How a Live Wedding Artist Got Her Dream Job Thanks to TikTok

TECHNOLOGY
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  • Live wedding painter Rebekka Lord-Johnson has 554,000 followers on TikTok, where she shares her art.
  • She spends 7 hours painting the bride and groom during the ceremony while guests react to the results.
  • Videos of Lord-Johnson revealing the finished paintings have millions of views.

“I went undercover as a guest to surprise the bride and groom,” Australian artist Rebekka Lord-Johnson, 28, said in a 50-second TikTok posted Nov. 22 that was poised to go wildly viral.

The clip showed the process of creating a painting of the couple in real time during the ceremony, with which she said she managed to surprise them by hiding among the trees before telling what was really there. The video, which included the groom’s reaction to the artwork, received over 12.8 million views.

That’s what Lord-Johnson does for a living: part painter, part performer and part content creator, she charges for her services as a live wedding artist, an unexpected career that was inspired by TikTok and lends itself perfectly to growing a following. of more than 554,000.

Lord-Johnson has only recently taught herself to paint and has planned to make it her full-time job.

In 2021, Lord-Johnson was working as a marketing coordinator in the construction industry, but a COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne meant she had to stay home. She used the time she saved by no longer commuting to teach herself the skills needed to become a professional wedding artist.

“I didn’t want to work in construction for the rest of my life,” Lord-Johnson told Insider, saying she knew live wedding painting was for her when she saw a TikTok posted by @watchmaggiepaint, a wedding artist based in Atlanta, Georgia in 2020.

Lord-Johnson had some experience drawing portraits using graphite pencils, and she took an art module in college, but said she “had no idea” what she was doing.

To train for the job, Lord-Johnson told Insider that she woke up at 5 a.m. before starting work to practice her painting, and when she left her day job at 4 p.m., she practiced for another two to three hours. every night, in a routine she kept to six days a week. But not everyone was encouraging.

“My family are medically trained. They’re all nurses. So if you pursue an artistic or creative career, you’ll be a hungry artist,” Lord-Johnson said, but she told her family to trust her.

She started by offering her services to create graffiti portraits at weddings, and after four appointments, she started taking orders for paintings, she said.

In November 2021, she was commissioned to paint at her first wedding and posted the results on TikTok the same night, but it was a TikTok of a live wedding painting that Lord-Johnson posted on Dec. 5 that first went viral. time, with over 3.4 million views. 🇧🇷

Lord-Johnson said she was familiar with TikTok, but it was her best friend who pushed her to post on the app. “She was the one who said, ‘Hey, I think you should go up on that platform and see what happens.’

The role at weddings is not just painting, it is also entertaining the guests.

Lord-Johnson sees her work on the day as part painting, part acting, as it includes speaking to guests who gather to watch the artwork while it’s still in progress.

“Guests are really mesmerized by what you’re doing. It’s definitely something they haven’t seen in Australia before. So they get really excited,” she said.

Lord-Johnson described the live painting as “light cardio” for seven hours. “I once put this as an exercise on my Apple Watch,” she said. “I didn’t know that my average heart rate when I paint is around 120 beats per minute, which is pretty high for me.”

To capture the bride and groom’s image, she films images of them throughout the day, as this is usually more effective than a photograph that can miss an important moment. “Right after a kiss is usually the cutest moment because they look at each other with so much love,” she said.

To ensure she’s able to paint, entertain, and create TikTok content simultaneously, Lord-Johnson travels with a special kit she made, designed for the unique role, which includes multiple camera mounts so she can film herself as she works, and a folding box. a French easel packed in a small box that she can roll around the site.

Lord-Johnson thinks going viral on TikTok is the key to his success

There’s a clause in Lord-Johnson’s contract that stipulates that she can upload video of her wedding footage to TikTok, but she makes sure to only include footage of guests who are clearly aware they’re on camera.

To date, her uploads have received over 30 million likes on TikTok, with several videos being viewed millions of times each, and she said she “nailed how to make a video go viral”.

At first, Lord-Johnson focused on the technical aspects of TikToks, like angles and lighting, but changed his approach. “If there’s not a good, compelling story behind it, nobody’s going to watch it,” she said. “It’s more about the story behind the bride and groom and the story about the painting rather than how it’s shot.”

She partially credits her success to her husband. “If I lose his attention, I know he won’t perform well. So I test all my videos on his really bad attention level, and he has the secret recipe for viral videos,” she said.

After each video went viral, Lord-Johnson said he received “so many questions” that he now thinks of TikTok as being 🇧🇷responsible for all my success.” His services are fully booked through April 2024, with a “big list of cancellations” in case anything goes wrong.

Lord-Johnson said he aims to complete between 65 and 70 weddings in a year, but will do fewer paintings throughout 2024 and 2025, focusing on making them “really high quality” and has no plans to slow down with TikToks. 🇧🇷

“People tend to copy the viral video and I never want to get to the point where people get a little bored of it,” she said. “So I’m always changing and trying new things.”

For more stories like this one, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.