Caught on Canvas
By Pam Windsor | Photography courtesy of Barbara Treece and Amy Stone
Memphis ‘live event painter’ captures wedding ceremonies on canvas while they happen.
Amy Stone has shared her creative talents in many different ways since graduating from the Memphis College of Art more than 25 years ago. She’s sculpted, worked with pottery, and painted everything from small portraits to murals. As an entrepreneur, she’s had a number of art-related businesses over the years and says, interestingly enough, it was a friend who suggested she become a live wedding painter. Stone says it’s one of the most exciting and rewarding endeavors she’s tackled yet.
“The brides love them,” she says of the paintings. “It’s something they can hang in their home and always see.”
Every wedding is special, she believes, so she tries to showcase how each one is unique in every painting she creates.
“The weddings are always beautiful,” she says. “I haven’t done one yet that I haven’t enjoyed or thought was absolutely gorgeous. They’re all so different.”
When Stone first began the live paintings, she would come to each wedding with a blank canvas. But she soon learned that things worked better when she arrived early, took time to scout the layout, and possibly even did a bit of sketching beforehand.
“Now, I’ll show up at the venue about three hours early and start painting a little of the way it’s decorated,” she explains. “Then, when the guests arrive, I start frantically painting them all into the painting as fast as I can. Or I paint as many people as I can get in there during the amount of time allowed.”
Stone admits it gets a little chaotic once everything gets rolling, but she’s developed a system where she can paint a lot faster. More often than not, she has it all under control.
“It’s about six hours of some of the greatest stress you’ll ever see,” she says with a laugh. “No, it’s really not that bad at all.”
She makes sure she knows ahead of time what elements to capture for each big event by sending out a detailed bridal questionnaire before the wedding.
“It (the questionnaire) has lots of questions about whether there are certain objects they wanted included in the painting, the focal point for them, and the specific moments they want painted,” she explains. “Sometimes I paint the actual ceremony and other times I paint the reception. It’s completely based on what the bride wants.”
On the day of the wedding, she takes photos of everyone in the bridal party to ensure they’re all featured in the painting in one way or another. Many times, there are special requests of things or people to include, and when possible, Stone does what she can to accommodate them.
At one wedding, the bride asked to include a dog in the painting. At another, there was a request to incorporate family members who had died. (For an additional charge, she does offer a service where she’ll take the painting home and add more details later.)
Working a wedding can offer its own set of situations or challenges. Stone says it’s all part of the job and keeps things interesting.
“Invariably there will be a drunk guy who comes up and won’t leave you alone or a child who continues to come up, asks questions, and then tries to get into your paint,” she says. “Usually I have my mom or my niece as my assistant and one time a relative of the groom came up and started flirting with my mom.”
Another time there was a wedding crasher who came up to her with two of the bridesmaids, so she included him in the painting only to find out later he wasn’t part of the wedding party. She later had to go back and paint someone else in his place.
“There’s always some kind of silly little story,” she says, “but weddings are always fun to do.”
Stone seems to enjoy all her artistic endeavors. Over the years she’s had several creative businesses ranging from professional face-painting to ceramic handprints for a stork rental business celebrating newborn births. She’s also painted murals throughout Memphis. Stone says that when she was in college she was interested in so many different art forms, she had a difficult time choosing to focus on just one, so she took a wide range of classes. That diversity served her well in the years that followed.
One of the common threads throughout much of her artwork is the desire to create memories. She says it’s meaningful to know something she’s created will provide a lasting memory for someone else.
“It’s gratifying to know that there is something that’s lasting and will be there long after I’m gone,” she says. “It’s very gratifying.”