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  • Dan Nelson

The WORST Experiences I've Had As a Wedding Painter

Come on, now! Who really wants to read horror stories about wedding painting? Okay . . . lots of people. I'm glad to say I haven't really had any horror stories . . . but I've had my share of tense moments. I'll share this one because it really might be instructive to my fellow painters.

I flew into Long Island. I spent all Saturday morning buzzing around in my rental car buying the stuff I can't carry on a plane (area rug, oil solvents, etc.) I got to the country club in plenty of time. Now this was back in the day when my wedding paintings weren't full-on portraits as most of them are today. Back then I kept the bride and groom slightly abstract, just capturing their general "essence". I still often prefer this style to the overtly realistic stuff I do now. Although everybody at this wedding seemed pretty well-heeled, the bride and groom did not fit the standard model-esque mode. Now don't get me wrong-- I and most of my friends do not fit the model-esque mode! I like non-model-esque people! . . . But we all know that ideal-shaped people are a little easier to paint because all you have to do is try to capture what they actually look like.

So I made a mistake. It's a mistake I have never made again, and hope to never do so. I took my non-model-esque bride and tried to capture her "essence" in an abstract style. Well, would you look at that! In just a few strokes I laid out a very pleasant abstract-ish (and quite model-esque!) bride.

It was about midnight-thirty and I was just about to start packing up when the bride's mother came along . . . and I knew something was wrong. Her face was a little too tense for that time of night. "That's not my daughter!" she said. "You've given her high cheek bones and a narrow waist." ("What's not to like?" I thought, but had the sense not to say.) "That's not what my daughter looks like!"

Gulp. BIG gulp! If ever there was a time that I pulled on ALL my rendering capabilities, that was it. I pulled out the photo and began tongue-painting, as I call it, to beat the band. A lower line here, a wider line there . . . and-- WHEW!-- the pleasantly low-cheek-boned bride appeared. The mother smiled. Gushed, actually. I tried to act like I wasn't sweating. I think that was the single biggest sigh of relief I have ever uttered at a wedding reception.

Then-- get this-- I got to sleep for barely four hours before I jumped a flight to a small backwoods airport where my dear wife picked me up and drove me (dozing anon) to another two-painting night at a palatial mansion high in the mountains of North Carolina.

Sometimes this business can be a bit much.


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