Blog

The behind the scenes stories of the wedding gowns we choose, the planing of the wonderful day, and fashion and beauty where ever we find it.

Brides, Bubbles, and Bliss

I attended Brides, Bubbles, and Bliss (BBB), which just happened to be one of my favorite events of the year, thus far. The soiree was held to inspire ideas for couples-to-be and featured appearances by several key players in the fashion and bridal world.  Held at the Grand Ballroom at Union Station and decorated by Debi Lilly, the spread was undeniably stunning.

The venue: The Grand Ball Room at Union Station 

The venue: The Grand Ball Room at Union Station 

Debi Lilly’s flower arrangements were a personal highlight of the various ornate decorations, as they cascaded down each of the tables. 

Debi Lilly's cascading flower arrangement 

Debi Lilly's cascading flower arrangement 

An abundance of the pieces featured at the show are available at a local Chicago bridal Salon, Dimitra’s Bridal. Francesca Miranda, an incredible designer from Columbia, had her work featured at the runway show and her gowns are now displayed at Dimitra’s. 

Stunning gown designed by Francesca Miranda

Stunning gown designed by Francesca Miranda

Beautiful Francesca Miranda gown at the runway show

Beautiful Francesca Miranda gown at the runway show

A Perfect Event for the Chicago Public School System

I had the privilege of attending my second “A Perfect Event” hosted by one of Chicago’s most prolific event planners, Debi Lilly. This particular live painting event was a fundraiser for the Chicago Public School District, Kitchen Chicago, and City View loft.

The event itself was an unforgettable time, as the attendees were warm and supportive, the music was festive, and the food was absolutely divine.

I painted the entire scene as it was happening and was able to capture the dearest of moments between guests and the overall atmosphere of the occasion. Being at the event filled me with utter joy, and I was honored to be invited to paint in my favorite medium of watercolor.

Subsequent to completing my piece, it was auctioned off to raise funding for local schools; this was an extremely rewarding experience, as I am a strong advocate for the public school system.

My watercolor painting that was auctioned off to raise funding for Chicago Public Schools

My watercolor painting that was auctioned off to raise funding for Chicago Public Schools

This event truly turned about to be perfect and I enjoyed every moment of being a part of it. I can always count on Debi Lilly to host stunning, extraordinary events.  

Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago

I frequent many local coffee shops in my Chicago neighborhood, as I find inspiration in watching people and their varying antics. About a year ago, Plum Market opened on Wells Street and it houses one of my favorite places to work: Intelligentsia coffee.

Along with the high quality coffee options, an array of people come in and out of the store, giving me the opportunity to quickly paint them.   

Over the course of a few winter visits, I was able to add several new paintings to my current collection of coffee shop portraits. 

Young woman waiting in line

Young woman waiting in line

Woman grabbing her coffee

Woman grabbing her coffee

Woman working on her computer

Woman working on her computer

Man standing in line, waiting for his latte

Man standing in line, waiting for his latte

Woman in a puffy coat waiting for her coffee

Woman in a puffy coat waiting for her coffee

Nico Osteria Restaurant, Chicago

I was able to quickly create a painting of a woman walking through the new Nico Osteria restaurant in Chicago. The restaurant is a great new addition to Rush Street, Chicago with a phenomenal atmosphere. 

As I have mentioned, I only have moments to lay down the majority of my composition, as my subject is only in my frame of vision for a matter of seconds. In this piece I really focused on simple colors and utilized different shades to capture the woman’s subtle features. Although I only used pink and brown, I believe I was able to capture her flow and movements rather well.

Woman walking through Nico Restaurant 

Woman walking through Nico Restaurant 

Palm Springs Art Fair Part II

The Palm Springs Art Fair showcased an immense amount of talent and I wanted to highlight a few more of my favorite pieces.

John Evans’ paintings of the outdoors are stylistically, unlike any I have seen before. He is able to take scenes from nature and put an abstract touch on each, which allows for open interpretation. I enjoyed Evans’ work because he puts a spin on landscapes that are familiar to us, and in turn, creates an enigmatic impression. 

