Meet our artist in residence ‒ Gigi Rose Gray
Each year we create a special Dorchester Collection calendar, which is placed in all of our rooms and suites. This year we decided to choose a talented illustrator to bring our hotels to life in their own unique style. When we saw Gigi Rose Gray’s Instagram account and knew we had found what we were looking for. Attracted by her elegant style and attention for detail, we invited Gigi to stay and sketch at our hotels – here she shares her experience.
What can you tell us about your illustration style?
I’ve always liked a certain aesthetic associated with film and cinematography, the idea of stylised moments that capture a narrative in a natural way. I want people to feel like they are standing in the scene I’ve created. My style is still evolving, there’s always a pressure to find your own style but often it’s a case of plenty of practice and then you start to see your work take a certain direction.
How did you go about this project?
It was a really fun process. I would start my day around 5am and a couple of hours walking around when the hotels were quiet. It proved a really magical time to photograph the spaces as there were few people around and a great air of anticipation about the day ahead. I took hundreds of photos from different angles so I could recreate the finer details. I would then position myself somewhere discretely so I could start to sketch what was happening around me. It’s so much easier to emulate an atmosphere when you work in situ.
Did you know the hotels before this project?
My grandparents used to live in London and I remember visiting The Dorchester for afternoon tea with them as a child, which makes the hotel a very nostalgic place for me. I also remember visiting Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris as teenager and being in awe of the courtyard in full bloom – it’s something I’ve never forgotten. As I live in LA, I’m lucky to be familiar with both the low-key elegance of Hotel Bel-Air and the way that The Beverly Hills Hotel is imbedded in the culture and has such a wonderful history.
How do you create your images?
I draw sketches in pencil and then shade them in later. I learnt the hard way that it’s best to work in layers, that way you can easily alter your images without starting again from scratch. Usually I’ll have a few different layers for the foreground, background, people and any important details but for this project I had nearly 100 layers for some images! Colour is added in later in Photoshop and, as texture is so crucial to get right, I’ll often scan fabrics, photographs of various materials or create my own textures with paint and graphite.
How did you decide on a final image?
Having just one image per hotel was always going to be tricky but it makes it easier when you see the natural gathering points in each – sometimes it was the lobby, a restaurant or around the pool. I wanted a mix of locations that would sit together.
What were your highlights?
Hotel Principe di Savoia was architecturally stunning, such a grand entrance and so different from the other hotels in Milan. It was unbelievably peaceful at Coworth Park in Ascot; the Drawing Room was so inviting and the grounds really special. At Hotel Eden it’s the views I remember most, I have been to Rome a few times but I’d never seen a view like, it feels like you’re floating above the city. Le Meurice in Paris has such a buzz to it; the décor is whimsical, creative and very French and the restaurants are just spectacular. At Hôtel Plaza Athénée I felt like Alice in Wonderland, as every door I opened took me to a completely different space with a totally different atmosphere.
The end result
This was most gratifying project I’ve worked on yet! All the hotels felt very rooted in the culture their location and there’s an extraordinary level of craftsmanship, which it felt very important to highlight. I’m really excited about what we’ve created and still very attached to the illustrations, as they bring back great memories for me. Do look out for them in the calendar next time you stay at a Dorchester Collection hotel.
About the artist
Gigi Rose Gray is an illustrator and fine artist, born and raised in New York and now living in sunny Los Angeles. Having received a BFA in illustration at Parsons School for Design she now works as a freelance illustrator. She was a winner at the 2016 World Illustration Awards.