‘This is what I do’ – page 5 of the Sunday magazine insert
Audrey Vance, wedding dress illustrator – Interview by Kate Butler who specifically asked about the celebrity wedding dress illustrations!
I thought I was the anti-bride, but when I was getting married I got completely suckered in. There’s something about the wedding dress that seems to embody your hopes and your dreams. Then there’s the reveal on the day, the oohs and the aahs.
I grew up in Dundalk and studied design in art college in Belfast. In 2009, I got married and went to Egypt on honeymoon. On my return, before banishing my much-loved wedding dress to the guest bedroom wardrobe, I illustrated a picture of it, framed it and hung the ink painting up in our home. It was such a labour of love. Soon friends were asking to have one done.
My husband was saying to me, ‘there’s a business in that’, and I thought, don’t be daft, it’s just a drawing. I had been working as an interior architect and loved it, but then the recession hit. I was also about to have my first baby. It seemed like the right time to try and create my own business.
Pippa O’Connor Ormond was the first celebrity to have her wedding dress drawn by me. Nadia Forde, who is so lovely, saw it at Pippa’s house and tried to order three from me, for various friends. Every time something got in the way – someone had already commissioned one for Laura Sexton, who was getting married to Johnny Sexton. I think she was too late with another. She rang me one day and I said, ‘please don’t tell me you want one for Rosanna Davison’, since I already had a commission for her. Eventually, she got one for her friend Debbie O’Leary, who got married to Peter Stringer.
I get to see everyone’s wedding, which is such a gorgeous thing because it’s such a happy time. You’re also dealing with lovely people who are desperately trying to surprise their loved one. It’s very sweet. I usually ask them to send me between 10 and 20 photos. I like to be able to see the dress full length, the front, side and back. I love seeing them walk up the aisle, so I can see the dress in motion.
Bouquets are a real problem – nearly every close up of the bride will have the bouquet in front of everything. The top of the dress is generally where the detail is. If it’s all lace – which a lot of them are, Kate Middleton has a lot to answer for – I’ll want to see the hem, so that I can see how it’s finished.
Each illustration starts with analysing the wedding day photographs and drafting the perfect angle to show off each individual dress. Once I’m happy, I’ll commit the fashion outline to watercolour paper and meticulously add layers of cross-hatching and ink shading to capture the unique details, seams, and fall of the fabrics.
What I try and do is reconstruct the structure of the dress on a mannequin, on the page. Essentially it will look how your dress looks on the morning of your wedding, though I also bring a line in that will give a hint of the figure below, so that it’s feminine rather than Barbie-ish. Washes of Indian black ink are painted onto the background to allow the dress to shine through.
I love working on dresses with heavy folds in the fabric as it comes across so dramatic, with lots of black and the white popping out. The detail is huge in a lace dress. I’ll sometimes leave a little out, as otherwise it can look too dark.
Although commissions come primarily from the Irish market I get such a kick when an international order comes in. I even went out and bought a world map so I could stick coloured pins into the countries I’m shipping to like Dubai, USA, UK, Australia, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, France and the Netherlands.
I think women don’t want to give up their dress because it embodies so much sentiment. They spend a year dreaming about it and then it’s their red carpet moment. They’ll never put so much effort into a dress.
Thank you to Kate Butler of The Sunday Times for her celebrity wedding dress illustration interview.
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