Joan Vienot, Live Event Painter

June 13, 2017 in Landscape, Other Art, Plein Air

Several years ago I was asked to paint the bride and groom’s First Dance at their wedding reception. That first request blossomed into more as word got out. I have dedicated a page on my website to Weddings, Etc.

Last fall I painted at a beautiful wedding which was held outdoors in front of a magnificent private mansion. The weather was gorgeous, the light exactly mirroring the day before when I had visited the site to work out the details with the wedding planner. I arrived about an hour early, so my painting was well underway by the time the first guests arrived. A trio played classical music behind me, to the accompaniment of the splashing sound of the beautiful marble fountain beside me, and pre-wedding cocktails encouraged the convivial atmosphere. Guests looked over my shoulder as I continued to structure the mansion, cheating the color towards the warm glow I knew would be present at the moment I was asked to capture, which would be the bride’s father escorting the bride to her wedding. (I had taken a few reference photos of the wedding planner standing approximately where I thought the bride and her father would be walking, so that I had an idea of scale when I started the painting.)

I was amused that a few of the guests wanted to have their photo taken with me painting — apparently my activity was something essential to their anticipated memories of the occasion. But I was wholly unprepared for the revelation that my work would be so significant to the bride, surprised and pleased that she had my painting printed on her Thank You cards!

And then gratitude upon gratitude, when she included a photo of me painting, in the feature article on her wedding in The Knot, the premier magazine for “all things wedding”! The issue will hit the newsstands on June 26, 2017. Below are small photos of the 3-page article, and the fourth one is a composite of the photo of me working and the list of vendors. Click each image for enlargeable view.

Click image for enlargeable view.

Click image for enlargeable view.

Click image for enlargeable view.

Click image for enlargeable view.

 

Commissions Under Pressure – Plein Air at Events

October 18, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air

Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Impressionist Style

May, 2014

Those who follow my blog know that I contract to paint plein air at wedding receptions at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet where my plein air paintings are shown.  I blogged about it in May, “Commissioned Works en Plein Air.” So you might think it would become old hat, painting the same setting.  But the colors are different, the sounds change, the plants change, the people are different, and most of all, the light changes, so the challenges are always there, and I must always grow as a result. If the scene feels too familiar, all I need to do is move my easel a little, or turn my head, for a new point of view. I am not so fast as to actually paint the couple on site — instead I paint the surroundings in the hour before the event, and then I take photos and sketch a gesture of their entrance or first dance or whatever scene they choose, and then I may block in the general silhouette of the couple. I complete the painting in the studio. The biggest challenge, in commissioned work, of course is pleasing the client, and that includes working with color choices that compliment or repeat the design colors of the event, and sometimes it includes altering my painting style to lean towards a particular style the client likes.

Oil painting of the bridge and garden at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, plein air preparation for painting a wedding couple's first dance

Plan A, with afternoon light

My most recent contract was a month ago, in September.  I had gotten the time wrong, thinking the newly wedded couple would be making their entrance around 5:30 instead of 7:30, so I was painting the entire back scene with late afternoon light in preparation for adding the couple when they made their entrance. I had planned to catch the couple coming across the bridge over the coy pond, placing them slightly right of center, against the spray of the green bamboo like plant that grows behind the bridge.

When the couple made their entrance at 7:30, my entire painting was wrong — the garden was now illuminated by string lights instead of afternoon sunlight. Plan B:  Start a second painting!!!  I was only minimally prepared for a nocturne, but I needed to get my painter’s sense of the location, the sounds, the vibrancy of the lights, the energy of the party. By painter’s sense, I mean that visceral impression of myself being a participant in the scene and not just an observer. I needed to be able to recall all of it, not just relying on photo references, which convey only a small part of what I try to project. I set up my little lights, one on my palette and one on my painting, and knocked out a study of the light-wrapped trees and the dance patio to help me do the job right when I got back to the studio.

2014-0920 Grayt Grounds Nocturne Study

Plan B, nocturne study

The challenges of painting a nocturne successfully include first of all, believable colors. My palette from the afternoon painting was not the colors I would have chosen if I had planned a nocturne, but I was under the gun to capture the light-wrapped trees and the energy of the gardens so I used my afternoon palette.  I don’t judge the resulting study — it has so much background energy, it looks like the place is on fire — it was perfect for reminding me of some of the feeling I needed to capture, even though I needed to figure out how to paint the light-wrapped trees better.

A little about composition… When I teach, I suggest that my students stick to the safer “rule of thirds” for the focal point, which means putting the focus of the painting on one of the intersections of the horizontal and vertical tri-sections of the painting. By putting the couple smack in the middle of the painting, I was challenged to direct the viewer’s eye. I didn’t want the eye to go straight to the center and just stay there.  I wanted the eye to circle the painting, returning again and again to center, to help the viewer look at the painting for a longer period of time. That required more attention to the crowd than I was visualizing at the actual event, and especially more attention to the figures at the outside edges, who are intended to help the eye circle, and by their body position also help redirect the attention back to center. The scene is dramatized by the blue and red spotlights that were on the couple during their First Dance.

By writing this, I am reminded how many decisions go into making a painting. When painting plein air, those decisions are made on the fly; they are more considered in the studio. To arrange for me to paint plein air at your event, contact Cheri Peebles at Grayt Grounds: http://graytgrounds.com/contact/.

Oil painting of couple dancing outdoors at Grayt Grounds in wedding reception - final piece