Arts & Culture

Artist Spotlight: Katie Brightside

We chat with the British-born illustrator about her perfect day in West Hollywood and her newest project, a book about the city's innovative cocktail culture.

Despite its international influence, West Hollywood is really a small town. It’s such a walkable city that it’s common to run into friends when going to the gym, having lunch or shopping on Melrose. We also love to connect our friends with people we find interesting.

One of those people is Katie Brightside. She’s the British artist behind the beautifully illustrated La Peer Passport (a neighborhood guide provided to guests of the La Peer Hotel) and the creative visionary behind Once Upon a Cocktail, a new recipe book-slash-homage to West Hollywood’s inimitable cocktail culture.

Katie Brightside

With a perpetual smile and a sparkle in her bright blue eyes, Katie’s last name is quite appropriate. She was described as “warmly sassy” by La Peer General Manager Nick Rimedio, and was introduced by Andy Cohen on his Love Connection show as “sexually liberated Katie”—but that’s a story for another time!

Katie’s artwork offers a whimsical and provocative take on fairy tales. During her time as artist-in-residence at La Peer, she aimed to bring aspects of 18th-century French salons into the modern day—a place where creators can come together, co-work, collaborate and share a libation.

Mix yourself a cocktail and come meet artist Katie Brightside.

What is unique about your art and the pieces you create?

I try to inject personality into my work. Either with humor or using a quote or moralist tale. I try to invoke a feeling for the viewer. Never art for art’s sake.

We love the illustrations you made for La Peer Passport. How did that all come together?

I was lucky to be introduced to [La Peer general manager] Nick Rimedio in early 2017. Kimpton needed a map designed for the hotel highlighting hot spots within a one-mile radius. It took about nine months of playful research. The Passport took on many forms before its final montage of illustrations in a pocket- size book handed out at guest check-in.

One of Katie’s illustrations for the La Peer Passport.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?

My grandfather was a graphic designer and taught me at an early age to draw. I was first published on the front cover of an art magazine at age 10. It was an obvious path to a creative career. I went into fashion initially. However, I often preferred form over function. After studying for my Masters in Fine Art at Central St. Martins, London, I pursued art full time.

When you need your personal art fix, where do you go?

Hauser & Wirth, as well as Luis De Jesus.

What piece are you best known for?

The wallpaper in the restrooms at the Farmer’s Daughter Hotel. It’s a story based on female liberation, when a woman becomes the wolf.

Katie Brightside’s wallpaper designs at the Farmer’s Daughter Hotel.

If you could paint anything anywhere, where or what would it be?

Swinetown was an epic tale depicted in illustration / poem of my hometown of Swindon, UK. Now with West Hollywood as my home I’d love to write and create something based on this magical earth I stand on. It would showcase on the billboard of Sunset and Crescent Heights right in front of the Chateau Marmont. How do I make this happen? I’m excited…

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?

I was born to pursue the arts. I couldn’t or wouldn’t want to do anything else.

Your new book, Once Upon a Cocktail, brings local drinks to life through beautiful illustrations. What makes West Hollywood’s cocktail scene so special?

I’m humbled that through the vehicle of this cocktail book, my collaborator and I have united a city—its history, the venues and humans alike—over a drink. But it’s the people—hands down, the people. There are so many gifted bartenders within walking distance of each other. I have had the pleasure of getting to know some very special individuals, hearing their stories and seeing their passion poured into glass. West Hollywood is a magical place that attracts talented, creative people.

An open spread of Katie Brightside and Sarah L.M. Mengoni's new recipe book, "Once Upon a Cocktail."
A spread from Once Upon a Cocktail.

West Hollywood is a magical place that attracts talented, creative people.

Katie Brightside

How did this project come about?

