Artist and illustrator Jennifer Vallez tells PEOPLE how the couple's 'fairytale romance' is a creative inspiration
Artist and illustrator Jennifer Vallez exclusively tells PEOPLE she was elated to learn that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex displayed her drawing of their 2021 holiday wishes with their children, Prince Archie, 4, and Princess Lilibet, 2. The small business owner behind the Instagram accounts @sophieandlili and @royalsketchesbyjenv recently spotted her artwork on a shelf behind Prince Harry, 39, and shares how it all came to be.
“I received an email from Meghan's assistant expressing appreciation for my illustrations documenting the Duke and Duchess' love story. They conveyed a desire to support my work,” Vallez tells PEOPLE.
“I was aware they got my art when Meghan sent a lovely handwritten thank-you note. However, I wasn't sure how they'd showcase it. The fact that one of my prints is now in Prince Harry's office is simply surreal!” she adds.
The drawing displayed is a freehand take on the photo Prince Harry and Meghan released for their holiday card three years ago. The image was significant as it was the first picture of Lilibet that was released to the public, capturing the family of four together for the first time.
In the shot by photographer Alexi Lubomirski (who took the couple’s romantic engagement photos and official wedding portraits), Harry, Meghan and Archie matched in jeans while the Duchess of Sussex lovingly lifted baby Lili, born that June. The picture was taken earlier in 2021 at the family’s home in Santa Barbara, California. Prince Harry and Prince Archie were both barefoot in the shot, which further confirmed that Archie inherited his father’s red hair!
Breaking down the collaboration, Vallez tells PEOPLE that she had a “considerable collection” of drawings featuring either Meghan individually or the Duke and Duchess together.
“We landed on about 25 pieces that told their love story,” she says of the communication with Meghan’s assistant. “The one that they framed is my favorite!”
The Connecticut-based artist cites fashion illustration as her true passion and ventured out on her own after nearly two decades in the advertising industry. Vallez has sketched several members of the royal family in addition to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and tells PEOPLE what sparked the inspiration.
“I was a fan of [Princess] Diana and kept up with the royals over the years, but it wasn't until Meghan and Harry got engaged that my interest truly grew. Their fairytale romance provided a welcome escape from the political events unfolding in the U.S.A.,” she says.
As for a favorite family member to draw? “I adore sketching Diana; her style is truly unmatched. Meghan and Kate [Middleton] are also super fun to sketch – they both have fantastic style,” she adds.
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Fans can follow Vallez’s dedicated royal account to keep up with her latest drawings — though they might find the feed in a hardback copy one day.
“It would be a dream to compile all of these sketches one day for a coffee table book!” Vallez says of her royal collection.
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