A Wedding Portrait of Les Mesdames Mercer

My sweet friends, Cole and Tivis, got married back in March, right before the pandemic hit and the world went bananaballs. For months I was trying to figure out what to give them for a wedding gift, and I just couldn't think of that one thing that would a memorable, unique thing.

One evening, I was sitting on my couch, looking at this awesome painting of Bryan and me that hangs in our living room.

We commissioned this painting from our friend Randall Williams, to use as the image for our holiday card several years ago. The painting is HUGE and amazing, and definitely gets attention when we have guests over. Tivis and Cole have always remarked on how much they liked it, and that evening, as I was sitting on the couch and thinking about their wedding gift, I looked up at our painting and was struck with an idea: I would paint a fun costumey portrait of the two of them as wife and wife, to hang in their living room.

This was, by far, the most complicated painting I've ever attempted. On top of that, I decided to do it in secret. First I had to get reference materials without them catching on. I sent a picture of four fabric swatches to Tivis and asked her what color scheme she liked the best, so I could figure out what color to make her dress. I searched for a photo of people in renaissance garb that I could alter and use as a reference guide for their bodies and pose. Then I had to go into Cole and Tivis' Facebook photos to find a good, clear photo of their faces to Photoshop onto the reference bodies. And Cole didn't have any pictures of her new hairstyle, so I had to text her and ask her for a photo of her new hairstyle and not make it sound weird, haha. Finally I had to find a setting to put them in, so I found a magical looking forest background to work from. (It's actually an image from a shower curtain on Amazon, haha.) Once I was able to cobble together a reference photo, I got to work drawing it all out and then working through the painting process.

Tivis is a plant lover, so I used a reference dress that had an intricate floral pattern.

Cole is a huge Zelda and Final Fantasy fan, so I altered the design on her brocade jacket to include the Triforce and some Chocobos instead of the peacocks that were originally there.

In addition, I wanted to frame the piece for them so it would have that extra oompf. I mentioned it to my painting teacher and she said, "I have an old 18x24 frame back in the shed that you can have, if you want." And it was PERFECT! I applied a matte black paint wash over the brassy gold, and some copper and green for a patina, and it turned out pretty damn rad, if I do say so.

The last details of the painting were, of course, the faces. I wanted to make sure I got them just right, so that they'd have the same giddy weird fun feeling looking at this portrait of themselves as Bryan and I do looking at our awesome portrait. I'm still new to portraiture, and my teacher, Mina, is amazing at it, so she guided me through the process. At one point, Cole's face got a little off track, and I got so frustrated with it that we just started it over completely. The second try was the charm!

It took almost 5 months to complete this painting, but the end result was so worth it. I love how it turned out (though I definitely need more practice painting forests, I think!) And I really had fun gifting it to them.

Click on the gallery below to see progress photos of my painting process on this painting of my wonderful friends, "Les Mesdames Mercer."

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