This past Spring, I was approached by the Ritz-Carlton team with the opportunity of a lifetime. The project in question was to create the new artwork for the Ritz-Carlton wine labels. I practically fell out of my chair when I got the email. I had been dreaming of creating artwork for wine labels since the beginning of my career. And what better brand to work with than my favorite hotel company?! I leapt at the prospect with an enormously enthusiastic YES!
And so we went about planning an inspiration trip across California which would stop at four Ritz-Carlton properties, starting with Rancho Mirage in Palm Springs and ending in Half Moon Bay. The intent was to spend time at each of the distinct hotels, sketching, filming, and photographing my journey of discovery in order to create a unique label for each of the 4 destinations upon my return home to NYC. I didn’t know it then but I was in for the trip of a lifetime.
I had never been to Palm Springs before, so when we landed I was immediately struck by the exquisite beauty of its otherworldly colored sunsets, particularly from the terrace of Rancho Mirage. I literally and figuratively drew from this scene above to create the label for Palm Springs, combining the palm trees from their reflection pool with the pink and purple brushed sky.
From Palm Springs we drove to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara. The climate was much cooler in contrast to Palm Springs and provided the perfect temperature for the stunning natural flora to grow. I was really captivated by these rather stoic purple coneflowers and used this exact image to capture what I felt was the essence of this property.
I spent a lot of time drawing on the road. It was important to capture those first few impressions from each destination to inform my final art when I got back to my studio in NYC. It was important to identify what was really unique to each property and what defined them from one another so that each label would standout on its own.
From Santa Barbara, we woke up before sunrise and headed out on an early morning flight to San Francisco. Though I had been to San Francisco before for work, I had never experienced it the way I was about to this time. The team had coordinated with the Executive Chef at Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, Mr. Jason Rea, to take us out on a food tour of the city. He was so sweet and knowledgable of the food scene and San Francisco and made me see the city with new eyes.
I would be remiss not to mention how much wine tasting I did on this trip, haha! The truth is, prior to this journey, I had zero knowledge and understanding around the making of wine. And like most things, when you understand how it came to be, you appreciate it tenfold. I received perhaps my best “lesson” and most touching encounter from the owner and gentleman behind Steven Kent Winery, Mr. Steven Mirassou (pictured above). He and his family have been in the wine making business for generations. Through conversation we both discovered and agreed that art and wine help you to recall the most beautiful memories.
From Steven Kent Winery we headed out to our final destination, Half Moon Bay. This is perhaps my favorite Ritz-Carlton property I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at. The cliff view, as you can see below, is out of this world. We were so lucky to have the sun roll through and headed down to the beach to draw the view (pictured above). I can still hear the waves crashing and envision the walk down to the water. Nothing was more defining of this property than the cliff.
After nearly 9 glorious days on the road, it was time to head back to NYC to start creating the final labels.
It was no small task to try and summarize all that I experienced into 4 cohesive yet distinct works of art. In order to start creating, I began taking notes of what I remembered from each property. I didn’t want to duplicate any particular view or theme so I pushed myself to define each property by one specific theme.
What resulted, you can see below!! For Palm Springs (Bottle 1) it was all about that electric skyline, for Half Moon Bay (Bottle 2) it was defined by that drop-dead gorgeous cliff view, for Santa Barbara (Bottle 3) it was about capturing the natural flora as it rolled out onto the ocean view, and for San Francisco (Bottle 4) it was about capturing the city feel and man-made magnificence otherwise known as the Golden Gate Bridge.
In honor of the new label art, the Ritz-Carlton in partnership with Steven Kent Winery, hosted a gorgeous dinner party in the vineyard. Here I am below at the party, holding the bottles with my art for the very first time. I was beaming with so much happiness, joy, and PRIDE. It was definitely a labor of love and worth every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears.
I signed a number of bottles that night for the special guests in attendance. I even got to have my Mom and Dad attend who flew in from Toronto for the occasion.
And while a very sweet musician strummed his guitar, I went about painting a canvas live inspired by the 5th unofficial label for Steven Kent Winery itself.
It’s hard to put into words what this whole experience meant to me. In a way it marked a new era for my career and TravelWriteDraw. It has always been my greatest dream to have my art on products, to live with you in your homes, so to have my art on these bottles was the first time I saw this dream really come into fruition. And now all I can say is, I want to do MORE!!
I would like to say a BIG thank-you again to the amazing Ritz-Carlton team who feel like family to me (you know who you are). I can’t wait to see where the next adventure takes us. And to all my loyal and loving TravelWriteDraw community members, you are always the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank-you for always guiding me home.