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Joyful affairs like weddings are often highly-celebrated and well-documented. From photos, videos, and same-day edits, to photo booths, and even livestreams, couples tend to make sure that their celebration of love is memorialized properly.
Aside from these digitized snaps, though, Cebuano painter Britney Myisha Fernandez-Dy is offering another option for couples to have a masterpiece for their special occasion. Through live wedding paintings, Britney captures the emotions and highlights of this once-in-a-lifetime event in a single frame.
How a love for art became an art for love
Britney started painting at the age of 14 with charcoal as her main media.
“I used my art to help pay off my tuition in college and to help me with my allowance. Our family was struggling financially back then. So it was really art that helped me make some ends meet,” she told Rappler in an interview.
After mastering charcoal art, the now 24-year-old artist has since dabbled into more art forms: watercolor art, graphic design, and even crafting. But while Britney said that painting is her first and true love, she really didn’t like the idea of staying at home or a studio to paint.
“I don’t really like just being in the studio all the time, even if I tried that before. I love being in an atmosphere where there’s a lot of people and celebration,” she said. Thankfully, she came across the idea of live wedding paintings when she was almost getting burnt out from doing art indoors.
“Personally, weddings for me are very sacred. That’s why I also got married early. I love the fact that we are able to have a commitment of love before God. And I really love the idea of weddings. Which is why I would really love to create and connect it with my hobby that is painting,” she said.
However, at the time, live wedding painting was only practiced in the United States. Britney said that she searched on every social media platform to look for a Filipino live wedding painter, but she didn’t come across any. It was then that she decided to bring the art practice to the Philippines.
“I really practiced and researched how others did it. I also asked a mentor, [a live painter in the US], to mentor me. I reached out to her and she replied to me and she was able to mentor me with some of her techniques,” she said.
For Britney, painting the sanctity and intimacy of a wedding is a beautiful concept.
“It’s classic and timeless. Since it’s handcrafted, it can never be replicated by technology. It can capture different memories, different facial expressions, and different details that cannot be captured in one photo,” she said.
D-day: Britney’s journey to being a live wedding painter
First times are memorable, and Britney’s first stint as a live wedding painter was also one for the books as it rained hard during the 2021 outdoor wedding.
“The whole venue was wet. All the guests were wet. And most especially, my painting was dripping wet the whole time I was painting,” she recalled.
“That was the first time that I realized that live painting was really hard, because you have to consider so many unexpected factors. You have to start early, but not too early. And you have to paint very, very fast. I had so many things that I did wrong in my first gig.”
Chalking it up to experience, Britney still made sure that her painting turned out beautiful despite the challenges. Two years and almost 100 weddings since, she’s confident that she’s improved and mastered her craft. Before, it’ll take her seven to eight hours finishing a painting. But now, she can finish one in three to four hours.
Britney also attributes this to her meticulous preparations before each wedding, making sure that she’s done with her preparations weeks before, or even earlier if it’s a destination wedding.
“It isn’t just something that I’m figuring out on the day itself,” she said.
She prepares the materials, researches the venue, creates concepts, and drafts composition sketches.
“I talk with a couple about what they want. And most of them want a surprise, while some of them have certain desires of what style and part of the wedding they would want. It’s either the ceremony or the reception or the first dance. And then I give them an expectation of how it may look,” she said.
Britney added, “It’s really a very long preparation and very short time to paint.”
During the actual day of the wedding, she said that she makes sure that she’s at the venue before the ceremony starts – bringing with her at least four bags of her materials from signages, easels, canvases, tripods, and paints.
Britney explained that having a clear direction makes the process smoother and easier. With a concept now finalized, her main priority during the ceremony is bringing the masterpiece to life.
“During the big day, it will be more of a performance than discovering things out. I wanted to perform painting for the guests to see the magic of art,” she said.
Which is why, Britney shared, she is often messy when she starts off each painting.
