Mollie Fox, a Hudson Valley-based artist, broke into the world of live event painting a little over a year ago and has already gained notoriety in a niche specialty that has a flourishing demand: live wedding painting.
Fox previously held a long-time career as a special education art teacher. A single mother of three, she favored the stability of teaching over the creative direction that she would have as a full-time artist. As her children grew up and she, too, matured as an artist, she came to realize that her true passion was to create masterpieces for herself and her clients. Though fruitful in personal and professional ambitions, teaching was draining too much of her artistic creativity. With that, she boldly made the transition from full-time teacher to full-time artist and has since become engrossed in the thriving genre of live event painting.
Live event painting, which has been around for quite some time, has risen exponentially in popularity in recent years. Fox credits this growth to the technological advancements that have changed society’s notions about photography and paintings: “In the age of AI and photoshop, there is something real [in live event painting], there are people who put work into that moment, and it is a moment of connectivity.” Bespoke art, especially those made right in front of your eyes, holds in it a true mark of human connection in the face of a world sinking deeper in the realm of farce and inauthenticity.
Fox, among other personalized pieces of work tailored to suit the needs of each patron, offers two services for events: one landscape-style gallery painting and multiple small watercolor guest portraits. Although gallery paintings of a specific moment of a wedding are most known to the public, Fox says only one out of every 20 or so requests are for the gallery paintings; the rest are for the guest portraits.
Guest portraits serve as both entertainment and party favors. Instead of a photo booth for guests, Fox’s stand at weddings — where she sits and paints for all to see without getting in the way — becomes a public miniature art exhibition where guests can pass by and recognize others in the portraits Fox finishes and displays. Not only that, the fact that the guests keep their portrait at the end of the night means that the paintings take the place of a generic gift. “You’ve given something to your guests,” Fox explains, “an experience, a piece of themselves.”
Guest portraits are a unique and thoughtful way to give something back to those who are supporting the most important day of the couple’s lives, a tangible piece of evidence of the couple’s appreciation, a personal and love-filled gift. However, that is not all they are; they also instill a feeling of value and confidence in the people portrayed in them. Though a couple’s wedding day should be all about them, the guests put so much time and effort into getting themselves ready that the portraits make them feel seen and important.
Fox believes that gifting art is an empowering tool not only for physical confidence but mental confidence as well: “People are starting to see art as something they can have. You’re a person of value, you are special, you can have something handmade. It is so personal to have the ability to give that to somebody.” Fox’s work is inclusive and accessible, something anybody can have and possess despite any preconceived notions of who has art and who art belongs to.
The other option Fox provides, gallery painting, focuses mainly on the couple rather than the guests. For a gallery painting, Fox and the couple confer in advance about what moment exactly Fox would be painting, with what background and what people, and based off of that conversation she is able to create any moment the couple could dream of. Couples may choose to create a moment that does not actually exist at the wedding, and this is where live event painting can be so valued over photographs. Couples can choose to overlay a specific kiss with a specific background, almost creating a collage of the night through painting. It becomes an heirloom of the wedding.
Gallery paintings, too, serve as a form of entertainment for the guests. Seeing how the painting is made brings an experience to the wedding that many people have never witnessed before, watching art unfold before their eyes. Fox sometimes invites guests to paint a small stroke or add a small detail, making it both interactive and something that the guests have contributed to for the couple. Gallery painting gifts the couple with a tangible, profound memory of the wedding that they hold on to for the rest of their lives together.
Fox’s work is work that many artists can do, recreating something before them. But it is her attitude towards her work, her passion, and her desire to do more than just make art, that makes what she does so invaluable. Her aim is not only to create a piece of art that reflects what she sees; her aim is to make something meaningful for the couple, for the guests, and for everyone at the wedding.