A wedding dress is a thing of beauty, symbolizing all the hope and promise of a new marriage. Macon, Georgia-born artist Kristina Bailey immortalizes dresses – which sadly are typically only worn once – into hand-painted works of art, allowing brides to enjoy them every day for years (and even generations) to come.
The idea started when Kristina, who was already a working, professional painter with a background in fashion, was approached by a friend to create a painting of a wedding dress. The friend, who happened to be the groom, wanted to surprise his wife with a custom painting of her wedding gown. Since Kristina has a background using watercolors (she took her first class in the medium at nine years old) and because the traditional gift for a first anniversary is paper, a watercolor on paper made the perfect gift. Word began to spread to friends and family members who wanted to have a Kristina Bailey original of their own special bridal attire, and so she officially launched Portrait Of A Dress.
Now, all of Kristina’s pieces are done in a sepia-toned palette, though brides may decide that they prefer warm or cool tones, and painted on textured heavyweight archival watercolor paper. She begins by asking a bride to send images of the dress and of the bride in it. Then, she sketches it with pencil. Next, she uses a type of watercolor called Gouache, which has larger particles and employs chalk in the paint for more of an opaque finish, to paint four layers of color wash to define draping and outline pleating. Finally, Kristina uses a Micron fine micropigment pen to outline other details. Her process typically takes about five hours from start to finish, though allow six weeks for delivery, due to the demand for her work. Clients can choose from two sizes: either 8×10 or 11×14, which arrive matted and ready to frame, in a hand-sewn cloth envelope.
While hers is a thriving business, the mother of two exudes a clear passion for each project. “I am always giddy opening the wedding dress images sent from brides, grooms, mothers of the brides and bridesmaids,” Kristina says. “I loved picking out my own wedding dress. Now I get to see dress after dress.” She adds that even though she paints dresses yet to be worn (as a bridal shower gift, perhaps) and some that might qualify as antiques (she’s working on one as a memorial – a dress that survived a tornado, though sadly the mother of the bride who made the dress did not), the muted colors and the way she paints make them timeless.
For now, Kristina is working on a very special project, which departs slightly from her typical wedding theme. “Right now, I’m working on a christening gown,” she says. “Both of my daughters were baptized in my grandfather’s gown, which is more than 100 years old.”