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Is Live Painting Right For You?

If you’ve ever gone to a live painting event, you’ve watched an artist create a piece right before your eyes. You were able to talk to them about their process, which you can’t always do when they’re at work in their studios, and if you attended such an event and you’re an artist, you might have been excited by the idea of doing live painting yourself. Ever wondered if live painting could work for you? A few of our member artists who participated our recent Nights Out With Art events, share their insights to help you decide!


Kishor Sonawane

“It was an amazing and unique experience painting while listening to poems and music. The music was complimenting my painting process and making it enjoyable. Though I choose the subject that I like to paint, it might be helpful to know about the performing artist to think about relevant subjects to paint. It will help to set the mood and tell a deeper story.


It was a good arrangement with the easel and table; I shifted the table from left to right of the easel. Pausing while painting to interact and respond to audiences was the most difficult part. But I learned to talk while painting.


I would do it again whenever I will be given an opportunity to paint. It's an opportunity to show how I paint, interacting with other artists and audiences. Answering their questions. Also, it's good for marketing yourself as an artist. It is also sharing the joy of the painting process with people.”


Tara Cress

“The most enjoyable part was seeing people engage with my art as it comes to life and their reactions as it evolves and changes throughout the night.


For me, there are many layers to achieve depth in my work, so to make sure the subject was recognizable to event-goers, I had to ensure it was at a stage where several layers of detail were already in place. From there I could focus on working in details and depth; demonstrating a transformative part of the process.


Balancing the right amount of focus on my artwork and engaging with event-goers certainly presented its own set of challenges, but the structure of the event allowed good sections of time for visual artists to work on their artworks while poets and dancers performed.


I would definitely participate again. It's always a special opportunity to connect with the community and engage them with my artistic process and style.”


Ryan C. Thompson

Live painting is a completely different animal from studio painting; it's quicker, less predictable, and the environment is lively. Starting with a blank canvas, I must first hunt the beast; amidst the sounds of scattered conversations and shuffling onlookers, I take in the energy of the room and apply it to my first stroke against the pale void before me. With my loaded brush, swiping to both extremes of left and right, I find my way to open sky before I begin to see the formation of land in front of me; I am down the rabbit hole. Someone makes a remark about my painting, and I answer them from beyond the strange new land of paint and imagination.


I hold fluid conversations while focusing on that shifting middle distance. I now stand between both worlds, with every gesture of my brush pulling the two worlds closer together. The challenge is in the reveal; I don't arrive at the canvas knowing what I'm going to paint, but my vision is clear once I've begun the expedition, and every brush stroke is calculated. Every shape pulled into view, transformed from simplicity into manifestations of what I see beyond the medium, forms the beast I sought in the hidden corners beyond my sight.


I enjoy live painting. I enjoy the spectacle of mystery and transformation — it's a performance. The style I use is easily scaled, to facilitate simpler forms and a quicker pace, where I can return to the piece at a later time to ramp up the detail if I so desire. The live feedback grounds me in the moment and elicits an interactive element that I otherwise wouldn't experience, for when I paint alone in my studio I am completely immersed in that other world, time dilates, and I can be lost there for days. The nature of the event offers a quick escape.”


Mehtaab Wachhair

Mehtaab live painting at NOWA

“Every second of live painting was enjoyable. The best part was meeting other fellow artists and engaging with the audience, receiving all kinds of queries and questions. I would also like to mention that my family was present too, they supported me throughout the event and enjoyed watching me do what I love.


I did not have to adjust much for this session. I tried to keep my process simple and enjoyable for myself as well as for spectators. I tried to paint a canvas where one can understand my style, as I am inspired by nature.


The most difficult aspect of live painting for me was working under pressured circumstances though I did enjoy the challenge of the event. It helped me develop my confidence, paint with an audience, and learn through my mistakes.


I would love to participate in this experience again because I love challenges and it would help me grow as an artist. I would get the opportunity to meet new audiences and take their constructive criticism.”


From our artists insights, surface some key questions to ask yourself when considering your first live painting event:

First off, am I comfortable working in a busy atmosphere? That’s the baseline. Not everyone is, and that’s okay. If you are comfortable, as Ryan found, it can be a nice change of pace from solo studio work. If you need silence or full control of the environment where you paint, live painting could take some getting used to. But it could also be a chance for you to try something different and like Mehtaab, boost your confidence.


Can I balance creating and chatting? The conversation between artist and spectator is a hallmark of live painting. It’s meant to be mutually beneficial, but it can take some getting used to. As Kishor explained, live painting helps people get to know you and your art, so it’s important to find your rhythm. Some artists might find the discussion helpful, as Ryan did. For others, it could be distracting to switch back and forth.


Does the event suit my process? Even if your art involves fine details, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t participate. It depends on your medium and the event’s format. If there is more than one live painter/performer/activity for the audience to take in, you can use their shifts in attention to refocus, as Tara did. Getting information on the event’s set up will help you decide.


Am I willing to make adjustments? For instance, Tara decided not to start with the usual blank substrate. If your piece or style is time-consuming, you can do a little bit beforehand. The bulk of it should still be done live so the audience can see the most interesting part of your process. Note that this does not apply to live art competitions. If the event you’re in specifies that all painting must be done live, you must follow their rules.


You can even use the event as an opportunity to shake up your practice. Paint a piece inspired solely by the atmosphere around you, as Kishor wished he had done. You can decide what to change about your process or not.


Will I have fun? This is the hardest question to answer, as you won’t really know unless you try. Answering the first four questions honestly will help guard against setting unrealistic expectations that could ruin the fun. Be sure to set yourself up for success; for instance, have your loved ones come to support you, as Mehtaab did. At the end of the day, you want to be glad you participated.


We hope we gave you some food for thought! If you do decide that live painting is right for you, you’ll have yet another way to connect with art lovers and showcase your work.



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