Oil Painting by John Evans, represented by the J. Willott Gallery

Oil Painting by John Evans, represented by the J. Willott Gallery

The pieces by Cassandra Blackmore were remarkably unique and some of the most unforgettable. The art she exhibited was represented by The Duane Reed Gallery, located in Saint Louis, Missouri. Blackmore's portfolio consists of both abstract and figurative works, but her utilization of the canvases is what really caught my eye. This particular piece is spread across eight, thin canvases. The space between each canvas added an element that complemented the subject matter quite well.  

Painting by Cassandra Blackmore 

Painting by Cassandra Blackmore 

Lastly, I found the art of Myung Uk Heo to be wondrous, as it awakened a sense of youthfulness in me. His approach in capturing the different cars in his piece allowed them to appear as toy size. Immediately, I was reminded of my childhood and the tiny, collectible cars that were so popular. Heo is a great reminder of what art is here for: to make us feel something.  

Myung Uk Heo 

Myung Uk Heo 

Palm Springs Art Fair Part I

My time in California thus far has been fantastic, a needed relief from the weather. My family and I have been spending time in Palm Springs and had the chance to attend the opening of the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair.

The vibe of the fair was unlike any I have experienced before; the people were so hip and fashionable, I could not decide whether to look at the patrons or the art first! Upon first walking in, we spotted Jodie Foster, which was beyond exciting for my family and I.

Candid photo of Jodie Foster 

Candid photo of Jodie Foster 

Once we began to browse the art, we came upon several profound pieces and the story behind each. I spoke with many of the artists and learned of their muses and inspiration. In particular, a few works in the fair stood out to me. 

First, was the work of Jeffrey Palladini: a San Francisco painter that focuses on portraits of people in hotels and movie scene kisses. I could tell that his work was heavily influenced by the pop art movement, and found his pieces reminiscent of Lichtenstein. Although I saw influence from other artists, Palladini’s work is moving and quite original. 

Jeffrey Palladini with his work 

Jeffrey Palladini with his work 

Next, I came upon one of my favorite paintings of the entire fair, by Sarah Awad. Awad, a Los Angeles native, showcases her art in Diane Rostenstein’s Fine Art Gallery. This specific piece, “Seated Woman X” evoked deep emotions through the vivid oils she chose. I enjoyed her color choice and the raw beauty on the canvas. 

Seated Woman X, 2013  Oil on Canvas 66"x60"

Seated Woman X, 2013 

Oil on Canvas

66"x60"

India.Arie

I lived in Los Angeles for many years before I ventured off to Chicago, but I try to return and visit as much as possible. Southern California is where I picked up my yoga practice, which has been with me since.

Currently, I am in Los Angeles to escape the cold, work on art, and improve upon my yoga practice. While here, I came across a beautiful article on musician, India.Arie, in the February issue of LA Yoga Magazine; she has inspired me through her lyrics for as long as I can remember. She embraces yoga, meditation, and soul that you can feel wrapped around each of her words.

February issue of LA Yoga

February issue of LA Yoga

India.Arie is a Grammy-winning musician who inspires thousands and constantly advocates self-acceptance and embracing who you are. Across the world, yogis include songs by India.Arie in their practice because of the spiritual nature.

India.Arie’s music has been there for me through many stages of my life, and is always with me when I am practicing yoga. She has been an utter inspiration to me, and because of this, I decided to paint a watercolor portrait to commemorate her all-encompassing beauty. This piece was completed while in the lovely Southern California sun.  If you have yet to discover India.Arie's music, I highly recommend all five of her albums. Enjoy!

Watercolor portrait of India.Arie

Watercolor portrait of India.Arie

Valentine's Day

Men out there: are you prepared for Valentine’s Day this year? If you are struggling to find a meaningful gift for your valentine, look no further! For this special day, I am offering gift cards that are redeemable for a portrait of your wife in her wedding gown.

Once your wife receives her gift card on February 14th, she may then send me a favorite photograph of her in her wedding gown. I will then paint a one of a kind watercolor portrait of her.

