Painting a Perfect Wedding

Portrait of a Wedding

Wedding portraits are a good alternative or addition to photography and videography.

Art by Emma Miller

When we think of portraits and paintings we might think about creativity, beauty, and expansiveness. Paintings that come to mind might be Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, or even that painting you saw at the Farmer’s Market last weekend.

Additionally, we might think about the grand portraits of royals, heads of state, and the wealthy. Truth be told, for a large part of history, paintings could only be obtained by the wealthy or on very special occasions like the death of a loved one.

Nowadays, we don’t paint our deceased but, thanks to a new social media trend, we have the opportunity to commission paintings of our very own weddings.

Emma Miller, a resident of Springfield, Ohio, is one of the many artists that are now creating a live wedding painting or live event painting for individual weddings.

“It’s just like a tried and true way to capture a moment”, Miller says, “People have been painting important moments for hundreds of years before there were photographs so it’s kind of a cool return back to that era”.

Mainly focusing on acrylic, oil, and watercolor paintings, Miller creates portraits of weddings on sight as the ceremony is taking place.

Photo of Artist Emma Miller taken from the official site.

“For weddings, I mainly use acrylic and watercolors”, Miller shares, “Oil takes longer to dry”.

Using these three methods, along with the occasional ink, Miller creates many different types of paintings.

“I’ve always had trouble saying this is what kind of artist I am”, confessed the Asbury University, fine arts graduate, “I just do a little bit of everything and I like it all.”

That being said, she admits that out of every painting style she creates with, her go-to mediums are mainly responsible for her success.

“In the last year, where I started gaining traction for my business was in, consistently doing still life paintings, landscape paintings and then live (wedding) paintings”, Miller explains.

According to Miller, the live wedding paintings have been the most lucrative. However, she didn’t start as a live wedding painter. In fact, she had never heard about it until two years ago.

“When I was going through college, I had no idea that that even existed”, says Miller, “I knew there was a thing where you went to a location and painted people there. But the idea of painting a live event, where people moved around, was almost impossible to me”.

Still, in 2019 her husband’s cousin asked Miller if she could paint the ceremony at her wedding. The cousin had heard about live wedding paintings and asked Miller if she would do one.

“Neither one of us knew if it was possible or how it would turn out”, Miller reminisces, “She just knew that I painted and wanted me to try that.”

Miller laughs, continuing: “I said to her ‘I can’t give you any guarantees that this will look good, I’ll set up my paints and try something. I attempted to do the entire painting during the wedding ceremony and it was only a 30-minute ceremony.”

Miller admits that it did work out in the end but since then she has been able to refine her process. This progression is largely due to the work that came to her via word-of-mouth after doing her first wedding painting.

Her refined wedding painting process puts Miller at the wedding venue two hours before the ceremony starts. During this time, she sets up, observes, and paints the background.

Miller creating a live wedding painting/Taken from the official site.

“In most cases, I’m there before anyone else is so I’ll concentrate on capturing the look and feel of the venue”, says Miller.

As the guests arrive, she begins painting the venue. Once the ceremony starts, Miller traces the guests and the couple.

She takes pictures with her tablet during the ceremony which she later uses to finish the painting during the reception.

Her process mostly depends on the type of media applied.

“I spend some time composing the image, and then I’ll set up my easel”, says Miller.

“When painting with watercolors”, she describes, “I’ll make a pencil sketch and then I do everything in pen. I try to get as many details as I can in pen, and then I’ll put the color in at the end.”

“So, it has a kind of illustrative look to it”, Miller continues, “It has a little more detail but, the pen and water combination makes it look less realistic”.

For acrylic, she starts differently.

“When I do the acrylic paint, I do an underpainting”, Miller, who is also an art teacher, explains, “I will wash over the whole canvas with a thin, transparent, warm tone. Usually brownish-yellow, to give the painting a cohesive look so that no white canvas is showing through at the end”.

“Then, from there”, she goes on, “I’ll take a more saturated color mixture and do an underpainting to block the general shapes and values. Then, I’ll slowly build up color starting with the darkest parts of the painting, later moving to the highlights”.

All of this takes Miller four to five hours to complete, depending on the size of the painting. Most of Miller’s paintings are of wedding ceremonies but she has had some requests to paint other events within the same vein.

Emma in her studio./Taken from the official site.

“[Wedding ceremonies] are what people generally ask me to do because that’s what they’ve seen me do”, Miller voices, “But, I’ve done maybe five or six first-dance paintings. Actually, one couple asked me to just paint the two of them in front of the venue”.

For posed or first-dance paintings, Miller uses pictures as a reference instead of doing live painting because of time constraints.

This year, Miller has had — what she calls — a bottleneck year, due to being called back to do all of the weddings that were postponed last year in 2020. Also, this year will be the first time she travels out of Ohio to another state to do a wedding.

“The main appeal of live wedding painting is that it’s a different way to capture a memory”, said Miller, “Everyone has pictures, and for the most part but, I think that wedding painting offers something that those don’t”.

Miller smiled as she delved into the feeling of what painting brings to a wedding.

“It can capture the emotion and the light, the feel in a way that a photo can’t”, Miller continued, “It’s also really fun entertainment the day of. It’s something that your guests can watch as it’s happening, it has a unique artistic touch to a wedding.”

Miller also added that, “It’s a really fun thing to have to decorate your home with, to show to people who come over, to your kids someday, and be passed down [through generations]”.

Author: Daila Ayala