Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Traditional Indian Wedding

I just completed a painting for a couple married in a traditional Indian Hindu ceremony, right here in Asheville.  They were married at the Crowne Plaza, which is one of the few places in town able to accommodate the roughly 650 attendees, plus vendors like me and the staff.  This was the second time I've done a painting of such an event and, I gotta say, they know how to have a good time!  In Indian tradition, the groom travels in a big procession to the bride's village.  Well, we're not going between villages, not here, but we can still have a procession, with music, dancing, a couple hundred people, more music, and more dancing.  Yes, we can.  And did.  It took about an hour to go from one side of the building to the other.  You can walk it in three minutes, but hey, this wasn't about walking, it was about music and dancing! 

The ceremony itself started about 10 am ... well, maybe a bit later, because, y'know, music and dancing.  The groom came in and was welcomed by the bride's family.  Then the bride arrived.  "Beautiful" is not a good enough word ... "STUNNING" is more appropriate.  The young lady is quite beautiful in her own right and had a custom dress with peacocks embroidered on the front, and more jewelry than your average jewelry store (and more beautiful, too).  There's a lot of movement in these ceremonies: people getting up and down, moving around, coming in and going out, and I can't tell you what was going on since I don't know the language.  I focused on taking a ton of photos so I'd have sufficient visual resources to do whatever it was I was going to do with the painting.  Finally, after maybe an hour and a half, it was done, and there were more photos and lunch and mingling.  Then there was a break until the reception in the evening.  I went back to my studio, which was just a very few miles away, loaded the photos from the camera into the laptop and studio iMac, and began figuring out the new painting's composition.  Then I began blocking things in.  Later that afternoon, I went back to the Crowne Plaza, set up the easel, and really got to work.  I painted all through the reception.  There was a LOT of interest from the guests.  Many came over repeatedly to see things develop.  I had some really good conversations with quite a few of them.  Meanwhile, there was more music, dancing, eating, more music, and more dancing.  Did I say that this crowd knew how to party?  And have you ever heard Hindu hip-hop?  Yeah, it'll get you moving!  Everybody - young, old, grandparents, little kids, EVERYbody was moving.  And kept moving.  They were still going strong long after the advertised end time.  And, I suspect, they kept going after they finally had to leave the place.

The next day I worked on the painting in the studio to bring it from a crude sketch to something I could develop.  Here's how it looked (click on the image for a larger view):

The bride's family is on the left, groom's on the right.  Their stage setup had a big circle of flowers overhead and a red red red curtain for a backdrop.  I was afraid that the bright strong red was going to overpower everything else, and at this early stage, it was still a danger.  But that's what they had as their backdrop, so it needed to be there.  I gave a lot of thought to what the curtain should look like by the end, then reverse-engineered to figure out how to get there.  Another thing that had to change was the couple.  In this initial version, they're sitting side by side, looking straight out at the viewer.  That struck me as wrong.  The ceremony is about them, and their union, so they should be engaged with each other rather than us.  So I painted them out completely, let that part dry, and then repainted them in a much better arrangement.  Then it was a matter of going around and bringing each individual, and each part of the painting, up to my standards.  And here's how it turned out:

Yes, I'm very happy with the finished painting.  The red curtain is strong but does not overwhelm the people.  They're looking and smiling at each other, which is as it should be.  I managed to get good likenesses of all the people.  And there's a lot of life in the figures.  Most importantly, the couple LOVE the painting!

Going to a traditional Hindu wedding is an amazing experience.  I really hope to do it again sometime soon.  To this wonderful couple, I say thank you for this opportunity!

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