“The dream was to have something to do with art, be financially stable and get eight hours of sleep a day.” Sophia Ng joked during our interview.
As one of the pioneering artists who brought live wedding photography to Malaysia, it’s safe to say that she got her first two wishes.
When the pandemic hit, the art studio where Sophia was the director was no longer able to run classes. So she decided to sign up for the Program for young art entrepreneurs until National Art Gallery.
There she learned the basics of running an art business as part of the four-month course.
After completing it, she realized she needed an arts-related business model that would bring in consistent income.
That’s when she came across a viral TikTok video by a living wedding painter in the US and had an aha moment.
“I recognized the potential of the business model and made it my mission to find out how it can be implemented,” said Sophia.
Months were spent working out the painting process, developing the equipment list and building a portfolio to suit the local market.
To be more inclusive of different cultures, Sophia’s portfolio includes different patterns to help clients from different backgrounds envision the final painting.
“Most importantly, I had to keep practicing to make sure I could finish the painting to a certain detail within a time frame. Because I can’t risk not finishing a live painting.”
Sophia also began documenting her journey on social media to gauge the local response to her business, and this became another form of market research. This even led to her first live wedding painting bookings.
Calm her down (l)
At the beginning of each live painting session, artists typically paint the background. This can be the actual wedding backdrop or another agreed background.
Sophia does this before the guests arrive, ensuring no one blocks the view. It also puts them in the zone.
“It gives me tunnel vision of the painting. I’ll focus on it until it’s done, despite all the distractions,” she explained. Through her previous experiences as a teacher, she has learned to focus in any environment.
Then all that remains is to wait for “the moment” that their clients want to remember based on previous conversations.
This could be the marching in, the exchange of vows, the first dance, a cultural practice (such as tying the Mangalsutra, a pendant necklace at Hindu weddings), or anything else that the bride and groom prefer.
The entire process takes around five to six hours and will be presented to the happy couple before the end of the event.
“The essence of a live painting is that it captures a moment or glimpse of the event as it happens. It seals a memory,” Sophia described.
“The focus of a regular portrait is on the portrait itself, [and] The painted person is the main subject. With a live wedding picture, on the other hand, the main theme is the moment.”
This probably also explains why Sophia’s art style doesn’t really come close to realism. Instead, it’s more impressionistic.
The painting will then be on display for the remainder of the event before being returned to the studio for final touch ups, painting and wiring. Within two weeks of the wedding, it will be ready for its new home.
All that and some “in the pen”.
Clients can also request that family members who are no longer present be included in the painting so that it appears as if they were actually present at the ceremony. All you need to do is provide photos for reference.
One of the most memorable sessions Sophia has ever had was involving a bride’s late mother, grandmother and her two late dogs.
“It was very moving for me to understand the bride’s feelings. I was cared for by my grandmother in my early years and couldn’t have her with me on my wedding day. I also have six dogs that I love very much.”
In total, adding these family members took about ten hours to complete the painting.
Sophia’s live wedding painting service costs between RM1,850 and RM2,850 depending on the size of the portrait.
Out of curiosity, we wondered if she’d ever encountered critics asking why they chose live painting over a wedding photographer, and Sophia said no.
Nor does she believe that the goal of live painters is to displace photographers.
“I think we should coexist. Live painting is about capturing a moment, it is also a form of live performance and an additional element of the wedding event.”
On to flying art
Sophia currently resides in Kuala Lumpur but her business can take her anywhere in the world. Besides Malaysia, she has also painted at wedding ceremonies in Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.
However, if she travels to other Malaysian states or abroad, she charges an additional travel fee.
As one of the first (if not the only) live wedding painting artists in Malaysia, her main goal is to continue to raise awareness of the existence of this art.
In addition to sharing information online, she also works with local wedding vendors Weddings in Malaysia, BridepayAnd Elysium Weddings. She also participates in wedding industry events such as exhibitions.
With the current global trend, the hype surrounding live wedding pictures doesn’t seem to be waning anytime soon.
But live wedding pictures have actually been around for centuries. They were calm popular at royal weddingssuch as that of Queen Victoria.
However, as social media and wedding sites help promote the art as avant-garde, more ordinary people can also enjoy this novel service on their special day.
So it seems that Sophia could achieve exactly what she desires.
- Learn more about Sophia Ng Studio Here.
- Read other articles we have written about Malaysian startups Here.
Selected image source: Sophia Ng Studio