This handcrafted gift is a romantic way to say “I love you” and you may even win the prize for “The Most Romantic Husband Ever!”

The perfect Valentine's Day gift!

The perfect Valentine's Day gift!

For inquiries contact me at: StopAndSmile@me.com 

Find Me in a Local Coffee House

As most of you know, I love spending my free time painting people in my neighborhood coffee houses. I frequent the Starbucks located on Wells Street in Chicago, and have created many portraits of passersby.

About a week ago, I found myself back at Starbucks with my sketchbook in hand. I spotted a man working diligently on his computer, so I decided to paint him.

I sat quietly and discreetly at my table with my sketchbook and watercolors, while I quickly worked away. Note that I only have moments to grab and paint the image because most of my subjects are unaware that I am even painting them. If they get up, or even move from their position, the composition can immediately change. 

Man working on his computer 

Man working on his computer 


Winter Wonderland

Although this winter in Chicago has been one of the coldest and the snowiest in several years, many are still finding ways to enjoy their time. I was asked to do a live event painting for a wedding at the Standard Club in Chicago. 

The Standard Club is a building that is rich with history, as it has shaped the way institutions are established today. With each detail intricately crafted, the space is one of absolute beauty. The club is host to an innumerable amount of weddings all year round. 

 

The Standard Club

The Standard Club

During the live wedding, I used the finest Dutch and French Sennelier watercolors and beautiful Arches paper. The result was a painting that captured not only the fine decoration of the Standard Club, but also the emotions that were ignited during the ceremony. 

Live event painting of a wedding ceremony at the Standard Club 

Live event painting of a wedding ceremony at the Standard Club 

A Perfect Event!

I was given the opportunity to attend "A Perfect Event" party hosted by Debi Lilly. Debi is one of the most well known and respected event-planners that Chicago has to offer, and the event was absolutely gorgeous!

"A Perfect Event" is Chicago's most thriving special event company that has a loyal following, including Oprah Winfrey!  Each detail of the event was carefully thought out and you were aware of every inch of the room. The decorations were beyond beautiful, and the guests were lovely to spend time with. I met some great people, which I had the chance to quickly sketch.

The event was a live event opportunity for me and I was able to illustrate some great moments. This particular watercolor painting captures a beautiful woman conversing at the event. I only have moments to capture my subject matter before he or she walks away, as they do not know I am painting them. 

A woman in mid conversation

A woman in mid conversation

With a restricted amount of time, these pieces are somewhat suspenseful, which makes each individual painting exciting to execute.

Overall, the event was a success and I had a fantastic time! Debi Lilly was not only a great host, but also a wonderful person to get to know. She was very happy with my work at the event and I got complimentary feedback from her as well as others. I am hoping to attend another "A Perfect Event" in the near future and complete more pieces! 

A lovely tweet from a lovely woman

A lovely tweet from a lovely woman


A Blog in Pink

I have always loved the traditional wedding gown colors...white, off-white, cream. The subtle nuances in color make each dress its own. However, in the recent years, I have grown to love pink wedding gowns, as they are beginning to become more of a trend. I cannot get enough of the feeling pink evokes in a wedding. To me, pink conjures a sense of femininity and of being in your own fairytale.

The most recent pink dress that caught my eye was that of Kaley Cuoco. The photographs from her wedding seemed as though they should have been outtakes from a Disney film.

Kaley Cuoco's gorgeous wedding gown

Kaley Cuoco's gorgeous wedding gown

Kaley and her husband, Ryan Sweeting

Kaley and her husband, Ryan Sweeting

In 2012, Anne Hathaway seemed to revitalize the love for pink when she debuted her Valentino gown at her wedding.

Anne Hathaway's pink wedding gown

Anne Hathaway's pink wedding gown

The subtle, tinge on pink in Anne's gown makes it quite unique and unlike any I have seen before.

Both of these brides inspired me to create a painting of a woman in her pink wedding dress.

