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Plein Air Painting At A Wedding

Yesterday  I had a bit of a dream commission for me; to paint plein air at a wedding! The wedding took place at Huntsham Country Court, Devon. I was commissioned by friends of the happy couple, who all chipped in so that I could record this very special event in real-time.

I received a message via my website about a fortnight ago asking if I could paint at a wedding on the 1st June, just half an hour's drive away from where I am based. Recently I have been applying to as many print fairs as I can so I was worried that I may not be free. Still, the date neatly sat between a monotype workshop the weekend before, and a print fair the week after - so I had a serendipitous window of opportunity to do the commission. I was delighted to be able to say yes!

Luckier still, I was able to get in touch with the venue who were happy for me to visit a few days before. I did some sketches and took some photos, and had a walk around for about half an hour in the drizzly rain. I was a little worried that the weather would be wet for the big day, so I planned to position myself beneath a tree to protect me and my canvas from the wet weather.

photos taken a few days before the event - I was just taking in the atmosphere of the place and trying to get a feel for what would be good to paint.

The sketches I made that day were very quick, and an exercise in resolving composition. I knew I wanted to capture the rolling hills behind Huntsham Court House, and I also wanted to paint a relatively big sky. I had the idea that the bustle of the guests mingling and having canapes might have a delicate beauty as well as energy if they were depicted at a relatively small scale within the composition. There's something very poignant about significant personal events happening under a big sky - that we're all part of something even bigger. That somehow makes these landmark events feel even more beautiful.

My first sketch - getting my eye in!

Getting the composition resolved

It was really helpful to have the opportunity to recce the place like this, and I thank Clair at Huntsham Court for being so welcoming. I had a few days for ideas to percolate through my brain, which I always find beneficial.

The days quickly passed and Saturday dawned in the blink of an eye. My kit was minimal:

Painting Kit for the fellow plein air painters out there:

  • Old Holland oil paints

Indian Yellow Orange Extra, Transparent Yellow Oxide, Ultramarine Red-Pink, Indigo, Green Umber, Raw Umber, Pale Blue-Grey

  • Winsor & Newton

Cadmium Yellow

  • Gamblin

Fast Dry Titanium White

Solvent Free Gel

  • Daniel Smith

Cerulean Blue Chromium

  • A handful of Jackson's Shiro Hog brushes - rounds, flats and a mottler

  • Da Vinci Conoisseur round (a size 0 for details)

  • A pot of Gamsol solvent

  • rags

  • Stool to rest my palette on

  • Palette

  • Field sketching easel

  • hat

  • drinking water

  • suncream!

  • Emergency banana!

The bottle of bubbly was generously gifted to me and was not part of the painting process!

I lightly sketched in the composition of the painting before heading to the venue on Saturday morning, which meant that I had the bare bones of the painting mapped out. This meant I could focus on capturing the light, adding the architectural details to the house, and capturing the figures in the foreground. It also meant I had an underpainting over which I could apply transparent glazes using the solvent-free gel. It enabled me to create a greater sense of depth on the surface of the painting.

As you can see, it was a gorgeous day weather-wise. I arrived just before the ceremony was due to start, and got to work refining the architecture and applying layers of transparent greens in the landscape.

Following the ceremony canapes were served on the lawn, and thats when all the colours burst forth. So many of the guests were wearing bright colours, while suits were grey, navy and beige. The combination was beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed painting this! In the past I may have painted figures while referring to a photo but this time, it felt right to paint strokes as I saw them, creating an impression of the melee.... too much detail and they would not have fitted in with the rest of the scene on the canvas.

Work In Progress

The finished painting

I so enjoyed this experience! The weather was gorgeous and there was such a happy atmosphere, it would have been impossible to have a bad time. The guests were all so lovely and encouraging, and I enjoyed interacting with everyone who wanted to pop over to take a look at the painting in progress. Thank you to all those people! You were all very lovely and you shared your happiness with me :)

Big thanks to Rory for having the idea of commissioning me. I hope to have another experience like this in the future - if you're interested in commissioning me please fill out the enquiry form here and I will get back to you asap!

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