in the crowd behind.)

Metaphorically serving us, front and center, is Mr. Don Boshears, Private Events Director of the Columbia Tower Club, where the event was held.

Looking down from the Columbia Tower Club’s 76th floor is like looking down from an airplane on its approach to SeaTac Airport. The club is more than a thousand feet above the waterfront, five blocks away. With a good pair of binoculars, I could see the self portrait in the window of my studio, in the nearby neighborhood of Pioneer Square. Looking out to the horizon, there are mountains and sea for a hundred miles. I wasn’t there to paint the view, of course, and once the sun goes down it’s all just lights in the blackness anyway. But Seattleites who know this city view well might recognize a series of dots in the far window as the lights of 15th Avenue Northwest, climbing over the horizon in Ballard, and the red radio tower lights on Queen Anne Hill. Through the window on the left we see the waterfront, under reflections of the holiday party.

The brightest lights are at the party, however— the party planners of Puget Sound themselves.