My painting of a woman in a pink wedding gown

My painting of a woman in a pink wedding gown

I am hoping that pink becomes a larger trend in the coming years because it adds a new spin on the classic colored gown. 

The Process: How to Order A Customized Wedding Gown Painting Part II

When I am contacted to create a painting of a bride before her wedding, there is a simple, yet vital process that takes place. A quick guide to executing the perfect portrait came through a woman who ordered a customized painting for her friend. The guide to ordering before the wedding is as follows:

Step 1: Firstly, the friend sent me photographs of the bride-to-be in her wedding gown. 

Photograph of the bride in her gown 

Photograph of the bride in her gown 

Step 2: Next, she made certain to include the designer and the name of the gown so I could refer to it in detail through close-ups.

 

Step 3: Following, I was sent photographs of the finalized hairstyle from the beauty salon.

The bride's hairstyle

The bride's hairstyle

Step 4: Personal touches: the caring friend emphasized the importance of keeping the intricate details and patterns visible, because that is what the bride absolutely adored about her gown. 

With these small, yet necessary steps taken by the friend, I was able to create this portrait in time for the wedding. All of the detailed photographs ensured the I was able to compose and accurate portrayal of the bride.

Painting of the bride in her gown

Painting of the bride in her gown

Both the bride and her friend were beyond ecstatic with the outcome, which is always the most fulfilling feeling as an artist. 

If you are interested in ordering a painting for a bride-to-be, please contact me and we can follow these four steps together!

**If you would like to order a painting after the wedding, please refer to my previous blog post: "The Process: How to Order A Customized Wedding Gown Painting Part I". 

The Process: How to Order A Customized Wedding Gown Painting Part I

When I am contacted to create a portrait of a bride in her wedding gown, there is a simple process that takes place. Typically, the painting is ordered following the wedding, but it can also be completed in time for the ceremony. The choice is completely up to whoever may be ordering the piece. The guide for ordering after the wedding is as follows:

Step 1: Firstly, I provide a gift card to the person who has placed the order, whether that be a family member, the groom, a friend, or the bride herself. The gift card is then presented to the bride. 

Step 2: Next, the bride or her photographer sends me photos of her in the lovely gown.

Step 3: Through these photographs, I create a whimsical, yet realistic piece of art!

Painting of a bride in her wedding gown

Painting of a bride in her wedding gown


If you are interested in ordering a painting for a new bride or for yourself, please contact me and we will follow these three steps together!

**If you would like to order a painting of a bride in time for her wedding, please read my next blog post: "The Process: How to Order A Customized Wedding Gown Painting Part II".

New York Times Loves Chicago

On Jan. 1, 2014 Freda Moon wrote an article in The New York Times called 36 Hours in Chicago.  She starts the article off by saying, "Chicago is a city that changes noticeably with the seasons. It is endlessly beautiful in the warm months, when the sidewalks transform into cafes, the Lakefront Trail becomes a Divvy Bike highway and the beaches along Lake Michigan might be mistaken for Miami. As the temperatures fall, the city changes from a playground to a cultural promised land — a place of fine and varied food, inventive theater and one of the country’s great live music scenes. From the historic high-rises of the Gold Coast to regal Hyde Park, from Bronzeville to Boystown, from the Indian and Puerto Rican enclaves of Devon Avenue and Humboldt Park, respectively, to the bohemian barrios of Logan Square and Pilsen, Chicago demands hard choices. It rarely disappoints."   Here are a few of her highlights…..  " THE DETAILS 1. Russian Tea Time, 77 East Adams Street;russianteatime.com. Art Institute of Chicago, artic.edu. 2. Signature Lounge, 875 North Michigan; signatureroom.com. 3. Grace, 652 West Randolph; grace-restaurant.com. 4. Au Cheval, 800 West Randolph; auchevalchicago.com. Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, 960 West 31st Street;community-bar.com. Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 North Lincoln; oldtownschool.org. 5. Bang Bang, 2051 North California; bangbangpie.com. Bow Truss,bowtruss.com. Chicago Cultural Center, 312-744-6630. 6. Sauce and Bread Kitchen, 6338-40 Clark; sauceandbread.com. ThePaper Machete, 4802 North Broadway; thepapermacheteshow.com. 7. Revolution Brewing, 3340 North Kedzie; revbrew.com. Map Room,1949 North Hoyne; maproom.com. Hopleaf, 5148 North Clark;hopleaf.com. 8. Ruxbin, 851 North Ashland; ruxbinchicago.com. Fat Rice, 2957 West Diversey; eatfatrice.com. 9. Constellation, 3111 North Western Avenue; constellation-chicago.com.Lookingglass Theater Company, lookingglasstheatre.org. 10. Underground Wonder Bar, 710 North Clark;undergroundwonderbar.com. 11. Maxwell Street Market, 800 South Desplaines. Yan Bang Cai, 228 West Cermak; yanbangcaichicago.com. 12. Reckless Records, reckless.com. Logan Hardware, logan-hardware.com. Dusty Groove, dustygroove.com. Modern Cooperative,moderncooperative.com. The amazing part is I have lived in Chicago off and on for most of my life and majority of these places I have never been to yet the list goes on... From concerts, to jazz clubs, music in the parks, bike trails along the lake, major sports teams, and every sport know to man is played here.  The bottom line is that this is a great city and people love it hear because of its people, beauty, and endless things to do and get involved in…. including the weather….

