Andrea+Dan's Colin Cowie Celebration Wedding from Clark+Walker Studio on Vimeo.
The Latin phrase ‘ne plus ultra’ means something like ‘you can’t get any higher [than this].’ And since we don’t have actual royalty in America, Colin Cowie and The Hamptons are the highest one can go in the wedding industry.
Colin Cowie, of course, is the famous author, television personality, and designer of events and lifestyle from South Africa. In person he is remarkably charming, courteous (to all), unflappable, and deftly in control of every detail. I’ve been in the industry ten years, and now I’ve finally seen how it’s done.
|Setting up to paint a 48 x 72 inch wedding painting|
The Hamptons have been a playground for the rich and famous for at least a century, being as far east as one can go on land from New York City. Accessible by car in about three hours from the City on a Friday afternoon, or in fifteen minutes by helicopter, if you have one, the Hamptons are a group of villages that still position themselves as a sleepy backwater. But the shake-sided main streets of these villages— Southampton, Easthampton, Bridgehampton, Amagansett, SagHarbor, Montauk, et al— are filled as much with couture shops as chowder spilling taverns. Behind the dunes of the Atlantic beaches are queued some of the most opulent vacation homes in America. Summer jams the streets with Ferraris and SUVs topped with surf boards.
|The reception and cocktail tents|
Inland roll the green fields of equestrian estates and vineyards. And in such a vineyard in Sagaponack, in the second week of September, some large white tents were erected, topped with ribbon like flags sporting our clients’ logo-initials.
|The up-lit vineyards at Wölffer Estates|
The effortlessly meticulous team of Colin Cowie Celebrations corralled a circus of vendors, craftspeople, artisans, and specialists into the creation of a precision fantasy of rustic elegance.
My participation was a gift from the mother of the bride, a gregarious woman with outstretched arms who treated me, and my wife-assistant, as family. My easel anchored a corner of the magnificent reception tent, with a view of both the dance floor and the couple’s beloved up-lit grape vines. They are seen at left, through the moistened rain flaps of the tent.
The rain had been an expected possibility, and was met by Cowie’s people with hundreds of white umbrellas for the procession from wedding to cocktail tents.
|Colin Cowie Celebrations magic.|
|Detail: the Flower Girls|
As the black tie crowd crowded in from cocktails to the dinner tent, onlookers came to look at my six foot canvas and its unfolding panorama. Presently a father approached my easel with a three year old flower girl on his shoulders. She was curious, but tired and shy. I asked if she could pose for her portrait on the ground, but she wanted the security of her father’s arms. And this is why my wife makes such a great assistant: she sat on the white carpet, inviting the girl to join her in conversation. Both father and daughter descended to the floor and sat for a several minutes, as I hastily sketched the white skirted cherub. Her mother later provided a photo for me to paint the girl’s sister, who had reached her energetic limits before I was able to include her (I make this exception for children, and sometimes pets, but otherwise insist on painting from life).
The bride and groom were themselves captured on the dance floor, and so the bridesmaids were likewise painted in the distance— although they came over, in twos and threes, to stand for a likeness. This worked because of the size of the painting. At six feet wide and four feet high, figures in the middle distance— that is, the dance floor— were rendered four to six inches high. That’s about the size of figures in the foreground of my smaller paintings.
|Detail of the couple, in progress. Left foreground: hydrangea and roses on a dining table|
In this wall sized painting, some family members in the foreground were almost portrait sized. This included my client, the mother of the bride, and her mother. In this marvelous video (top) by Clark+Walker Studio, the bride’s grandmother reacts with surprise and joy at her depiction (1:26-1:32).
|Sam Day painting the Hippeau-Vogel Wedding|
A live event painting is as much a performance as it is a keepsake, and I enjoyed interacting with countless guests as they came over to my easel though out the night.
“I’ve never watched an artist paint before,” was a comment I heard repeatedly.
“You were a hit,” concluded a designer with the Colin Cowie team.
|The Hippeau-Vogel Wedding,by Sam Day, oil on canvas, 48 x 72 inches|