- 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 showing the finished paintings have millions of views.
“I went undercover as a guest to surprise the bride and groom,” 28-year-old Australian artist Rebekka Lord-Johnson said in a 50-second TikTok post on Nov. 22 that went viral.
The video showed the process of creating a painting of the couple in real time during the ceremony, which she said she was able to surprise them by hiding in the trees before telling them what she was really there for. The video, which featured the groom’s reaction to the final artwork, received over 12.8 million views.
This is 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 has lent itself perfectly to promoting follows over 554,000.
Lord-Johnson recently taught herself to paint and planned it to become her full-time job
In 2021, Lord-Johnson was working as a marketing manager in the construction industry, but the COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne meant she had to stay at home. She used the time she saved from stopping traveling to teach herself the skills needed to become a professional wedding artist.
“I didn’t want to be 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 Atlanta-based wedding artist @watchmaggiepaint. Georgia, in 2020.
Lord-Johnson had some experience drawing portraits with graphite pencil and she had taken art classes 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. the morning before work to practice painting, and when she left her day job at 4 p.m., she practiced for an additional two to three hours at every night, in a routine she maintained six days a week. But not everyone was encouraging.
“My family is from a medical background. They are all nurses. So it was very much like if you pursue an artistic or creative career, you become a starving 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 bookings, she started getting requests for paintings, she said.
In November 2021, she was commissioned to paint her first wedding and posted the results on TikTok that night, but it was Lord-Johnson’s live wedding painting TikTok posted on December 5 that went viral first, with over 3.4 million views. .
Lord-Johnson said she was aware of 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 really go on this platform and see what happens.’
The role in weddings is not only to paint, it is also entertainment for the guests
Lord-Johnson sees her day job as part painting, part performance, as it involves talking to visitors who gather to look at the artwork while it’s still a work in progress.
“The guests are really mesmerized by what you’re doing. It’s definitely something they’ve never seen in Australia before. So they get really excited,” she said.
Lord-Johnson described live painting as “gentle electrocardiography” for seven hours. “One time I actually put it in as a workout on my Apple Watch,” she said. “I didn’t realize that my average heart rate when I paint is about 120 beats per minute, which is pretty high for me.”
To capture the likeness of the bride and groom, she films them during the day, as this is often more effective than a photograph that can miss an important moment. “Right after a kiss, it’s usually the sweetest moment because they look at each other with so much love,” she said.
To ensure she can simultaneously paint, entertain and create TikTok content, Lord-Johnson travels with a special kit she created designed for this unique role, which includes multiple camera stands so she can film herself as she works, and a fold-up French stack packed into a small crate that she can wheel around the venue.
Lord-Johnson believes that going viral on TikTok is the key to her success
There is a clause in Lord-Johnson’s contract that allows her to upload video of her filming the wedding to TikTok, but she is careful to only include footage of guests who are clearly aware they are on camera.
To date, her uploads have received over 30 million likes on TikTok, with multiple videos being viewed a million times each, and she said she has “figured out how to make a video go viral.”
At first, Lord-Johnson focused on the technical aspects of TikTok, such as angles and lighting, but she changed her approach. “If there’s not a good engaging story behind it, no one will watch it,” she said. “It’s more about the story behind the bride and groom and the story of the painting, rather than how it’s filmed.”
She credits her husband in part for her success. “If it loses his attention, I know it won’t work. So I test all my videos on his really bad attention span and he has the secret recipe for viral videos,” she said.
After each video went viral, Lord-Johnson said she received “so many inquiries” that she now sees TikTok as “responsible for all my success.” Her services are now fully booked until April 2024, with a “huge cancellation list” should something come up.
Lord-Johnson said she aims to complete between 65 and 70 weddings a year, but will take on fewer paintings throughout 2024 and 2025, instead focusing on making them “very 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 with it,” she said. “So I’m always changing it up and trying new things.”
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.