ABOVE: Event guests illustrated by Aaron; a bride and groom

The rewards of my work are so many that it’s hard to know where to start… firstly, the appreciation of my clients, the gratitude and compliments because I’m making so many people happy. Also, the amazing conversations I have with guests while I’m painting them; then the utter satisfaction of standing back and looking at an entire tableau of beautiful art I’ve just created, plus the way my ‘self employment’ caters to my fierce independence!”

Aaron Jacob Jones, Wedding Illustrator

ABOVE: Aaron at work; holding one of his framed illustrations

INTRO BY NICKY SUMMER: “You want a career that allows you to travel and enjoy life, be invited to all the very best European locations, meet interesting people and get paid for it? Then follow in the flourescent pink footsteps (with matching bow tie and braces) of Aaron Jacob Jones, live wedding illustrator. Perhaps not the line of work that would have immediately sprung to mind, and you’d have to be a fairly unique type of individual to be good at it! Luckily, Aaron has all the required qualities – creative, organised, patient, friendly, quick, prompt, social adept – to mention just a few. Aaron paints both the couple and their guests, illustrating at over 100 weddings a year, and spends most of his summer on the road or on planes enroute to destination weddings. Aaron has such infectious energy, you can feel the good vibes emanating over the airwaves – he’s energetic, fun, conscientious and an asset to any occasion; here we discuss how he got into the event illustration business:

I first painted a wedding in 2014, when a friend of a friend got married and I wanted to make them an instant wedding present on the spot, by illustrating the ceremony. The bride cried with happiness…”

Aaron Jacob Jones, Wedding Illustrator

C&B: “Aaron, you have cut out a very unique niche for yourself – how did you get started as an events illustrator?”

AJJ: “I’ve been capturing the scenes and people around me ever since I was a kid, sketching my friends on school coach trips. After graduating uni, I was no less compelled to draw everywhere I went, at gigs, I used to draw the band, and I sketched at the theatre so often that performers started guest listing me for their shows in exchange for a painting. I’d capture the scene at pubs, and at house parties – I even offered my services to some wild club nights, painting portraits of the elaborately costumed attendees. None of it  paid enough for me to consider quitting my day job (in design), I was just drawn to painting live and capturing the moment right there on the spot. I first painted a wedding in 2014, when a friend of a friend got married and I wanted to make them an instant wedding present on the spot, by painting the ceremony. The bride cried with happiness and that was it… I was addicted to illustrating. Then another bride invited me to just come along and live sketch some scenes at her wedding, and I also offered to try out some guest portraits too. Subsequently, someone else wanted the same thing, and by that time my career had fully taken off – it was clear there was a demand!”

I thoroughly enjoy the variety of what I do; every day I wake up somewhere different around the UK, or abroad in Europe, knowing the day will be brand new – and I thrive on that. I travel a lot… it’s rare that I work in the same venue more than twice in a season, but even if I do, it’ll be completely different event decor, a new scene to paint, a fresh set of supplier colleagues! And that’s all before I’ve spend half the day getting to know 30 or 40 different guests while painting them! The novelty and pace of it all is exhilarating to me – never what I’d describe as ‘easy’, especially with the long hours, however, it’s a lot easier than in my old dayjob where I was sitting down at a desk and working on the same old branded marketing designs day after day! 

Aaron Jacob Jones, Wedding Illustrator

ABOVE: An informal gallery of work at an event; a bride and groom illustration by Aaron

C&B: “How do clients first locate you and get in touch?”

AJJ: ”Most couples come to me directly and have booked me a year or two in advance, so I often have to turn down planners I’d really love to work with who have enquired with relatively short notice. I don’t market myself at all, apart from having a presence on IG and on the web; if I were struggling for work, I would ask people to mention me, but luckily I have a healthy flow of enquiries from both google and social media…”

ABOVE: A bride and groom illustration; an informal gallery of Aaron’s work

C&B: “What is the typical process once you and the client have been in contact; and how do you manage their expectations ?”

AJJ: “I send clients a questionnaire before the wedding, which asks for an idea of what they might want in their main painting. It’s a multiple choice question, which scenes evoking different moods. My favourite response to one option is: “You’re the artist – we’ll leave it up to you!” I don’t ask a lot of specific questions about what couples want, because most non-artists don’t really know what will work well for a painting, especially when it’s in watercolour. Not every couple’s initial idea would make a good rendition of that particular scene, and I’ll always try to gently guide them towards what I know will ultimately result in the best piece of artwork. Most of my couples trust me based on my previous work so they give me a lot of freedom to be creative – they’re aware I’m not going to be too literal – for example, I won’t be painting the backs of everyone’s heads. I respond to the ambience on the day, and I like to showcase emotion, intimacy, drama – sometimes that will be an unexpected and partially invented composition. I always try to find ways to highlight whatever’s most beautiful about the decor and venue, while painting the couple at a size that gives me scope for a great portrait of them. With years of experience, I know exactly what approaches will suit my painting style in the relatively short windows of time I get to do a ‘couple painting’…”

C&B: “You mentioned you were initially working in the design world – did your formal training in art come in handy and what services do you offer?”

