Ideas + Inspiration
If you haven’t heard of live event painting yet, then chances are you may spot an artist at work at a wedding near you soon. Already popular in the United States, this trend is growing in the UK, and we’ve spotted a number of illustrators and painters scribbling away behind the scenes on our recent wedding travels. We caught up with Maggie Smith Kühn, a fine artist and live painter based in Atlanta, Georgia, who will be visiting the Scottish Highlands next month for a commission, to find out what she loves most about her work.
Tell us a little more about yourself, have you always been an artist?
Even as young as three, my mother told me I loved to sit with a crayon and a sheet of paper and draw for hours. I’ve been obsessed with recording my memories through paintings/drawings since I can remember. It’s amazing that I get to paint for a living now! I still have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure I’m not dreaming!
And what brought you to weddings?
My very first job after I graduated from Art School was painting the wedding of one of my classmates. She had seen how quickly I could recreate live scenes in paint and she asked me to create something for her ceremony. I had never thought of live painting for money before she put the thought in my head. Funny story, she actually invited our art professors to the wedding, so they stood over my shoulder watching me work during my very first live wedding painting. It was basically a terrifying real life exam!
For those who haven’t experienced it yet, what is live painting?
Live painting is really traditional plein air painting, where an artist records the scene around them as they see it, while the scene is happening. If you’ve been to Paris, you have probably seen lots of street painters. Before the invention of photography, painting was the only way to document a moment in real time. I still believe it is the most personal way to document an experience, because we channel all memories differently through our minds. I wish more people painted live, I’d be fascinated to see current events through live artwork!
What do you love most about your work?
I love having people to converse with, while I paint. The traditional artist’s studio can actually be quite lonely, whereas live painting has an audience of interested and sometimes vocal participants. The whole process becomes more fun when you add people, and the element of the unknown.
And what’s been the highlight so far?
I’ve been given a window into one of the the happiest days of people’s lives, and being part of the high drama and intimacy of weddings always feels like a gift. I work very hard to make sure I add to the beauty and singularity of the moment. I’ve also gotten to work with some of the best people in the wedding industry, which has been very exciting!
What are you looking forward to most about your Scotland trip?
I am so excited to visit Scotland for the first time! I grew up in the Appalachian mountains of the southeastern United States, where the ancestry is heavily Scottish or Scotch/Irish, so I’m curious to see the similarities and differences between our cultures. Then, of course, I have silly tourist dreams of seeing Highland cows, tasting Irn-bru and Buckfast, and seeing miles and miles of fog and wind and sea-swept grass. Ooh, and I want to ride in a train! American trains are primarily for shuttling coal from place to place.
On a day off, we’ll find you where…?
On a walk in the park with my two horrible dogs. One is a pug and one is a frenchie mix, and they are holy terrors that I absolutely adore and spoil. I also like to play piano and I am a struggling, but enthusiastic, baker.
If you’d like to see more of Maggie’s work, then be sure to check out her website. Something tells us she is going to love her time in Scotland!
Anyone feeling tempted to surprise their other half with a very special piece of artwork now? Christina x
Photos courtesy of Maggie Smith Kühn