A Day in the Life of a Live Painter
Whether you’re a patron I’ve worked for in the past, a friend or family member wondering how this ‘live painting’ thing works, or a bride who is planning on having me take part in your upcoming wedding, I thought you’d enjoy a glimpse of what the big event day is like from my perspective. Without further ado, here is an example of what a day for me looks like when I have a Live Painting gig.
Since Saturdays are my most common gig days and most of my Live Painting is for weddings, we’ll imagine this is a Saturday wedding. We’ll imagine it’s taking place at a venue about 1.5 hours away from my home and that I’ve been asked to paint the ceremony.
The Day Before
[at the studio]: I pack up my palette and brushes and load them into my car along with a fresh canvas, my easel, and other materials that I’ll need on-site.
The Day Of
6-8:00am [at home]: Rise and go on a run. Get some tea and breakfast with my family.
8:30am-11: I hang out with the kids, do some yard work or other at-home chores, or maybe run an errand. Or I might stay home and keep an eye on everyone while Deirdre does the grocery shopping for the week or gets some other errand of her own done.
11:30: I clean up and get dressed, review any details about travel, arrival instruction, etc.
12:00: I have lunch with my family. Deirdre packs me some snacks and plenty of water - maybe some iced tea - for the road. (I get hungry on these days: she knows I appreciate portable, high-protein snacks… and something for my sweet tooth.)
12:30: I say goodbye to the family and depart for the event. I might listen to a podcast on the way (lately I’ve been enjoying a lot of history learning on my commutes and long drives).
2:00pm: [on location] I arrive at the wedding venue, connect with my point of contact (maybe it’s the wedding planner or a venue coordinator) and locate the best spot for my easel. Unpack and get set up.
2:30pm: I start painting the background of the scene. At this point, I relax and settle into the process. I might meet the other vendors for the day and have a chat with the photographer and maybe a family member of the bride or groom.
4:30pm: As guests file into the space and take their seats, I concentrate a bit more on how the light is landing and get ready to bring the painting to the next level of detail. I also field a few questions as folks notice my artwork, wonder what I’m up to, and want to learn more.
5:00pm: The bride walks down the aisle and the ceremony starts. Now I am doing a lot of observation, making mental notes on all the details, and looking for just the right moment. I take out my camera and get some good photos for reference. I start to paint the couple in.
5:30-6:30pm: As the cocktail hour takes place, I get back into the zone, working on the painting. The key moment has passed and everyone is dispersing, but now I’m leaning on my memory and on my reference photos to keep honing in on the image. Lots of questions and answers with guests around now.
7pm: The reception gets into full swing. The couple might come around and take a look, and I always look forward to getting their reaction and hearing their feedback. Guests might come to see how the painting looks, compared to their first glance at 4:45, or they might just start to notice me and enjoy the ‘instant replay’ from the ceremony.
7:30pm: I take a break from painting to have dinner, either perched in a quiet spot or sitting with the other vendors.
8pm: After a break, I have a fresh look at the painting. By now, my work is mostly done and I know I’ll add final touches in the studio. But I might hang around for a bit to soak in the scene, answer questions from wedding attendees, and add some more strokes while the image is fresh in my mind. If the crowd is very engaged with my work, I’ll stick around longer; if everyone has moved on to the dancefloor or elsewhere, I’ll pack up.
10:00pm: My car is all packed and my work is done; I dip into my snack bag for a little pick-me-up and then hit the road.
11pm: I arrive back at my studio. I clean my brushes and palette for the night. I store the painting safely where it can begin the drying process.
12:00am: I hit the hay back at home.
The following Monday
I follow up with any post-event communication that needs to happen.
Back in the studio, I take a fresh look at the painting. In the coming days, I add a few final touches - usually to the faces and figures of the bride and groom. I paint the sides of the canvas (it doesn't usually work logistically to do this step before now). I let it dry.
Sometime the following week
I varnish the painting.
Two weeks later
I give the painting a second coat of varnish.
Three weeks later
By now the painting should be totally dry and ready to ship. I photograph the painting for my portfolio and also so that I can produce any prints and/or cards that have been requested.
Depending on my workflow and how many other paintings also need to head to their final destinations, I’ll pack it up or I’ll let it set a little longer.
By one to three months later
The painting arrives to the newlyweds and I check in to make sure all is well. Even though this is a week-in, week-out routine through the season, I am always anxious to hear a pleased word in response, and always thrilled when I do.
Did I miss anything that you’ve wondered about? Thanks for reading!
For more about Live Painting, click here.