On Jan. 1, 2014 Freda Moon wrote an article in The New York Times called 36 Hours in Chicago.  She starts the article off by saying, "Chicago is a city that changes noticeably with the seasons. It is endlessly beautiful in the warm months, when the sidewalks transform into cafes, the Lakefront Trail becomes a Divvy Bike highway and the beaches along Lake Michigan might be mistaken for Miami. As the temperatures fall, the city changes from a playground to a cultural promised land — a place of fine and varied food, inventive theater and one of the country’s great live music scenes. From the historic high-rises of the Gold Coast to regal Hyde Park, from Bronzeville to Boystown, from the Indian and Puerto Rican enclaves of Devon Avenue and Humboldt Park, respectively, to the bohemian barrios of Logan Square and Pilsen, Chicago demands hard choices. It rarely disappoints."  

Here are a few of her highlights….. 

"

THE DETAILS

1. Russian Tea Time, 77 East Adams Street;russianteatime.comArt Institute of Chicago, artic.edu.

2. Signature Lounge, 875 North Michigan; signatureroom.com.

3. Grace, 652 West Randolph; grace-restaurant.com.

4. Au Cheval, 800 West Randolph; auchevalchicago.comMaria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar, 960 West 31st Street;community-bar.comOld Town School of Folk Music, 4544 North Lincoln; oldtownschool.org.

5. Bang Bang, 2051 North California; bangbangpie.comBow Truss,bowtruss.comChicago Cultural Center, 312-744-6630.

6. Sauce and Bread Kitchen, 6338-40 Clark; sauceandbread.com. ThePaper Machete, 4802 North Broadway; thepapermacheteshow.com.

7. Revolution Brewing, 3340 North Kedzie; revbrew.comMap Room,1949 North Hoyne; maproom.comHopleaf, 5148 North Clark;hopleaf.com.

8. Ruxbin, 851 North Ashland; ruxbinchicago.com. Fat Rice, 2957 West Diversey; eatfatrice.com.

9. Constellation, 3111 North Western Avenue; constellation-chicago.com.Lookingglass Theater Company, lookingglasstheatre.org.

10. Underground Wonder Bar, 710 North Clark;undergroundwonderbar.com.

11. Maxwell Street Market, 800 South Desplaines. Yan Bang Cai, 228 West Cermak; yanbangcaichicago.com.

12. Reckless Records, reckless.comLogan Hardware, logan-hardware.comDusty Groove, dustygroove.comModern Cooperative,moderncooperative.com.

The amazing part is I have lived in Chicago off and on for most of my life and majority of these places I have never been to yet the list goes on...

