Many of my clients get very excited about having their portrait commissioned, but do not understand the process.  Although my event painting occurs live, starting from scratch and finishing by the end of the party, I do not require my brides to be with me in my studio as I paint their portrait. I approach my individual illustrations very differently.  Here is my method!

 

Let’s assume that the bride’s maid of honor wants to give her friend a wonderful bridal shower gift, so she calls me with a commission.  Because the shower is before the wedding, the portrait will have to be completed before the bride has her final fitting, so I can’t go off of an end product, like pictures seen at her wedding. I ask the maid of honor to send me some photos of the bride, the dress, any accessories, hairstyle, etc, as shown below.  At this point the bride has not yet finalized her hairstyle, so I purposefully leave the hair region “blank”, and will add that in whenever she makes her decision.

Now comes the fun part!  I often get asked if I have to use exact photographs for my painting, and I much prefer NOT to paint someone in the same position as a photograph.  I think that my paintings should complement the bride’s photography, and not exactly mimic it.  I am a very visual person, and can easily manipulate the shape I want in my head.  I view details of the dress, the bride’s body shape and personality to determine what position I would like to place her in.  Sometimes the back of the dress with the outline of her profile is the most flattering, while other times the front of her gown shines best.

 

I create several sketches in my trusty sketch book to ensure that I’m making the right decision.  I’ve ruined many expensive watercolor pages because I got too excited about a project and started painting away. I want to make sure that it is exactly right, and the sketches tend to be very rough – if someone was to see a loose pencil sketch before the final product I am sure they would not trust my skills at that point.  My purpose here is not to recreate the details but measure out proportions of her torso to arms, etc.

 

Leslie

Leslie

I lightly draw what I’ve created onto my watercolor paper, and then start with the painting!  Because I use a very quickly drying method, I am able to essentially color the entire portrait without stopping. Taking breaks is a must, as anyone who has done any artwork before can tell you that if something is wrong, the natural inclination is to work with it until it is right.  That situation can tempt you to “over-work” the piece, thus messing it up. I finish the product with shimmering paint or glitter at the points at which the dress also glistens, thus completing the commission! Below is the painting from which the above photographs were made!

This entire process takes between 6 and 8 hours minimum.  Sometimes I take much longer, because if I don’t like the final product, I will start over.  I want my clients to be overjoyed with their commissioned piece.

Don’t you just love the final painting? It was such a delight to do. Do you have someone you know getting married? I’d love to do their portrait!