It’s a Fine Art Romance. The Great Barn Loves Charlotte Atkinson Art
Here at The Great Barn, we know some truly unique and talented suppliers of all things weddingy. And Charlotte Atkinson is no exception. An award-winning, published artist and illustrator, Charlotte offers an incredibly personal gift if you are looking for something that will provide a lifelong memory of your wedding day.
Live Event Painting is a beautiful reminder of your special event, created as it happens. Charlotte then presents you with a painting which will become a treasured keepsake, finished on the day so you can display it on an easel to guests at the evening reception.
Shall we find out more….?
Tell us a bit about what you do and how you started Watercolour Weddings.
“I have always drawn. As a child I enjoyed the thrill of escaping to my room with a large sheet of white paper and a pencil, and I never lost that excitement for drawing as I got older.
“For the last 20 years I have painted and illustrated professionally, being a published artist with an international fine art publisher and voted in the Top 10 Best Selling UK Artists by The fine Art Trade Guild with my figurative style prints ,I have also taught watercolour for the National Trust.
“I have always enjoyed the challenge of painting directly from life on location and painting a wedding reception might seem quite unusual, but for me it creates the perfect composition: the stunning venue and romance of the happy couple surrounded by the love of their friends and family.
“Live painting is also a performance as the creation of the painting entertains guests, engaging people is what art is all about and I feel very lucky to have always known I wanted to paint and be doing something I love.
Describe a typical day for you.
“I usually wake up at 6.00am and spend time answering emails and take a walk on the beach near my home in South Devon. Depending on my appointments that day I might be live painting at a wedding, meeting a client at their venue to discuss their commission or attending a wedding fair here in Devon or at hotels in London. Meeting my clients is such an important part in the process of commissioning a bespoke painting to discuss their vision.
“After the school run if I am working on a venue or dress commission in my studio, I lay out my materials and start mixing my paints for the day, in large palettes on my desk. This can take quite a while and I enjoy the meditative process where I start thinking about the composition. After adjusting the set up of my easel, one which I have had since leaving art school, I turn on the radio or listen to classical music to create a background atmosphere- I can’t work in complete silence. Once I am set up I paint continuously for hours and tend not to leave my studio until it’s time for me to stop painting and be a Mum again.
What inspires your work?
“I particularly like to paint people and I have always been inspired by the skill of the early fashion illustrators. There is an immediacy and personality with their drawings that I love as I have always loved fashion and people watching.
How did you get into weddings?
“I studied on an intensive portraiture course in Florence, drawing at the atelier with charcoal, using the sight size method which Michael Angelo used for absolute accuracy. I would go out with my backpack and sketch the city in the evening light and then again in the early morning.
“It was so inspiring for an artist working without constraint with the sheer theatricality of the renaissance history as a backdrop – there is plenty to draw, people, art, sculpture, architecture. It was an intense experience and changed the way I approached my work, wanting that immediacy of painting live. A friend suggested I paint a canvas on the day at her wedding, they enjoyed it immensely and the reaction from guests was amazing and it snowballed from there.
Tell us more about live event painting, how long does a typical commission take, what is the process?
“A wedding is a very personal bespoke commission and an exciting experience. I always chat to the couple before the day on the phone or meet them at their venue to find out what they would like me to include to make their painting special. I always take my box easel, paints and canvas and start off observing from the chosen vantage point.
“There can sometimes be several changes to the room throughout the day so I start with the special details of the venue in the background and add the significant figures throughout the day. I normally spend seven to eight hours painting one canvas with acrylics and the work is completed on the day. I work intensely and the wonderful thing is that I can add thoughtful details about the day as they happen. For example, I can paint the cake, add in hints of the colour scheme, and paint significant key members of the family surrounding the bride and groom in the centre of the piece.
“At the end of the evening the painting is finished and displayed for the couple and guests to admire.
How does your approach to portraits differ from your live wedding painting ?
“Whatever commission I am working on my aim is always the sam: simplicity, fluidity of line and the illusion of effortlessness. To make a successful painting it is all about fluidity, it must look spontaneous to capture a moment, but most important of all is strong drawing. It is the foundation and you can’t practice enough.
“I have found that the skill in painting and drawing is in elimination. What to leave out becomes the excitement. In order to leave out a mark first you have to put it in, or at least understand how the composition works without it. When I’m in the studio there is time to discover and explore ideas. Sketching drawings initially then taking the best from each one improves my understanding of a subject. When the drawing looks right I start de-constructing until it looks spontaneous not overworked.
“On location I don’t have the luxury of time and paintings are naturally spontaneous; these always prove to be my favourite paintings. You can overthink sometimes..I draw what I see but my aim is always to convey the day with personality in an intimate way that is so different from a photograph.
“It terms of media it depends on the result I want to achieve and what is most appropriate to the subject. I find loose watercolours for small scale pieces are so immediate and fresh. For larger scale paintings I favour oils and acrylics for more impact. For my fashion illustrations I do love creating pure line drawings with Indian ink on hot pressed watercolour paper.
What is the favourite part of what you do?
“Whether I am painting live or completing a commission in my studio it is knowing that I am creating something unique and personal for the couple and seeing their reaction when it is unveiled at the end of the day
Who would you love to paint and why?
“If I am completing a portrait sitting I think the most important thing is capturing personality. I love adding the little details in the clothes or surroundings to bring out the sitters style and character.
“Anything can catch the eye to make a great composition. Strong characterful people work particularly well, in terms of current famous people the actress’ Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench have elegance and strength.
Have you ever had any unusual requests or funny experiences that you can share?
“I often get asked to paint the couples’ nearest and dearest which can often include their pet. Several of my live paintings have included a Jack Russell as the ring bearer which adds an element of fun!”