Arlene Sy
Art + Illustration


My journey as an artist chronicled in life events, thoughts, and musings.

Carissa and Ryan's best day ever!

I had the chance to travel to Cebu early in July, to take part in and capture a beautiful moment in Carissa and Ryan's wedding weekend! It was a couple of firsts for me--finally seeing Cebu with my own eyes, and doing live event painting.

Carissa, still a bride-to-be several months back, approached me with a very unique proposition--would I be game to capture a wedding scene on the spot? Honestly, I had to think really hard about it, and it became an easier decision to make when I started checking live painting videos online. It turns out, live wedding painting is a big thing in the US, so I wondered why I'd never seen it being done here (not to my knowledge, at least).

Granted, most live event painters were doing it using acrylics, so it really seemed easy to execute. I spotted a few doing it using watercolors (how do they do it so flawlessly, though??). I was a little scared but my excitement to try something new prevailed.

On Carissa and Ryan's big day, I was to capture the scene of the wedding reception, but two moments among other things--their first dance as a couple, and the fireworks that would happen simultaneously. Having flown into Mactan Island the day before, I was able to do a quick ocular of Mövenpick Hotel and was also able to confirm the exact spot where I'd be painting. It was a great vantage point.

I spent the morning of the wedding day in my hotel room to do some pencil prework. I did my best to relax and enjoy everything about this trip. Still, I didn't want to throw too much caution to the wind, and I knew laying down pencil outlines would be my best bet in creating a realistic rendition of the celebration. A couple of hours before the dinner party, I headed down to Mövenpick's Ibiza Beach Club to set up and start painting in the details.

This very fine seascape greeted me as I settled down. Oh my gosh. It's the best studio ever!!! The weather was perfect--the right amount of warmth and breeziness came together, despite the persistent rains that fell over the island the past few days. A beautiful afternoon!

By that evening, I managed to complete most of the left portion of the 20" x 30" artwork. I think I painted for four hours straight, with breaks in between. I'll be very honest though--perfect as it might have looked, my workspace started presenting challenges: the wind kept blowing in my direction, and despite having secured the easel and paper, sudden gusts would threaten to completely knock off the whole set-up; and, it became harder and harder to paint as the evening progressed, mainly due to the disappearing sunlight (even my portable lamp was not enough to light up the paper) and the overall hustle and bustle coming from all directions. I was so obviously used to a quiet, controlled environment.

But all these things didn't stop me from witnessing the wonderful, intimate event as it unfolded: Carissa and Ryan's first dance as husband and wife; the huge burst of fireworks in the sky; the incredibly heartfelt words from the couple, as were from their family and friends; and overall, the brilliant and carefully planned execution of every party detail. Carissa and Ryan definitely wanted everyone to have the time of their lives!

Back home, I continued working on the piece for a week. Carissa was so understanding and was nice enough to let me finish the work at home. With Birdie's help, I was able to take several shots of the party as it progressed, giving me plenty of references. I filled in the rest of the background, seascape, and decorative elements, followed by the bride and groom, then the guests last of all. People are always the most challenging to do!


Here's how it turned out in the end! This was my first time to work with Holbein watercolor tube paints, and I love how it yielded rich and vibrant colors, considering I'm a very lighthanded painter who's used to subdued palettes.


Thank you so much, Carissa and Ryan, for your absolute trust! I enjoyed and learned so much from this exercise. In the process, I got to know a beautiful couple, and got acquainted with beautiful Cebu on top of everything! Wishing you both a very long and happy marriage!