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November 20, 2013

Artists Capture Live Events as They Unfold

by June Soh

Wedding, birthdays and other celebrations are usually captured in photographs. However, a small but growing number of artists are capturing these events on canvas, right as they happen.
 
Gina D’Anna and Donald Anderson, Jr.'s first dance at their wedding reception near Baltimore, Maryland, was memorable and, while their guests cheered, Patricia Bennett stood in a distant corner carefully adding details of the event to her canvas.

Bennett is what is known as a live event artist who captures the special day as it unfolds.
 
“I try to focus on what I think is important to the group or the individual who is commissioning it." she said. "For weddings, a lot of times, it is the cake [or the] the dance.”
 
Bennett used to paint portraits and nature. Her first live event painting was her grandmother’s 97th birthday party last year. That party ended up becoming a turning point in her career.
 
"I especially love live event painting because I love to paint people, and I love to paint beautiful things," she said. "And I like to paint happiness and things that are happening.”
 
Bennett usually starts by painting the background a few hours before the event. As guests arrive, she adds them and other activities to the foreground.
 
"What I hope to be captured is just the emotion that is going on this evening. There is a bunch of happiness with friends and family here this evening," said D’Anna, the bride in the wedding Bennett painted.
 
Of course, not every guest can make it into the painting. So Anna Hergenroeder, one of the groom’s relatives, was surprised to find herself in the canvas.
 
“I feel very important. I am a 94-year-old woman. I don’t know why I am in the painting but I am excited to be in there,” said Hergenroeder.
 
Bennett doesn’t mind doing a little touch-up for image improvement.
 
“I don’t call it fictionalized. It is more like if sometimes the wife comes over to me and says, can you give him some more hair?  Then I add more hair in," she said.
 
Bennett charges $1500 for an event painting.
 
“I think more and more artists are starting to do it because it is really fun and it is useful. It is a useful service,” said Bennett.
 
By the time the event ends, the painting is mostly complete but Bennett still takes it home to make any final touches, then signs and delivers it.  

D’Anna was thrilled with the final product.
 
"Oh my goodness, beautiful. It is absolutely gorgeous," said D’Anna. "It came out better than I expected. And I think it definitely evokes a lot of emotion and people can find themselves in the painting, which is really exciting as well. Also, when we have children one day, it is going to be something we can share with them.”

Bennett says she is almost fully booked for events next spring and fall, and bookings for 2015 are already coming in.
 
"A wedding, compared to the rest of the universe, maybe it is not super important. But to the couple it is very important. I feel like...I am capturing history when I am painting,” said Bennett.