From concerts, to jazz clubs, music in the parks, bike trails along the lake, major sports teams, and every sport know to man is played here.  The bottom line is that this is a great city and people love it hear because of its people, beauty, and endless things to do and get involved in…. including the weather….

Birdseye view of Millennium Park

Birdseye view of Millennium Park

Close-up of a bell on the Chicago River 

Close-up of a bell on the Chicago River 

Canoeing in the Chicago River  

Canoeing in the Chicago River  

Rush Street

Rush Street

Look for great design ... In Weather

I am currently in Chicago and if you listen to the news you know that first we had an incredible amount of snow and now we are in a deep freeze. By the way, this is just over the last 4 days !!! To help make this bearable we took a walk thru the Gold Coast Sunday, knowing we'd be locked in Monday and Tuesday do to the bone chilling temperatures. Here are some of the snow photos I took... The temperature was dropping, and I was walking very quickly... Yes that is a car buried under snow.
The last photo is of the ice forming on my apartment windows. By the way this morning the ice was on the inside of my shades.

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My E-commerce Site is Live!

Dearest supporters,

In the past weeks, I have been hard at work building the e-commerce website I have always hoped for. The shop is now LIVE and you can access it on my Squarespace home page. You can also click here to be redirected. This is my way of sharing my artwork with you, wherever you may be in the world. Along with all of the work posted, I will happily take custom orders! You can contact me at: LifeStylesDefined@mac.com, or call 760-449-1822 CDT  between the hours of 9AM to 9PM. I would love if you had a chance to browse my shop and see what I have created. Thank you for all of your continued support!

-Diane  

A Coffee Break

I have this great old canvas bag, inside it holds my water color palette, sketchbook, paper towels ...
On the outside there are long narrow pockets that house my brushes and pencils. The next few days I will be off to the local coffee shops to paint people as they come and go. It is one of the best ways of truly looking at the subject, seeing those features that distinguish them from anyone else, and then paint quickly ... very quickly !!! And by quickly I mean less the a minute in most cases ....

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Christmas Joy

Over the Christmas season, I have seen continued generosity and overall kindness among people everywhere. I was lucky enough to experience this joy personally through my work. Although everyone is extremely busy over the holiday season, it is reassuring to see that people still take the time to acknowledge others.

A young groom wanted to show gratitude to his mother-in-law for all of the help and support she offered for his wedding. The groom ordered two custom paintings of his bride in her stunning wedding gown; the first one was a thank you to his mother-in-law, and the second was for his wife. I felt that his gesture was unforgettable and that it would make a memorable Christmas gift for the two of them. 

I very much enjoy being the one chosen to create these one of a kind gifts for people across the world. The process allows me to get to know an innumerable amount of people, and they always surprise me with the love for their family and friends. In turn, I make lifelong connections and become a part of their story.

This Christmas was yet another memorable one, as I hope yours was. I wish you all the best this holiday season and give you my warmest regards. Happy Holidays! 

Watercolor piece ordered for the groom's mother-in-law

Watercolor piece ordered for the groom's mother-in-law

Watercolor portrait custom ordered for his bride

Watercolor portrait custom ordered for his bride

Nostalgia

November 16, 2013

I started specializing in watercolor portraits of dresses many years ago. There’s a saying that the clothes make the man, but I believe that us women have more of an emotional connection to our clothing. We will always remember the first dress we wore to a “real” party, our favorite pair of jeans, the dress we wore to our first dance, and of course, our wedding gown.

Growing up, I put myself through college, and therefore, did not have an abundance of money. One of my favorite memories from my younger years was going to see the play, HAIR. My boyfriend at the time surprised me and bought us tickets. I still remember the dress I wore that night…it was red-orange in color, short, and made entirely out of lace. I loved that dress and I often wish I still had it.

I don’t believe that I have worn red since that night but I will always have that beautiful memory engrained in my mind. That night is the reason I paint dresses; I create these pieces to commemorate an occasion and to bring back that feeling of nostalgia. My paintings remind of those special songs we all have, in that they define the moment.

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