Wedding illustrators? Is that actually a thing? YES.. yes it is! I know not a lot of people have ever seen wedding illustrations or would even think about hiring someone to illustrate guests at their wedding. So I thought it would be a good idea to have a chat to one of Melbourne’s only wedding illustrators. Jeff The Peff is a very talented man, and I am very excited he could take the time to give us a little insight into his craft.
Your work is incredible Jeff, and I noticed there really aren’t many, or any wedding illustrators in Melbourne. How did you come up with the idea?
Jai, you’re too much. I’ve always done this kind of observational drawing on the street, in markets, at airports and so on. I have sketchbooks full of this stuff. One day Lucy who runs the blog “The Design Files” commissioned me to do this at her wedding. That got the ball rolling. It’s funny because I never did make the connection that illustration at an event could actually be a thing!
Have you ever found it stressful doing a “quick draw style” on such an important day such as a wedding?
There was a time when I would freelance as a courtsketch artist for the national news. While that was certainly a stressful gig, the experience did get me comfortable with drawing under pressure. And it goes without saying that there is a certain level of pressure when it comes to drawing at a wedding. For starters I aim to have about 40-50 drawings at a minimum which is no small feat. Then there is an expectation that they will be great, contain recognisable characters and so on. Not to mention guests will often ask to take a peek, or gather round to watch. Which if I wasn’t comfortable with, would be terrifying! It’s quite a performance. Luckily I’ve gotten quicker at sketching and my memory has also improved significantly. Once I witness a moment, I find it relatively easy to recall it and put it on paper, even if it only lasted for a split second. And those scenes that occur in the blink of an eye are what really makes a great collection of drawings at the end of the evening.
Can it be hard to capture the real essence or story of the wedding in just a
These days I am just as comfortable drawing at a wedding of 200 people as drawing people on the train. It’s just that everyone’s a little more well dressed and there are a lot more flower arrangements everywhere. The trick is to look past all the dressing and pomp and draw the characters themselves. For example, while sitting in my corner I’ll spot old mate Barry desperately trying to finish his beer while his wife is pulling him onto the dance floor. While just around the corner two bridesmaids share a cheeky joke under a gum tree. And by the loo we have Sandy trying to get the waiters attention but he’s trying desperately to ignore her. And just to the left two kids think they spotted a kangaroo but really it’s just a log. I just suck up all these little moments and turn them into little sketches, sprinkled with a little humour and wit. The final collection captures a side of a wedding that often goes unseen. That’s where the real story is.
Do you have any funny stories from weddings you have illustrated?
When the guests see what I’m up to they typically get a huge kick out of it because it’s quite an unexpected thing. Inevitably someone recognises their ‘Uncle Stan’ in one of my drawings, and I’ve obviously drawn him juggling three beers which everyone thinks is hilarious. “Mate that is SO Stan!” they laugh, and then they call him over to see it. Of course he wants it right then and there, but I tell him he has to wait. That’s basically what happens. And then I have to tell everyone to leave me alone because I have 2 hours left to pull 30 more drawings out of the party, haha.
Any advice to Brides/Grooms that are thinking about adding something extra special like this to their day?
You know who to call. When your clients receive their sketches, what are some clever things they could do with them? I’ve had clients put my work on tea-towels, frame them, send them out as thank-you postcards to their guests… there are loads of ways to get creative with something like this.
Not many people can say they do what they love and put food on the table, but I think you can. Was it a hard road to get to where you are now?Any words of wisdom for other ‘up and coming’ creatives out there?
Thank you Jai. Despite always having a deep love of drawing, illustration is something I only began to take seriously in my midtwenties. Prior to that I studied and worked in finance. And every day I secretly wished I had the courage to leave that life and do what I really wanted. That was the hardest bit. Today I probably work wayyyy more than I did in my previous career, but unlike that old life, I am in the driving seat and it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. I shudder to think of how I would feel now if I had not taken the opportunity when it presented itself all those years ago. Advice? You are not your career. Your career is simply a vehicle that takes you where you need to go. If it doesn’t, find one that will.