It began in 2018. I had been working on bar and restaurant branding and illustrating menus; I just fell in love with the aesthetics of cocktails and had this idea. I worked with a couple of liquor brands and sketched a draft of Once Upon a Cocktail. Skip two years, the pandemic, work was quiet and I concluded a pitch. It was at the tail end of 2021 I presented that pitch to Nick Rimedio, my long-time collaborator, who introduced me to Sarah L.M. Mengoni, and just like that—Bob’s your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt—the project was greenlit. 

The project became its own thing and grew four times bigger than expected. Had I known then how much was involved I would tell myself to run in another direction. It has physically and mentally challenged me beyond belief, I am not the same person. But I did create something I am extremely proud of and believe that ownership of this fantastic beast is not just mine. It is its own thing, it belongs to Sarah, Nick, Visit West Hollywood, the individual sponsors, the participating venues, the bartenders who have their recipe in print, all viewed from the eyes of the tourist that takes a piece of their vacation home with them to create from their own bar—it’s their book. This ideology brings me joy.

Tell us about one of your favorite drink recipes from the book.

It’s super hard to pick, but the Vegan Daiquiri Jello Shots, set inside a lime shell, are something this book couldn’t live without. It is an elevated party favorite. First of all, they are made with agar agar, a vegan “gelatin.” Second, it is a science to nail this recipe, as you precisely need Appleton Estate Signature Rum and Kalani Coconut Liqueur. And thirdly, they are adorable. 

While my collaborator Sarah L.M. Mengoni took a year with her husband to travel the country in a van named “Vangoni,” I attempted to make the Jello Shots to photograph and use to illustrate from. I have particular angles I like to sketch (I’m very particular) and Sarah’s images were not cutting the mustard. I tried to make the Jello Shots with substitute liquor and they were not setting. I remade them several times until I got it right. As I was failing to make them I was running batches up to the Naughty Pig (my local pub) for the staff to test. I also did this with the Jameson Orange Sticky Toffee Pudding.

You can see why I love both these recipes, they became conversational, inclusive of so many locals sampling and testing. To be honest, most of the recipes have an epilogue of a story I could spin for you, and it is those that are centered around friendships that I love the most.

Katie’s illustration of the Vegan Daiquiri Jello Shot, featured in Once Upon a Cocktail.

Where can people find Once Upon a Cocktail?

With every venue I secure to sell the book, I may shed several tears. It’s really wonderful to receive so much support. Whether it is five books or 500, every venue has a piece of my soul in their hands.

Current stockists are Fred Segal, Book Soup, Circus of Books, Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth, 1 Hotel West Hollywood, Andaz West Hollywood, Hugo’s Restaurant, SUR Restaurant & Lounge, Petrossian, West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Artlounge Collective, and we had the honor that Springboard Hospitality purchased one for every room of the Chamberlain West Hollywood, Le Parc at Melrose, Montrose at Beverly Hills and Hotel Ziggy.

I also have them listed on the website but I really want to encourage sales through the community that have supported this from the get go, that’s really important to me.

Lastly, what does a perfect day in West Hollywood day look like for you?

A day sleeping looks perfect right now, it’s been a long two years in the book’s creation since I’ve had the pleasure of a full day of nada. So many places have come and gone in that time. So I write this from a fantasy dream of such a perfect day.

I’d start the morning with Sweat Yoga on Santa Monica Boulevard, grab a latte from Dayglow, walk home via Earthbar for an acai bowl, take a meeting at Ospero and have a slice of lemon meringue pie, a massage at Sparadise, happy hour at Holy Water, dinner at Tesse, and I’d finish the day in the witching hour dancing and laughing at karaoke hosted by Reggie at the Naughty Pig, where you are most likely to meet half the town’s bartenders for a post-shift “good time” wind-down.

Updated from an original article by Maxine Tatlonghari.

Maxine Tatlonghari
About Maxine Tatlonghari
Maxine Tatlonghari is the award-winning #femalefounder behind the Vanity Girl Hollywood brand. She is also a beauty boss lifestyle blogger and serves as the first Vice Chair of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. She has been featured in Forbes and Huffington Post. She lives, works and plays in West Hollywood.

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