AJJ: “Yes, I’ve a BA degree in illustration and animation and privately take different drawing courses every year to keep my technical skills sharp; I also regularly study with my favourite painters, to keep growing as an artist while delivering consistently beautiful work for my clients. There are several different types of ‘wedding-specific’ illustration packages for clients to choose from, depending on if they want themselves painted, or their guests. My most popular service is my ‘mixed’ package, where I paint a beautiful detailed large watercolour of the couple on the day, and also create lots of smaller portraits of guests, which they take home. Other services involve painting guest portraits by the hour, or sketching multiple scenes from the wedding. Now and then I’m asked to spend the whole day on a large canvas of the couple, but I’m more known for mixing it up! Often people come to me thinking they just want guest paintings at their drinks reception, but then they see I do ceremony paintings too and end up opting for a package which includes that too. Almost all couples book my full day service of 9-10 hours, as that’s the length of time I need to do a seriously impressive body of work. I price by time on site, not by number of guest paintings… there’s an average number of paintings for each package, but it can end up being more or less depending on the conditions on the day…”

C&B: “What would you say are the biggest challenges related to what you do?”

AJJ: “Timing and logistics are always a challenge. I follow the wedding around from start to finish, moving my easel from ceremony, to reception, to evening party. Every venue is different and and I have to figure out how to make it work for the amount of painting I need to get done. My event supplier colleagues are different every single day, and some people are easier to work with than others! And of course my actual workspace changes daily – indoors or out, it could be cramped, noisy, dark, extreme temperatures… and I have to figure out how to create brilliant work at a consistent speed under any conditions. The other challenge is couples who approach their booking with an expectation that I should provide wedding favours for every guest… unless it’s a microwedding, I can’t paint every guest in one day without drastically lowering the quality, losing both facial likenesses and vibrancy. I prefer not to abandon my signature style, therefore I usually suggest a different kind of artist to clients who apply pressure about ‘painting everybody’…”

C&B: “Is it cumbersome having to travel around with all your equipment? What’s in your artist kit when you attend an event?”

AJJ: “The most important part of my kit is my beautiful custom easel, which folds up into a briefcase and fits under a plane seat! Inside that there’s a watercolour palette, my water pots and some other essentials. I take brushes, pens and spare paints in my main bag, along with cables, pegs for hanging, paper, mounts, signage and a table easel. I also bring my own USB batteries and several different kinds of lamps, ready for any lighting conditions…”

ABOVE: Adare Manor; Villa Balbiano; Chateau Challain

My favourite event venues around Europe include Villa Balbiano on Lake Como, where I’ve worked several times before; the view is to die for, and the spaces are beyond opulent – like something out of a dream! I also love Adare Manor in Ireland… it’s manicured to within an inch of its life, the service is jaw-dropping, just a completely gorgeous space. A new firm favourite is beautiful Chateau Challain in France, which is as quirky as it is historical, with luscious grounds, a fascinating history and one of the most superb teams I’ve ever met…”

Aaron Jacob Jones, Wedding Illustrator

C&B: “Finally, Aaron, what do you believe your on-site ‘live’ service adds to the ambience and content of the wedding itself?”

AJJ: “Having an artist at your wedding is already unique enough that your guests will be amazed and delighted, especially if you’ve booked portraits. And obviously the couple and many of their guests will go home clutching a genuinely good painting which they love. Even if you only book me to paint a canvas, guests will still enjoy watching the art being created in front of them, and they’ll be impressed too. When you hire me, you also know your guests are interacting with a warm, interesting person who has a passion for making people happy… I do my best work ‘face to face’, rather than from photos, so I do love to help guests engage with and enjoy the actual experience of being painted by me. I chat with everyone while I work, to see what makes them tick. I’m well read, curious, I meet thousands of people a year so I’m great at conversation. While I paint guests, I ask thoughtful questions, always looking for something to relate to or spark enthusiasm in people from all walks of life. I answer a lot of questions too – some of the guests will be talking for months about the travelling live painter they met at your wedding, with 15 years worth of wild stories in 15 minutes! I’m also great at giving charming compliments, helping people relax into the posing session. I create a moment out of the reveal of the painting, as guests finally see what they look like through an artist’s eyes. It’s an emotional thing for many people to see a beautiful flattering depiction of themselves – their likeness, their outfit, with a stylish poise that most of us don’t actually possess! I’ve actually become friends with many wonderful guests over the years, some of whom I still keep in touch with – if that’s not a promise that the guests will LOVE me, I don’t know what else is!”

I have an absolute passion for what I do:  delighting people with my live paintings; I’m a supplier that suits discerning couples who care about quality…”

Aaron Jacob Jones, Wedding Illustrator


Comments are closed.