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Idea of the month: Wedding painters

Anne Watkins will paint your wedding in real

Anne Watkins will paint your wedding in real time, leaving you with gorgeous and unique paintings that depict your day. Photo Credit: Anne Watkins

We all know one of the most important parts of a wedding is how it’s documented — with photos and videos, right? Maybe not. 

Though nothing can truly replace taking photos or video of your wedding day, there is something that can be added to the mix: a professional painting. At first, the idea may seem a bit outmoded -- technology works so quickly now that you and your guests can see your first kiss as husband and wife on your Instagram feed while en route to the wedding reception.

But imagine having a watercolor or abstract painting hanging on your wall that depicts a special moment from your wedding. Taking a look at the work of two New York-based live event painters, it's an idea worth considering. 

Anne Watkins doesn’t call herself the owner or the founder of her business; she says she considers herself an artist who travels all over the world painting watercolors for events. She started off painting for friends’ events and leaving her finished product on the gift table. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that Watkins decided to leave her job as a window designer at Coach to pursue event painting.

But what drew her to weddings? “It’s such a special time in a person’s life,” she says. “Ever since I was a little girl I’ve given artwork as a gift. The idea of painting at a wedding just felt like a natural thing to do.”

Unlike a photographer or videographer, an event painter can document a wedding in real time. But don’t expect Watkins to work from a shot list. Understanding both the iconic moments of a wedding day as well as documenting the interactions between guests is all part of her job.

“I am always sure to paint the ceremony and the first dance,” she says. “I give the couple a minimum of 12 paintings of their wedding day. I like to be discreet though, making sure that I am there, but not. People barely know I am even there until the end of the reception when they see the paintings!” 

Watkins understands how unique each and every wedding can be, which reflects in her work. “Every person knows in their hearts what they really want on their wedding day,” she says. “Brides are in a position where there is an onslaught of advice — websites, blogs, friends, family — everybody weighs in. But each bride is different, and there is some kernel that is extremely important to them on that day. If a bride knows what she wants, she should do herself a favor and allow herself to have it on her wedding day.”

While Watkins is known for her incredible watercolor, Jessica Weiss has a knack for more abstract art. Known as the “celebration artist,” Weiss found her passion for event painting four years ago while painting a wedding for a friend -- she realized just how much she enjoyed doing it. “I’ve always been an artist, and I love wedding planning, so putting the two together seemed like a perfect combination,” she says.

Weiss delivers her finished portrait -- a montage of moments of the day captured in one, big painting -- the night of the wedding for the couple to take home.

“I come in 2 or 3 hours before the wedding, and paint everything in there that I see,” she says. Then, when guests arrive I start painting them in motion, up until the bride and groom’s first dance. This is the focal part of my painting, with a montage of moments going on around them.”

Weiss displays the finished portrait on an easel during dessert so that guests can admire the work. “So many weddings have the same type of vendors working, so this is something that really gets the guests talking. It’s special to the couple, it’s different and it’s cool.”

Of course, there are parts of the wedding that photos, paintings and videos can capture only a glimpse of, and that's the support of family and friends on a couple’s wedding day.

“If the bride and groom keep the focus on each other that day, it spreads through the entire event,” Watkins says. “That is where the joy truly comes from. Everybody basks in it, and everybody reflects in it. That is the most important thing.”

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