Mural painter Elsa Jean de Dieu on the allure of the bespoke feature wall

Visual art comes in a wide variety of mediums. Some artists create works with traditional media, while for others their canvas is a garden, an entire gallery space, or even a human body. French painter Elsa Jean de Dieu’s modus operandi? Transforming interior walls into works of art. Having previously worked for such high-end clients as Chanel, LVMH and even Princess Caroline of Monaco, Elsa launched her own atelier, Elsa Jeandedieu Studio, in 2015. Wander around town and you’ll see her works at all sorts of locales, from restaurants (Uma Nota in Soho) to gyms (Pure Fitness). She will also be participating in her first group exhibition, The French HK Life, running from June 2-11 as part of Le French May.

We took the opportunity to grab a quick coffee and a chat with Elsa about her inspirations, her working process, and her insights into the allure of the bespoke feature wall.

Gold & copper leaf wall - Pure Fitness California Tower

Gold and copper leaf wall at Pure Fitness
Photography: Ines Laimins. Interior design: Positive Partnership

What’s your working process usually like? 

I have known the designers I often work with for a while – I have spent almost nine years working with them. When they have a project, we sit down and they show me their concept. I know their style – what they like, what they don’t like. Then I go back to my workshop and develop samples, mood boards, drawings, and there is a back and forth with the designer. Finally, I go on-site to work. If it’s a small project it can take two days, but if it’s a bigger one it can take up to two weeks. A big project would be 4,300sqft, like  The Ocean or the Hyatt in Macau. A small project would be a single 650sqft wall.

What challenges do you face while on the job? 

I work with acrylic paints. They dry very quickly, so I have to work fast. That is challenging. The scale is, as well. When I draw a draft it’s quite small and I have to imagine it much bigger. I am also still learning. I never do the same thing, so there are always problems that I have to find solutions to. But I love challenges. It can be stressful, but at the same time I love it because I don’t like being in my comfort zone. I like trying new things. For example, one time a designer asked me to apply gold leaf on velvet. I said: “It’s impossible because the velvet will absorb everything! For gold leaf I need to have a non-porous surface.” But in the end I found a solution.

See more: Editor’s Picks: what not to miss at Le French May 2017

Why do you think clients usually commission you for a wall mural?

People are getting bored of big brands. They don’t want things that look the same. I love wallpaper, but you have to stick with the colours that are available. The good thing with wall art is you can do whatever you want. It’s very flexible. You can combine different colours and textures for a very unique design.

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What’s your residential work like?

Most of the time when I do residential projects here, it’s about small details. I do illustrations on the walls of kids’ rooms as a gift for a newborn baby or for a kid’s birthday. Lots of animals and trees. When I worked in France, residential clients asked for modern finishes, copper or aluminium leaf, fake marble or fake wood.

How do you usually design your own home?

I hate white walls. I cannot stay in a white apartment. It’s not personal, it’s not mine. I like changing all the colours – which is very cheap, actually, and it’s cosier. I do that for all of my apartments. There’s a big difference between an apartment with white walls and an apartment with colour.

What’s your favourite thing to paint?

It’s hard to define what I like because I like so many things! I like painting leaves, but I also love texture and metal leaf such as copper leaf.

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Are there any artists you find particularly inspiring?

I like Banksy. I love graffiti artists like Veils as well.

What do you do when you aren’t working?

When you stay in the city, you need fresh air. I am a trail runner, so I do a lot of running in the mountains. I am always on Lantau and doing a lot of races. I am never in the city during the weekend. I need to keep a balance between my work and my hobbies. When you are a creative person, if you don’t have inspiration then you at least need time [to think].

What would your dream project be? 

I would love to collaborate with a famous artist. I like the energy collaborations create. I have a lot of energy and I love to combine it with other people’s. I would also love to produce something for a famous wallpaper brand such as Pierre Frey.

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