Saturday, March 24, 2018

Completing a Wedding Painting

In a previous post, I wrote about the start of the wedding painting for Jason and Sarah.  I had a lot of fun that day, both at the ceremony and then at the reception.  The interaction with the couple and their guests was great, the ceremony and location were beautiful, and the reception was PARTAYYY!!  So here's how the painting looked at the end of the reception (click on it for a larger image):

Not too bad for just a few hours worth of work.  But notice: Jason's head is too big, the bride's mother on the left is turned away from us so that we only see the back of her head, and the rest of the people in the painting are only roughly defined.  This needs a lot of work before I would put my signature on it.

To answer your question, yes, I work from photographs.  This couple wanted a painting of the moment they started back down the aisle at the end of the ceremony.  (I have since learned that the proper term for that is the "recessional").  But that doesn't mean that I take one or two quick snaps and that's it.  No, I took a bunch before the guests started arriving, getting in the mountains in the distance, the flowers, the petals on the ground, the guests as they were arriving, then many of each of the party as they entered, including the bride and groom.  I took a bunch of the overall crowd as they were standing and sitting.  I took some wide shots and some closeups from both sides of the setup.  As the key moment approached, the wedding photographer and I positioned ourselves at the end of the aisle and shot almost non-stop as Jason and Sarah turned and walked down the aisle.  In all, I shot over 220 photos.  Then I headed down to the reception venue to get started on the painting.

Over the next three weeks, I used over 20 of those photos to develop the painting.  I used four different ones for Sarah, two for Jason, one or two each for the bride's and groom's mothers, one or two each for each of the bridesmaids and grooms' men, two for the flowers, two for the petals, and a couple for the distant mountains.  And a few more, here and there, for specific details.  Those photos came from everywhere in the collection.  That's why I take a lot of reference photos: you never know which ones will be important when you're in front of the easel.

So here's how the painting turned out:

It came a long way from the first night, didn't it?  Just about every square inch has been re-painted, sometimes multiple times.  Jason came in pretty quickly.  Sarah gave me fits.  I didn't like that Jason was looking at her while she was looking out at the viewer, so I turned her head towards him.  The first try didn't work, so I scrubbed it out and tried a different angle.  That one worked better, but it took a while to get it from "some anonymous blonde woman" to "Sarah".  I turned Sarah's mom ninety degrees so we could get her face and expression and brought Jason's mom up to a good level of finish.  Normally, I don't worry too much about getting likenesses for the rest of the people, but this time, all the figures became recognizable pretty quickly.  Then it was a matter of going around, tightening up the details, correcting colors and values, all while trying to keep the lively brushwork and avoid over-working it.  When it was close, I sent Sarah and Jason a photo and asked for input.  They recommended some changes to make it look more like Sarah, and when I sent them the second proof photo, they said I nailed it.

So right now, the painting is in the studio.  I've been letting it dry for a few days.  It'll head out to Jason and Sarah early next week.  And then it's on to the next challenge ...

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