Imagine having your most cherished wedding moment captured forever as an original work of art. New York based artist Dan Angeli does just that, creating live wedding paintings that couples can enjoy for years to come. We were first introduced to Dan and his work when he painted at BB Featured Bride Ashley’s wedding at The Green Building. After hearing Ashley rave about the painting that he made for her and wife Tiffany, we couldn’t wait to feature the artist in our Industry Influencer Interview series.
Here, Dan talks about his artistic beginnings and fine art background, how a one-time request to paint at a friend of friend’s wedding lead to a successful career as live event painter, and the artists who most inspire him.
We always like to start from the beginning. What are your first memories of making art?
I wouldn’t say that I self-identified as an artist at a really young age like most. My first memories are of the art projects that I made in middle school. I really enjoyed it, but I also had a lot of random interests that ranged from collecting rocks to playing music. Around age thirteen is when I started to really embrace the challenge of those art-based projects. It’s almost like once I got going, I never stopped. I wanted to make art all of the time.
Can you tell us about your background and training?
I grew up in rural Wisconsin where funding for the arts isn’t a real priority. The training I had in grade school wasn’t all that great, but it still sparked my desire to pursue art further. I received my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I majored in art and Italian. I studied with some amazing teachers there and went deeper into my own artistic practice. In 2009, I received my MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where I focused on painting. At that point, I had already decided to move to New York City.
I also did a lot of traveling during college. As an Italian major, I spent a lot of time in Italy learning about the culture and the language. I was really sensitive to the architecture, art, and scenes that I was taking in daily. Even the color of the light in Southern Italy had a great impact on me. Looking back, it was a very rich experience.
New York City is one of the world’s great epicenters for art. What made you come here to pursue your career?
Even though I grew up in small town Wisconsin, I visited New York a lot as a child because my Dad is originally from here. My mom is originally from former Czechoslovakia and moved to New Jersey when she first came to the United States. We still have a lot of family out here.
New York was always a temptation as I got older. The attractiveness was the sensation that everything about New York makes you want to be better in which ever profession you do. While it’s very competitive here, you still find like-minded people who push you in a constructive way. There is opportunity to build camaraderie and relationships that help propel your career forward.
What were your first experiences as an artist living and working here? Did you encounter any obstacles?
As part of the generation coming out of school in 2009, the main obstacle was just trying to keep your head above water financially. I worked at a restaurant fifty to sixty hours a week while trying to find that little window of time to pursue my art. It was a huge challenge. I was only able to do it because I was in my late 20s and had the energy. And luckily, I had consistent restaurant work to get by during that early period.
How did you start doing live paintings at weddings? When did you know that you could do this for a living?
My friend, who was also a hostess at the restaurant where I worked, asked me to do a live painting at her friend’s wedding. I said sure. This was in 2009 and a bit of time passed before I booked another job. I knew in order for this to be a viable career, certain things had to be in place first. I needed to make a website and get myself out there. I attended a bridal show where I showed brides and couples my work, letting them know that live painting is a possible way to capture their wedding.
Can you take us through your process of creating a live wedding painting?
I have a few conversations with the couple before the wedding, unless it is a surprise from a friend or family member. It’s wonderful to have those initial talks because live wedding painting can be customized – some couples are very precise in what they want while others prefer a more hands-off approach. The day of the wedding, I like to arrive about four hours ahead of time to begin painting the background. By this time, I have a good idea about whether the scene Is going to be the first dance or another moment during the reception or ceremony. I take a few photos of that specific moment to work from. I continue working until the end of the reception adding specific details like faces of friends and family members, trying to make it as rich of a painting as possible.
How does it feel knowing that your work captures one of the most important moments of a couple’s life together?
It’s definitely an honor that carries with it a certain degree of responsibility as an artist, in essence, making a painting that will reflect back the emotion and visual memory of that day. When I first started painting weddings, I came across my Grandparents’ wedding photos. They only had one or two photographs and this limitation made each one that much more powerful. It struck me that this is hopefully how my paintings will exist, in their singularity they can hold many of the feelings of a couple’s special day.
You painted at Ashley and Tiffany’s wedding at The Green Building. They were so happy with the painting you made for them. Can you tell us about it?
Ashley and Tiffany’s painting was of their ceremony. I had to come up with a creative solution of capturing all the elements of the room. The only spot they had for me to set up was off to the side, which worked out really well. I painted the brides from an angle – the entire scene ended up looking really natural. They had an incredible floral chandelier hanging over them. And I remember there was an incredible pink sky that could be seen through the window. I wanted to include that too because it matched the couple’s flowers. Ashley also asked me to include her little chihuahua, which couldn’t be at the wedding. I would say that of the 600 weddings that I painted, I have been asked to include at least 25 pets – sometimes there’s a cat, but mostly dogs.
You’ve painted at some of the most beautiful wedding venues in New York City. Do you have any favorites?
One venue that really left me awestruck was the Weylin in Williamsburg. It still has much of the original details and décor dating back to when it was built in 1875. Guastavino’s, The Rainbow Room, and Cipriani’s are some other amazing spaces that I have worked in. There’s really too many to name.
Your wife is also an artist and paints live events. Is there ever any competition? Or are you completely supportive of each other?
That’s a great question. I have to say that it’s been one of the most rewarding and advancing components of my artistic career. A lot of her strengths have helped amplify areas that I could improve on. She has a very sharp eye for details. I come from a more abstract painting background. Working in such close proximity over the years, our different skill sets have influenced each other. As painters, we’ve grown tremendously together. The leaps and bounds that I have made artistically in the past five years are more than I ever expected. And If there has ever been competition, it was friendly.
After living and working in New York City, you must have seen some incredible art exhibitions. Looking back, are there any that really stand out to you?
One of my favorite museum exhibitions was Kerry James Marshall: Mastry at the Met Bruer in 2016. Another amazing show was of paintings by the artist Tomory Dodge at CRG Gallery.
Do you have any favorite artists?
Aside from Tomory Dodge, some of my favorite contemporary artists are Dana Schutz and Joshua Hagler who I just discovered. Masters who have greatly influenced me are Rubens and Cézanne.
How do you stay artistically inspired?
I really enjoy a regular drawing practice, which always helps to get the creative juices flowing. Looking at and discovering new artists always inspires me. For me, it’s exciting to see what others are doing and how their practice has evolved.
Describe your perfect day off?
Very simple – going to the beach with my wife and our son, Tyber.
Other than painting weddings, do you have any plans for the summer?
I used to be a big home brewer, but I haven’t had the time lately. I hope to get back into it once my schedule slows down. I am also applying for Italian citizenship. We are looking forward to taking a family trip to Aruba in August. And taking Tyber, who is fifteen months old, out for walks is always a joy.
A big thank you to Dan for taking part in our Industry Influencer series!
For more information, visit Dan’s website: www.capturedoncanvas.us
Follow along @capturedoncanvas