A wedding at one of Charleston’s majestic plantations—or pretty much anywhere else in the Holy City—creates a canvas-worthy scene that captures the most romantic elements of the South: landscape, culture, and ceremony. And so it should be little surprise that plein air painters (also called live art painters for the way they capture events in real time), have taken to Lowcountry weddings of late.
If you’ve signed on a photographer and videographer, why add a painter to the mix? “Painting captures the feel of the event in a way that photography and video do not,” explains Laura Swytak, a Los Angeles-based plein air painter who has worked here with Soirée by Tara Guérard. And an on-location painter livens up the reception, says artist Kevin Harrison. Guests often crowd around the easel as he works, the Charleston resident says, watching as the scene before them unfolds on the canvas. “Their enthusiasm is infectious,” he grins.
If you catch the plein air bug, Myrtle Beach artist Caitlin Beidler can complete a rendition of your Big Day for $350, plus expenses. Kevin Harrison’s large-scale works (40” x 30” or 36” x 48”), run $2,000-$5,000 because, he explains, king-size-paintings like his require pre- and post-event work. Artists often photograph the site beforehand to start on the landscape and use the limited time at the event to capture lighting, people, and mood.
From time constraints to subjects in motion, wedding painters face inherent challenges. Throw in guests-turned-art critics (especially after a few cocktails) and it takes a special artist to weather the realities. So why do artists tackle the task? When it comes down to it, it’s all about creating something that a couple will love and cherish. “Whenever I’m at a wedding,” says Caitlin, “I can’t believe this my life, because it’s such an honor and a pleasure to be part of one of the most meaningful days in a couple’s life.”