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.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December Art Walk

Galleries in Pioneer Square, Seattle, have long held the openings of new shows on the first Thursday of each month. The First Thursday Art Walk ties the galleries together with crafts for sale in Occidental Park, open studios in buildings where artists rent studios, and occasional street performers. This month I decided to pay the $10 to the City and set up my easel in the park. It was a chilly evening, there were roving carolers, and the crowd was light. But there was this delightful group of high school art students from Auburn, which is nigh to Tacoma. They gathered around and craned their necks as I scribbled as many of them into the painting as possible before they were summoned back to the school bus.

Friday, November 21, 2008

On Painting Architecture

The first order of business, before painting the guests, is to paint the room in which they congregate. I’ve always been drawn to painting people, and though I love architecture, the thought of painting it as subject matter would have bored me stiff when I was younger. But weddings tend to be set in grand places, and brides and grooms place their memories in these great places. And as I’ve learned to scribble these settings quickly, I’ve come to appreciate architectural painters. As I have an eye for faces, those who are good at buildings have an eye for perspective. I forget about it. Sure, I studied it in school, learned to draw it with a tee square and triangle, even remember doing that homework on the bus. I don’t particularly remember the particulars now, though. And in these paintings, I’m bending the rules as far as I can see without making it look deliberately distorted. The scope of a painting is often more than 180 degrees. Some lines, then, get bent like a fish-eye lens. But I don’t distort the figures, at least not in a wide-angle lens way.
The painting shown here was done in the Northern Lights Dome Room at Seattle’s recently restored Arctic Hotel. It is a magnificent ceiling of stained glass and gilded molding, and presented a delicious challenge as the evening dimmed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Under the Big Top

On Sunday, November 9, Junior Achievement of Washington held an auction at Teatro Zinzanni in Seattle, raising over $300k to help teach kids about financial responsibility and financial success. I enjoy donating to events like this, because in addition to supporting a cause, auctions are great networking opportunities. This venue was especially fun, because I just fit right in with circus performers.

The couple who purchased this painting are depicted at the end of the long table, in the far right half of the painting.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Painting an Auction

This sunday I'll be painting an auction for Junior Achievement at Teatro Zinzanni in Seattle.
The auction runs from 10:30am – 2:30pm, November 9th, 2008. Of course, I'll be there hours before, setting up my easel, and commencing to paint the spectacular setting. Teatro Zinzani bills itself as selling Love, Chaos, and Dinner, in a setting that is half cirque and half cabaret, with a five course meal by Seattle genius chef Tom Douglas. The winning bidder for my painting gets their table and guests painted front and center in my composition, which is sure to be a colorful evocation of Talouse-Latrec at the Moulin Rouge.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Prices, Terms, Travel Policies

As soon as I began painting weddings, I found that I’m not charging enough. I have heard of a few people who do this, often at several times what I charge. So I’m gradually adjusting the price, a little bit each year. Posted below are this year’s prices, and the new prices for 2009. As is common in the wedding industry, a non-refundable deposit of 50% is due upon signing a contract to reserve a date. 2009 weddings that are booked before January 1st will be given 2008 prices. Travel fees are discussed below the chart.

  2008 Prices                    2009 Prices

24 x 30     $1850        24 x 30     $2000
24 x 36     $2200       24 x 36      $2300
24 x 40     $2500       24 x 40      $2650
30 x 40     $3500       30 x 40     $3750
36 x 48     $4500       36 x 48      $5000
48 x 60     $5500       48 x 60      $6000

Of course, for any travel requiring an overnight stay, I’ll need to be reimbursed for lodging and airfare. I’ll drive as far as Vancouver, BC, Portland, OR, or Spokane, WA, without asking for gas money.
There are certain logistical hurdles associated with air travel. I can fly with my oil paints (they’re just vegetable oils), but they won’t let me carry solvents on board. So I need a day on the ground in your fair city to procure a few art supplies, or they sometimes they can be shipped to my hotel. Hence, an out of town gig generally books three days on my calendar. I need to charge a fee (currently $500) for those days that I could be booking if I were working locally. So for most North American gigs, I would charge the price of the painting, plus two travel days, plus airfare and lodging.
For Europe, make that six days. Here’s why. At the end of an event, I’m only ninety-five percent done with the painting. I usually take the painting back to my studio and touch up the bride and groom, then ship them the painting. I can do this touch-up at the destination, if I stay and wait 48 hours for the paint to dry enough for me to paint another layer on it. So a client would be paying for (1) travel day + (1) prep day + the painting (no extra travel fee for the day of the event) + (2) days drying time + (1) day painting and preparing painting for delivery +(1) day travel back to the states.
Those two days waiting for paint to dry need not be wasted. I’d be happy to spend them painting additional alle prima paintings of the city or resort of your nuptial memories! Prices for these will be appropriate to size, but can be steeply discounted as part of a negotiated package.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


