What Is Live Event Painting? Here's Everything You Need to Know

Find out how your wedding day can be transformed into a work of art with a live event painter.

If you want to have a special keepsake after your wedding day, consider having a live event painter create a masterpiece of your wedding décor.

Photo: Simone Photography

Not many people can say they are the subjects of a work of art... but that will change for any couple who invites a live event painter to their wedding to create a live wedding painting. Whether you want your wedding ceremony or your wedding reception captured on canvas, having an artist bring your big day to life is a fun addition to the events, while also an amazing memorable keepsake you'll honor for the rest of your lives.

What Is Live Event Painting?

Live event painters are professional artists who paint a special moment of your wedding during the actual event. A live wedding painter will bring their canvas and supplies, set up at the celebration, and paint a scene that includes the newlyweds, their guests, the venue, and the décor. The painting is then presented to the newlyweds after the big day, giving them a gorgeous keepsake that captures the magic and atmosphere of their wedding.

In addition to having a live wedding painting that you can cherish long after the big day, hiring a live wedding painter to create a work of art at your ceremony or reception is also an entertaining addition to the nuptials themselves that guests will find absolutely incredible to watch throughout the night. Tip: If the artist starts at the ceremony to paint the vow exchange, have them move to the reception space to finish the piece so loved ones can watch in awe.

Artist Paints Ceremony Setting

Photo by Brian Leahy Photography; From Real Wedding: Beachy Southern California Ceremony + Winter Wonderland Reception

What to Expect from a Live Wedding Painter

Couples can visit live event painters' websites to get a sense of their style; then, we encourage them to meet with the artist to see their work up close and discuss the wedding. You may want to request certain guests and design details be included in the painting, so this can be discussed at that time.

On the day of the event, the painter will arrive a few hours early to set up their canvas and begin painting. They will continue to work on the painting throughout the wedding, in full view of guests, adding layers of detail that capture the spirit of the celebration.

Depending on the artist's process, the finished product may be ready to take home the following day or within a few weeks as the artist adds the finishing touches. Artists' prices vary, but you can expect to spend at least $1,000 per painting.

When Did the Live Painting Trend Start?

Academy-trained artist Joan Zylkin, from Philadelphia, says she believes she was the first to do live event paintings. She was painting on the street in Philadelphia years ago when a man approached her and asked her to paint at his wedding.

"At the time, I didn’t even know what to call myself or how to get people to understand what I did because it didn’t make sense to them when I told them I could capture the event in one evening," Zylkin remembers. Now she gets clients primarily through referrals and is always "the talk of the evening and beyond." She adds, "Guests are always, always gobsmacked when they see me paint."

Live Ceremony Painting

Photo by Kimberly Jarman Photography

Each of her paintings is utterly unique, and includes meaningful details tailored to the bride and groom. At the wedding of a woman whose father was a firefighter killed on 9/11, Zylkin painted the bride as a little girl with her father, as well as fireboats speeding past Manhattan's Liberty Tower, which was in view of the venue. Another painting required her to capture a 13-piece mariachi band, Andy Warhol-style images on the walls, and "every rose in Texas." Conditions aren't always ideal – at one wedding, she was forced to finish her painting by holding her iPhone's flashlight in one hand and her paintbrush in the other due to a power outage at the venue.

But for newlyweds, the sweat and tears are worth it. Couples who commission a live painting are receiving something more than a photograph; after all, the image doesn't represent exactly what the eye can see, but rather the emotion of the big day.

"I am able to do something that cameras and videos can’t do. I can capture the images I want and put them together in one composition, so that they look as though they are all happening at the same time," Zylkin explains. "I want to take the client right back to how they felt that day every time they look at the painting, and to capture the most important details and planning that went into it."

See examples of live event painting below!

alan zimmerman live painter

Artist Alan Zimmerman shows off his live artwork, which the newlyweds presented to the bride's parents as a surprise gift. Photo by LaCour Photography; From Real Wedding: An At-Home Alfresco Fall Wedding in Georgia

ceremony and reception paintings

To complement the event's French theme, artist Tom Fagan painted portraits of the ceremony and reception in an impressionist style. Photo by Dalal Photography; From Real Wedding: Beautiful French-Themed Wedding at The Resort at Pelican Hill

reception event painter

Artist Laura Swytak paints a scene at the reception, held at the historic Houstonian Hotel. Photo by Michael Carr Photography; Planning by Ann Whittington Events; From Real Wedding: Traditional Church Ceremony & Forest-Inspired Reception in Houston

Live Event Painter at Wedding

As a special surprise, the grandparents of the bride hired a live event painter, who created a beautiful piece showcasing the newlyweds during their first dance. Photo by Ann & Kam Photograph & Cinema; Bridal Salon: Mark Ingram Atelier; Planning & Design by Michelle Durpetti Events; From Real Wedding: Winter Wedding with Catholic Ceremony + Luxurious Reception in Chicago

Event Painter at Hotel Bel-Air Ceremony

Photo by Mi Belle Photographers; Planning & Design by Mindy Weiss Party Consultants; From Real Wedding: Colorful Outdoor Wedding with Supper Club Theme in Los Angeles, CA

Live Event Painting of South Carolina Wedding Venue

Photo by Aaron and Jillian Photography; From Real Wedding: Romantic Southern Wedding with Delicate Color Palette in Charleston

For more inspiration and wedding tips, find out how to be a good wedding guest, learn ways to achieve an artistic wedding video, and learn how to add artistic wedding details to your décor!

Opening photo by Simone Photography; Planning & Design by International Event Company; From Real Wedding: Gorgeous Rooftop Wedding Ceremony & Reception in West Hollywood