As a response to panic buying frenzy that swept the globe, the New York-based illustrator’s series highlights the toxicity of these long standing pantry items.
We love to hear about a creative’s latest endeavours over here at It’s Nice That, especially if that update involves one of their favourite commissions to date. Gigi Rose Gray, an artist born and raised in New York City, bedazzled us with her illustrations of women and buildings nearly six years ago. Since then, Dorchester Collection commissioned her to create an illustration for each of their ten hotels. “It was a dream project that had me travelling to five countries,” she tells It’s Nice That, “spending a few nights in each hotel to create the series.”
Not only this, Gigi’s also signed with her first agency, Tiphaine Illustration, and has worked with clients such as Air Canada, Oscar Properties, Departures Magazine, Elle Decor, Oprah Magazine and the Boston Globe. Meanwhile, she’s started producing larger-scale fine art pieces and has exhibited a collection with Christie’s and Voltz Clarke gallery in New York – a project that’s been in works over the course of the last year. “My process for creating illustrations hasn’t evolved much since 2015, but when I began delving into fine art I had to come up with a new technical process,” she tell us of her transition over the years. “I didn’t want it to be too much of an aesthetic departure from my existing work, but wanted to scale up and invite a warmer, more tactile sensibility.”
In doing so, Gigi now experiments with a variety mediums, which includes the hand colouring of black-and-white photographs. She renders each image in graphite, scanning them and assembling them digitally, before turning them into giclee prints that are hand-coloured using PanPastels. It’s an evolution of process that she’s finding much joy in pursuing, all the while toying with her own sense of style and interests. “Although I still lean towards certain colour palettes and subject matter, I’m more interested in experimenting with different ways of depicting those themes of interest,” she says. There’s mounted pressure in the industry to adhere to a recognisable style, all for the sake of gaining commissions and being sought after for that aesthetic only. But Gigi sees this as “creatively stifling”, and, while getting older, she’s realised an increasing desire to branch out and explore different avenues – the type that won’t alienate her from her work, and instead will open up more varied opportunities.
When Gigi was growing up, her mother used to take her to art classes from the time that she could hold a paint brush. She also had the chance to observe a group of older artist friends, watching their way of life and creating, “albeit from an entirely different generation, of which I still romanticise.” The city of New York was an undeniable influence too, which naturally evolved into a subject matter she would illustrate in her years to come. Further influences arose from her studies in illustration at Parsons, combined with an affection for film and photography from the 1950s and 70s – citing filmmakers like John Cassavetes, Chantal Ackerman, Pedro Almodovar, Jacques Tati, Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol to name a few. Not to mention photographers such as Garry Winogrand, Gordon Parks, Helen Levitt and Harry Gruyeart.
As for Gigi’s most recent pieces, she points us in the direction of a food advertisement series she made in response to the panic buying frenzy that swept the globe during the lockdowns. “I was surprised to see canned foods and other non-perishables becoming coveted items worth fighting over in grocery aisles,” she recalls, collecting vintage food advertisements simultaneously and realising many similarities. “This lead to a rabbit hole of researching all the ingredients in canned foods, condiments and other long standing pantry items – all of which, unsurprisingly, were riddled with toxic ingredients.” The idealism of an organic way of life was tossed out the window during the pandemic, despite the cry for health and boost in immunity. As such, a series on the topic of reimagining these for adverts started to form, whereby Gigi has switched the logos with the food’s leading toxic ingredient. “I suppose it’s a lighthearted, humorous approach to making an informative series.”
This work, alongside her detailed observations of people, posters and city streets affirms the illustrator as a type of voyeur. She speaks of this tendency as a result of being raised in a building in NYC, peering out of the windows at other buildings – “which has left an indelible impression on me,” she says. “I suppose much of my work, capturing people frozen in a moment, is meant to convey a feeling of connection and yet also isolation.” She has a knack for turning her subjects into familiar strangers, the people that you pass everyday as you go about your daily antics. It’s a craft, a skill no less, to be able to capture these moments so abruptly. With plans to continue illustrating as well as transferring her art into other mediums, like album covers, we can’t wait for Gigi’s next chapter.