“I want the guests to be curious as to how the paint will unfold. At the start, they will see just a few shapes here and there, dirty colors here and there, before it transforms into an actual scene of the wedding,” she said.
Based on her experience, she said that guests usually would give her an awkward stare and ask her what she’s doing. But Britney said that she’s also a witness as to how Filipinos have warmed up to this form of art despite not really being familiar with it in the first place.
“Filipinos are starting to appreciate it more and more. I’ve seen them all reacting in actuality. One thing that really helped Filipinos appreciate art more is when they actually see the process of making art from scratch to finish,” she added.
As for the biggest challenge as a live wedding painter, Britney said that it’s time, especially when it’s a fast reception or a long ceremony.
“It just makes me not really perform the best. So I have learned to always know when to speed up and when to slow down.”
In fact, Britney recalled that one of her most memorable gigs was being late to the wedding and that she only arrived when the reception was already starting. She explained that their car broke down in the middle of NLEX when they were still hours away from the venue.
“It was like 70% of the time that I should be painting was cut short,” she said. “But I still had to perform and paint. I just kept calm throughout the whole time because there’s really nothing that I can do if I panic. And I was still able to present a painting that looked complete to them, and the couple still enjoyed it.”
And this wasn’t the only time that she almost didn’t finish a painting. Despite the constraints, Britney said that she always makes sure to have the paintings look almost done.
“I always give that expectation to the couple that it will be in a finished look but not entirely done yet. And then I can just finish it up in the studio if they want me to. Or if they want to receive the painting on the actual wedding day, they can also do that. It depends entirely on the couple,” she said.
What Britney and her team can offer couples
With how detailed and intricate each piece is, couples should make sure to allot a budget for a live wedding painter so they’ll get a creation that fits their liking. Note that there are various factors that affect the costs – number of pieces commissioned, size of the canvas, painter’s expertise, and even travel expenses, if necessary.
“You should consider first and foremost that every artist will have their own personal pricing on their art,” Britney reminded. “It will depend on the mastery of the artist, the materials they are using, the speed, and most importantly, the art style.”
Britney disclosed that her price ranges from P50,000 to 125,000, given that she has already mastered portraiture, accuracy in the faces, and the speed. She also said that she can also finish two paintings in a day or one ceremony.
While Britney started as a one-woman team, she has since expanded to mentoring a team of Filipino live wedding painters who are interested in pursuing the craft, adding that some of her teammates have P20,000 to P50,000 as their starting fees.
Aside from just a painting of the newlyweds, Britney’s team can also offer to paint the wedding guests.
“To have guests live painted too is the most special gift that couples can give,” she said. “It never fails to amaze the guests that they get to bring home a painting of themselves on that special occasion. It adds a big sparkle and unique touch to the event.”
Before, Britney struggled in catering to all bookings. But having a team has helped her grow her services. Which is why she’s deeply grateful that there are several Filipino artists who also got interested in the craft.
“A lot of artists actually reached out to me and asked for advice. And I wanted to share that path, especially because there was a time where I couldn’t accommodate all the inquiries that were coming in. I decided I should give away some bookings to anyone that I can find that would love to do live painting,” she said.
Having also been mentored and trained, Britney said that she also wants to give the same opportunity to other artists.
“I wanted more live wedding painters in the Philippines,” she said. “And I know that it would be beautiful if we could have these artists boost their skill levels and also help them earn from their craft.”
When she posted an invitation on Facebook, she didn’t expect that some of her friends and complete strangers would show interest. It was only then that they started brainstorming about their goals, and since then, she has already formed teams in Manila, Cebu, and Davao. They initially started with virtual training before Britney flew to different parts of the Philippines to personally train these artists in-person.
“We love the family, the sisterhood that is formed in our team. I realized that it’s better for artists to work together than to work alone. So we love working as a team. It’s less pressure, more motivation, more inspiration, and fun when we work together. Everyone is fully committed and passionate in making each wedding successful.” – Rappler.com