Hard Rock Hotel, Dublin

Jun 29, 2020Being an Artist

Themed Guitars for the New Hard Rock Hotel, Dublin.

The beginning to this particular project is funny.

After getting a few scam emails in the weeks beforehand, I was a bit dubious when I was contacted by a woman called Heather wanting to know if I’d be interested in painting three guitars for the new Hard Rock Hotel in Dublin.

Hard Rock Hotel Dublin

My first reaction was that this was too good to be true. I obviously didn’t want to dismiss it either so some research was definitely required. When in doubt “Google it” right.

It turned out Heather works for a company called Kalisher, a hospitality art company based in North Carolina, USA. They pair artists with companies or find suitable art pieces for particular briefs.

This information eased my scepticism and I started getting excited. Who wouldn’t want their artwork hanging in the Hard Rock Hotel in Dublin!

After doing my research, I responded to Heather to accept the offer. The full brief included custom designed guitars based on the work of Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick. I’m a huge fan of Jim’s artwork so the idea of creating something based on his work was incredibly exciting to me.

I scheduled a call with Heather to go over the brief, making sure, I understood all that was needed, and to run a few additional questions I had past her. It was good to speak about the project as I find it easier to have a conversation about ideas and to clarify points. It is also much quicker than working via emails or texts.

To begin I had to develop three initial sketches for three fender Stratocasters.

Given that it was the Hard Rock Hotel I figured a musical angle would be suitable. I discovered Jim Fitzpatrick had designed several album covers for rock band Thin Lizzy so I started thinking about possible designs which would complement that body of work. Out of the several album covers I found one I thought would be a good fit for taking inspiration for my artwork.

I chose Thin Lizzy and Phil Lynott as inspiration for the first guitar, painting him with his base guitar and a background inspired by one of their songs “Dancing in the moonlight”. The design I had in my mind, could fit quite nicely with Jim’s mystical themes.

For the second guitar, I chose another great Irish musician, Rory Gallagher, and his song “Bad Penny”.

The brief for the third guitar was that it had to be a floral design, something jungle inspired so that was pretty straightforward.

After finding some reference images for both Phil Lynott and Rory Gallagher I got stuck into working out the layout and flow for the guitars. It took me quite a while but I finally came up with two sketches I was really happy with, as well as a sketch for the jungle themed piece.

I sent them off for approval but it turned out that Jim Fitzpatrick had also been commissioned to do three paintings for the hotel and by coincidence was using the same album cover for inspiration as I was. They figured it would be a bit too heavily focused on Thin Lizzy, too similar, so I was asked if I could choose some other artists.

It was a bit of a bummer but I got stuck into adjusting the artwork. They had listed a number of other artists as options to use so given they were happy with the original sketches in terms of design, I picked Bono and Van Morrison and reworked my sketches.

With approval given on the new artwork and deposits paid, I set out to acquire some guitars to paint.

After consulting my friend Google again, I found that a trip to Walton’s music store in Dublin was required. I could have ordered them on line but I do prefer going into a shop.

My excursion to Dublin happened just before Christmas and all the madness that comes with that. If you ask my better half, Anna, she would tell you I am a fairly laid-back person until I get in a car and then I become a hideous monster.

I am far from a model driver but I have a fairly good grasp of the rules of the road and driving etiquette and there are a lot of people on the road that in my opinion should never have been given a drivers licence.

Driving into the chaos that was Christmas traffic in the city was therefore testing so I was very happy to get my trip done and head home after collecting three brand new Fender Stratocasters from the really nice folks in Walton’s music. The run up to Christmas was hectic so I did not get to paint the guitars the New Year.

I started with the jungle themed one. The basic idea was to create a foliage covered guitar which was simple enough. This is a subject I really enjoy painting, as even with my birds with beats series I try to include as much greenery in the background as I can. I used a shallow depth of field concept to make the detail in the leaves pop and was supper happy with the end result especially when the clear coat went on.

The next guitar on the stand was Bono and the Joshua tree. This had a lot of detail in it, from the portrait of the man himself to all the Celtic knot work and designs.

Trying to paint in the style of someone else especially an iconic artist like Jim Fitzpatrick can be a little daunting so the pressure was on the high side, which made the process a little slower. It was a challenge but one I enjoyed and again as with the jungle guitar I was super happy with the end result.

The last guitar was a Van Morrison design. He’s an artist I knew of but hadn’t  really listened to so a little research was in order to try find a song I could use for background inspiration, one which could also complement the Jim Fitzpatrick style.

Finding a decent image to use as reference for his portrait also proved challenging but I found one eventually. The song I chose as inspiration was “into the mystic”. In contrast to the design of the Bono guitar I kept this piece a bit simpler drawing on Jim’s Celtic images as well as the Thin Lizzy album covers to create a mystical Irish landscape which also complemented the portrait of Van.

Over all I really enjoyed painting these guitars for the Hard Rock Hotel. The whole experience was cool and I’m honoured to have been asked to be part of this project along with some amazing artists, all of us bringing our individual artistic touches to their new hotel in the heart of Dublin, my hometown.

Written by Keith O Brien


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