What an honor and pleasure to be hired by the best man and his wife to paint the wedding ceremony of his brother Val and bride Emily. The outdoor ceremony held at The Barns at Wesleyan Hills in Middletown CT set the background for a picturesque scene. The grounds offer soft rolling hills, a pond with a fountain, a white walking bridge but the most distinctive characteristics of the grounds are the graceful willow trees. When I was growing up we had a large willow tree in the front yard. I loved to watch the long droopy branches sway in the wind. It was as though they were invited to dance the moment the wind whispered a sweet hush.
There were approx 150 family, friends, and relatives seated in the white folding chairs with the afternoon sun on their backs. It was about 5pm when the ceremony began, the perfect time and perfect weather. Earlier in the week the forecast called for thunderstorms but you would have never guessed it. The bride and groom exchanged sweet and tender vows to each other and love was definitely in the air.
Capturing as many photos as possible of the ceremony while trying to stay out of the photographer's way as a challenge. Photo bombing their wedding photos what not on my list. I arrived an hour earlier than the guests to set up my easel and supplies inside the reception area. It was a perfect spot where there was plenty of light, easy for those who wanted to see the progress of the painting develop and close enough to the appetizers and bar.
The Barns at Wesleyan Hills, run by the CT Wedding Group is truly a wonderful place for weddings. The atmosphere both indoors and out felt casual yet well-maintained and careful detail of the aesthetics and decor was clearly visible. Cathy was the wedding coordinator who did an excellent job at keeping everything flowing so smoothly, the bride, groom and guests seemed to enjoy every moment of the celebration. I was able to sample the appetizers and offered a meal to enjoy with the rest of the staff in the balcony. The food was undeniably superb!
As a plein air painter who goes out on location, my painting gear is fairly compact. I use a french easel that folds up like a little wooden suitcase. my painting bag, portable palette and a 18 x 24"' gallery-wrapped canvas. I did try to rig my iPhone up to the top of the easel to view the ceremony photos but after a while I just held the phone in my hand.
In the first photo above you'll see the start of the painting. I first tone the canvas with a golden yellow color. This helps to harmonize all the colors and the white canvas isn't so bright and... intimating. Yes I said intimating, even after years of painting and hundreds of canvases I haven't gotten over the "blank canvas fear"... I know I"m not alone.. Vincent Van Gogh spoke about being afraid of a blank canvas too!
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I arrived an hour before the guests, sat outside and sketched the grounds. This is a common practice for me especially when painting outdoors or in a new environment. I love to engage all my senses, I can hear the soft lapping sound of the water cascading into the pond from the fountain, and feel the warmth of the afternoon sun on my back. Just observing and slowing down to sketch helps me to see more details and to truly capture the essence of the scene.
After reviewing a few photos and sketches with Tara, I quickly went to work drawing a basic sketch on the canvas using a pastel stick. The pastel stick allows me to work quickly and direct onto the canvas. Next I blocked in the background scene, the sky, distance trees, pond, foreground trees and grassy area. Moving onto the bridal party I added each figure and then the guests. As the painting progressed more and more guests would stand by peaking over my shoulder or engaging in a conversation about art, painting, or just how beautiful the ceremony was. Perhaps we would chat about how beautiful Emily looked in her dress or the flowers. I was able to meet the parents of bride and groom and the bridal party.
Although at times I feel like an introvert, when I'm engaging with others in conversation about art or beauty or creating I love to share and learn about others and their experiences. I believe Art has a unique way of connecting people that may seem very different at first with little in common but Art can open the doors to a conversation... and that is incredible!
One of the sweetest moments of the evening was when Tara and Parva brought Emily and Val over to the easel to see what I doing. This was a total surprise for the both of them and when they saw the background and realized that its a painting of their ceremony the both became teary-eyed.
Although I was able to complete a good portion of the painting during the 5 hours of the reception. I've been working on the painting back in my studio for the past two weeks. Using my laptop and studio easel, I can take time to work on the figures to express a more accurate likeness.
To be apart of Emily and Val's special day was amazing in itself. Then to capture this moment in time for them, my hope is that they genuinely love the piece and if I did my job well, the joy and love and overwhelming happiness they had shared that day with radiate from the canvas and will bring them the sweetest memories for years to come.
Thank you Tara, Parva, Emily and Val!
Peace, blessings and a life-long marriage of joy!
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Branford, CT 06405
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