The New Haven Lawn Club is such a unique and distinct Connecticut venue located in the downtown area of New Haven. Established in 1891, as a social and leisure club and is now a sought after venue for weddings. Inside the NHLC one immediately feels transported back to the 1920’s where the black and white checked floor, the ornate chandeliers and the architectural details can be found through out. The ballroom has two walls of grand windows and featured a curved ceiling design. And the services and staff area top class.
As a live wedding painter and fine artist, I’m always searching for interesting subjects and scenes to paint and the New Haven Lawn Club checks all the boxes. I had the wonderful pleasure of working there three times this year.
Back in June I was there for Colette and Max’s wedding , it was the beginning of June and the sun set later that day. I captured more of a daytime feeling because the reference shot that I took of the couple was taken with direct sunlight streaming in the window. This image dictated the rest of the lighting in the painting. The scene would be filled with natural lighting.
Today, I’ll shine a spotlight on the live wedding painting for Brooke and Benito’s first dance.
When planning for Brooke and Benito’s wedding that was held in early October I knew it was getting darker earlier where the main light source would be coming from the interior lights. For Brooke and Benito I wanted to focus so much on the room’s atmospheric lighting.
This is a challenge that presents itself often when painting a ballroom. When arriving 2 hours early to start the painting, the room’s lighting looks quit different. The room was filled with natural light from the large windows. As I begin the painting, I look to capture the main structure of the room, placement of windows, doors etc. I do a lot of drawing and planning first. I will do a quick sketch in my sketchbook to get an overall idea of the composition. Then draw directly on the canvas either with a pastel stick or with a watercolor pencil. Both tools are easier to erase than with a standard pencil.
Once I have the drawing done to my satisfaction, I’ll set up my palette based on the scene. For this case, knowing that there were going to be colored lights during the reception. These weren’t on as the room was being set up. Which is actually a good thing because It’s better to see the room’s structure and to paint that first. The up lights really add a layer of challenge and to try to do both at the same time is really hard.
When painting a detailed ballroom, I’ll put a significant amount of time studying the room and all the little architectural details. This is what gives these big structures so much character. Often times when I’m painting, I think about all the skilled artisans it took to build the room, the master carpenters, designers, metalsmiths, glass blowers for the chandeliers, the list goes on. then there is the layer of creatives who add even more personal touches to the room, the florals and table settings, the candelabras even the arrangements of the dinner and glass where. So much care in all these little details.
Just prior to the guests entering the ballroom for the reception, I relocated my station to just outside of the entrance in the wide hallway. This was a perfect spot to still see into the ballroom and far enough to be able to have conversations with the guests and continue to work on the painting.
It’s always exciting to anticipate the entrance of the couple being announced for the first time. The crowd roars and everyone jumps to their feet. Cheering. As Brooke and Benito came into the room with smiling faces they moved to the center of the dance floor, gave a cue to the mc and waited for their song to begin.
All eyes are on them watching as these two gaze into each other’s eyes. I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic but this scene never gets old for me. Their whole separate lives lead up to this moment in time where they are now going to do life together. Their moves their actions effect on another and this dance symbolizes the way they will handle all the ups and downs the good and hard times. The are united as one and will move together in the rhythm of life.
As my husband and I gathered all the photos and videos from that moment, we search through to find just the right moment. The one that says “paint me”. I was grateful that the photographer set up a spotlight for their photos and videos. This was so helpful because poor lighting on any subject can make it look flat and lacking dimension.
I continued to work throughout the evening on adding Brooke and Benito into the painting. We enjoyed lots of great conversations with their guest and I just love when some returns back several times to check on the progress. Softly I whisper , “I didn’t get much done since the last time you were here, I guess I was talking too much” 🙂 But knowing that’s part of my job is the engagement I never really feel bad about where I end up after 6 hours of painting.
Once I’m back in my studio this is where it all comes together. This is where the process continues and it can actually be the hardest part. This is were I’ll do the deep dive into analyzing the composition. What to do next, to plan how I’ll add in the additional people and in this case I wanted to focus on the effects of the uplighting had on the room. How it changed colors, how it created unusual shadow patterns and highlighted features that normally noticed in natural lighting.
I continued to develop the painting with acrylic paintings adding in the additional people and refining the figures. Then I moved on to add the oil layers on top of the acrylics. The oil layer is very important at this stage because oils are a slow drying compared to acrylic paints. Acrylic paints dry fast which is great for painting at events but to achieve the look of glowing lights or a gradual change from light to dark it’s so much easier to do when the paints are wet and dry slow like oil paints.
To wrap this story up… Brooke and Benito were over the moon happy with their painting! Onto to the framing selection and they would like to have Thank you cards printed with the painting on the front cover. I just love this added touch, now all the guests will be able to see the final painting.