This last weekend I worked a wedding in the old fashioned way. Using india ink and a sable brush, I drew about 150 caricatures. My first caricature gig was in 1987 or 88, as a student at the Art Institute of Seattle. But my first published caricature was of Ronald Reagan, during his 1980 campaign, for the Lewiston Morning Tribune, in Lewiston Idaho. I was a freshman in high school. I’ve since illustrated funny head pix for publications of larger circulation, such as Reader’s Digest.
I still love doing this at events. It’s great wrist practice to draw so many faces, and I am genuinely intrigued by every one of them. Weddings are especially fun, because so many of the sitters share common facial features, being related by family and all.

$500 for the first three hours, $125/hr thereafter.

Octoberfest Wedding

It was Octoberfest in the Bavarian village of Leavenworth. Of course, if it were a real Bavarian village, it would be in Bavaria. But the town markets itself as such to draw tourists, and the replication is convincing— gingerbread houses, lederhosen, beer. The town fathers’ mimicry is suitable to the alpine shelf on which the town sits, on the east side of Washington’s Cascade Range, her jagged Enchantments thrusting up behind.
Just south of town, on the banks of Icicle Creek, not many miles from its glacial source, is Sleeping Lady Lodge. The Icicle Creek Music Festival makes its home here in the summer, and it’s a snowshoeing and cross-country skiing heaven in winter.
We were there half way in between. It rained. Being from Seattle, the bride and groom were undeterred, and were married outside by the creek. I set up my easel in the Salmon Gallery, and did what I love to do.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this wedding was the two dozen (or so) children, nieces and nephews of the couple, children of friends, and the beautiful daughter of the bride. I found myself surrounded by inquisitive preteens, a rock star for a moment.
“I hope he likes kids,” the staff murmured to each other. I do. I wanted to paint them all.
For some clients, inclusion of any face I see at the party is a sensitive issue. I do my best to include parents, bridesmaids, groomsmen, anyone specially requested. But I cannot promise to get everyone, and I discourage requests for changes back at the studio. Clients need to understand that spontaneity is what gives these paintings such energy, and post-celebratory alterations jeopardize the “look and feel” that is natural to alle prima painting. Nevertheless, I am at their service, and with caveat, would not decline an insistent customer.
The clients of this painting were, again, among my favorites. I had worked with the groom in the advertising industry, drawing storyboards for clients such as HBO. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll hire me to paint their daughter’s wedding, in about fifteen years!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Painting my First Wedding

Every time I paint at a wedding, dozens of on-looking guests will tell me the same thing: “I’ve never heard of this! What a great idea!” And as often as time allows, I tell this story.

It wasn’t my idea. In late 2004, a groom called me and said he had an idea for a gift for his bride. Their wedding was coming up that very weekend, and he wanted an artist to come to the reception and paint the scene, live. He was certain that his wife would find it romantic, and his guests would be entertained by watching. He was so assured of the excellence of this idea that he persisted in making seventy-five phone calls in search of a willing artist. One of those calls was to an art professor at the University of Washington, who assured him he would not find anyone who could fill such a demanding request. [The emphases are his.]

I took that as a dare.
My preparation, I believe, was in fifteen years of doing caricatures at events. Using ink and a brush, I have knocked out as many as 400 caricatures in a day— more than one a minute once I’m in the groove. But my experience with paint was more limited. Feeling unable to guarantee the results, but eager to try, I charged him only $500. I spent $350 of it on a portable easel, canvas, and a travel set of oils.

I determined that oil paints would be most appropriate, because they dry slowly enough for errors to be simply wiped off and repainted. The smell of turpentine was a concern. But I bought an “odorless” solvent, which was much easier on the guests, and I now use a citrus thinner which actually smells quite nice.

There was a very steep learning curve at this first gig, such as the need for me to bring my own illumination, and a small rug to use as a drop cloth. But I also learned that I can be tidy enough to paint in a tux, and even talk to guests at the same time.

And I learned that people really do love this idea. Especially brides.