I was so excited to check-in to the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal. Positioned right across from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, it boasts the most incredible views of one of the most spectacular sights in the world. You can see my illustrated interpretation of the stunning hotel lobby during its signature sunset moment above. Furthermore, it was race weekend! Months went into planning and preparing for our partnership during the final F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and it was finally here!
We started the weekend with an inspiration walk and photo shoot around the property before heading over to the mosque. The hotel has such beautifully manicured gardens. There is one arched nook in the gardens that is perfect for drawing, reading, or simply for an Instagram moment. When we headed over to the mosque it was busier than I’ve ever seen it before. General rule of thumb I’d say is to go just before sunset. The weather isn’t as hot, typically the crowds have cleared, and you get a glowing light cast over the minarets.
Above is one of my favorite photos from our visit that day. The details, tiles, and chandeliers at the mosque are just otherworldly beautiful and ornate. Even though I’ve visited twice before, it still takes my breath away, and when I wear the robe I really feel like I’m stepping into another world. You must, must go when you visit Abu Dhabi.
By the time we wrapped at the mosque, we had to quickly change and prepare to head to the race track. I was the very lucky Ritz-Carlton brand partner who got to experience being in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas garage to watch from the viewing gallery behind Lewis Hamilton’s car as he pulled onto the track. I also got to experience the 3 min hot lap (which felt like a lifetime given my fear level hah) with one of the F1 drivers in a Ritz-Carlton branded car that drove at 240 km/hr!! My poor driver must have lost part of his hearing from how loud I was screaming.
I can’t begin to describe how utterly surreal this whole experience was. We had unparalleled access to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas team and a Ritz-Carlton yacht permanently parked in the dock alongside the race track where we could return to and from in between the different activations. We also got to dance in the evenings there with our brand family and friends.
On the actual race day I was quite nervous because it was also showtime for me. I was going to be painting LIVE during the two hour race, capturing what would hopefully be Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas crossing the finish line first. Above you can see Bradley and I walking the red carpet of the Paddock Club on our way to the Mercedes Silver Arrows Lounge where I would be setting up my easel to paint!
Above you can see the finished canvas I created during the two hour race and below you can see the final moment I illustrated when Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line to place first in the final F1 race of the season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. When the fireworks went off and he was spinning his car on the track in elation, tears streamed down my face. Having spent the very brief time with him that I did in Berlin, I could only imagine how he must have felt in that moment! I also felt relief that I created a new work of art live that I was proud of.
We spent the night celebrating and dancing on the yacht the Ritz-Carlton rented for the race weekend and had the absolute time of our lives. Some of my happiest moments ever were had that weekend. This was truly a trip of a lifetime!! The next morning we had one last stop to make on our way back to Dubai from Abu Dhabi, the Louvre.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of the most spectacular works of architecture I have ever seen. We filmed the beginning clip of my F1 Race Weekend Video for the Ritz-Carlton here and then we were free to explore, take some snaps, and have an incredible last day together in the sun. You can see my final illustration of the Louvre below. I really wanted to make sure I captured some of the local women in their black abayas and amazing fashion accessories peaking out too. I still can’t believe how lucky I was to be apart of this partnership and thank my lucky stars everyday that it came to be.