Guest post by Deirdre M. Folley
Live Wedding Painting - also known as Live Painting or Event Painting - is something that John and I talk about so much that we forget that many people haven't heard of it and don't know what it is. We expect that that will change quickly, however, as the trend is on the rise! In a few years, running into an artist mid-painting at a wedding or other event may not be as surprising as it is now, but it's sure to cause a stir no matter what!
Hiring a Live Wedding Painter or Live Event Painter is somewhere between hiring a photographer and hiring an entertainer (like a juggler or a musician) -- only you end up with an heirloom-quality work of art commemorating your big day! To help explain, I'll run through a few of the most common questions we get about John painting live at events and weddings:
"What is this 'Live Painting' you speak of?"
John is hired to arrive at an event as a vendor, set up his easel and paints, and paint a painting right there in front of guests! Most often, this is for weddings, where the couple is looking for a crowd-pleasing add-on to the cocktail hour or reception and also want to have a work of art that depicts their wedding day. It is both entertainment at the event and a beautiful finished product to cherish after the fact.
Does John really paint live?
Yes! John's training in the Direct Approach actually makes him particularly suited to observe life in front of him quickly and comprehensively and efficiently transfer his vision to the canvas. He paints what he sees in real time while he's there, and then completes the painting with any necessary finishing touches back at his studio after the fact. He'll snap a few photos while he's there to make sure he has the visual information he needs to complete the painting, but most of the work is done right there, at the event.
Can guests watch John while he works?
Yes, and ask him questions, too! John is totally comfortable painting live in front of event guests, chatting and answering questions while he does so. We often hear that one of the favorite things people love about having John at their events is how much interaction there is between him and their guests, making the event that much more fun and memorable! We think it's a great ice-breaker at a party: if you have a moment between things at a reception, checking in on the progress of a painting and chatting with a friendly fine artist is always fun, and you'll be sure to have something about which to talk to other guests!
What sets John apart from other Live Painters?
Most Live Painters work in acrylic paint because it is a fast-drying medium, and some do Live Painting as their full-time job. Some Live Painters hand the painting over to the new owners that same night.
John, however, is a Classically-trained artist and works in oil paint, with Live Painting being just one part of his professional art business. Oil paint dries more slowly and needs to set, which is why John will take the painting back to his studio even if it is complete at the end of the night. He then varnishes it to ensure the most vivid color, which then involves a bit more drying and setting. While there's more of a wait time with John's artwork, the result is museum-quality fine art with a longevity worthy of a true heirloom piece (as oil paint is more stable over time than acrylic). We say that the delivery time is 4-12 weeks after the event, with the usual delivery generally being more like 4.
Furthermore, when you're hiring John for Live Painting (as with any of his artistic services), you're hiring a Classically-trained artist who will bring his Boston School vision along with him. He doesn't rely on pre-fab models in his head, he just honestly paints what he sees, with a focus on the light and color before him. Not every Live Painter who can capture the feel of an event on canvas and entertain guests also has a fine art portfolio of timeless quality. As he continues to do more and more Live Painting events, I expect his paintings will grow increasingly beautiful with his experience.
Where do John's events usually take place?
John is currently receiving requests for weddings and other events from across Massachusetts, from western Mass to all over Cape Cod (with, of course, lots of interest in Boston!). He also is sought from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut for weddings, with occasional requests from New York and New Jersey. While most clients prefer to look for a local wedding painter, you may find that you don't have a painter near you or that you particularly want John's style -- in which case, get in touch because we can arrange for John to travel to you!
When it comes to corporate or non-profit clients whose mission is aligned well with John's, he's especially up for travel to be of service at a gala, fundraiser, retreat, or other such event.
How much does Live Wedding Painting cost?
If you are searching around for a Live Painter for your wedding or event, you will see a range of prices. Depending on the artist's market, number of years of experience, and travel costs, you will pay a Live Painter between $600-$6000.
John's Live Painting prices are a great value, as he is relatively new on the market and especially considering the quality of his oil paintings. Depending on where their weddings are taking place and what they're looking for, local clients of John are currently paying $1400-$3500. Pricing for non-wedding events tends to look a little different, as the needs are different.
When you consider that you're getting entertainment for an event wrapped up with a personal fine art commission, you can see the value!
Click here to see John's Live Painting page.
Are there other questions I still haven't covered? Let me know below!
Hello there, I'm John H. Folley, an oil painter in the Boston School tradition. Thanks for visiting the Beauty Advocacy Blog, where it's my job to help you become a more discerning art appreciator.
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