Katie Bright, AKA Miss Brightside, is a visual storyteller, whose chimerical and romantic artwork not only illuminates a room but one’s spirit. Her illustrations are enchanting, almost intoxicating as the viewer is transported to a world that is plucked from the artist’s mind.
Hailing from across the pond, Katie is making her mark in the art scene in West Hollywood, and nationwide, from public wall murals to avant-garde fashion shows. As the founder of the Welcome to the Brightside Agency, her projects have included custom wallpapers, kimonos, books, illustrations, installations and more. She is also set to collaborate with the Hyatt interior team on the remodel of the renowned Andaz Hotel, Sunset Strip, in early 2023. She intends to bring her full creative force with a site-specific concept as a feature-wall in 239 rooms. Miss Brightside is a talented and industrious creative that is sure to take the world by storm!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I was born to working class parents in a grey, concrete jungle that in 2009 was selected as the first twin town with Walt Disney World Florida. The Magic Roundabout, in Swindon, UK, scored that acknowledgement, however it’s not as exciting as one would be led to believe. The Magic Roundabout in fact is a large concrete circle with five other small lumps of circular mounds pivoting off the gross mass. If freaks out every out-of-town person who drives around it.
Swindon was once the height of the new, the NHS and the Railways began there, and in Victorian England, Swindon was a buzz of life. Swindon is a gateway to everywhere that is more interesting and is often the butt to every comedian’s joke.
I was born into the Thatcher’s England; it was a grim time. Good folk live in Swindon, and I was raised with high values to a kind people. I just always had a bag packed in my mind to leave. I was 19 when I left for Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey, to study fashion design. Apart from the year my dad was sick, and died, I haven’t been back permanently since!
When were you first introduced to art and when did you decide you want to be an artist?
My grandfather Ray, an old-school graphic designer, you know that time before computers. He taught me to draw this one time, I was about 7, but I didn’t recognize the gift he gave me until I arrived in the United States and began illustrating professionally. At school I was hands down the best creative but the worst at life drawing and painting. What I have learned over the years is that my grandfather taught me to express feeling into the work. In a human existence, your own feelings are what make you unique, and nobody can portray them better in your creative output than you.
I was 9 when my first artwork was published on the front of an arts and craft magazine. My teacher Mrs. Greenwood saw that I was bored with life’s reality, and she enthusiastically encouraged me to be creative. It was also around this time I joined the local amateur dramatics group where I discovered the love of costumes. I dreamed of being an actress and singer, but at 13, I realized I had two left feet, the acting was wooden and my singing, well, I just shouldn’t for the safety of everyone’s ear holes. I sat, pondered, and thought I want to become the next Alexander McQueen, so I taught myself to sew.
By the time I reached art college I defied all expectations, I fought the system and showed those who doubted my talent I was going to achieve my dream. I was accepted into my first choice for fashion school and after graduating a BA (Hons) Fashion Design, I accepted my first job in fashion in Italy. In 2002 I moved to Australia and worked in the industry there for 10 years, I didn’t get close to being a McQueen. In 2012 I was working in mainstream fashion which provided well for me, but I was miserable. I implemented a change. After my days’ work, I would go home and make art for nine hours, sleep for 4-5 hours then back to paid work, after six months of this I had my first solo art show, it was a huge success. I quit my job, I quit Australia and moved back to the UK and applied to Central Saint Martin’s for MA in Fine Art.
In 2015 with a new lease of life, I moved to LA. My original Airbnb host introduced me to her interior design friend, who offered me my first gig illustrating. Seven years later I am sitting here writing this journey. I could never have predicted life’s twist and turns. That lesson from Ray, took a long time to sink in, it eventually guided me to stop judging the mark making on the page and accept it is a human expression.
How did you pivot careers and create The Digs Collection?
When I arrived in LA, I didn’t know a soul. So, I just said yes to any creative work that came my way. I launched Welcome to the Brightside, that featured my illustrations of my adult versions of fairy tales, in 2011 while in Sydney. This portfolio of work won me my place at Central Saint Martin’s, however on my MA I stopped illustration and ironically began sewing again. I made this art series that derived out of the Red Riding Hood fable. I was documenting ex-lovers as trophies, wolf masks. WTF… yeah that’s a whole different article. Fast forward to 2015, I landed in LA with a bag full of plush art creations thinking I’m just going to land a prestigious gallery. Delusional! However, the universe had something else in mind.
Shortly after I arrived in LA I began developing adult fable wallcovering. I worked on private commissions working for hotels, restaurants, and bars. The Welcome to the Brightside creative agency soon evolved. In October 2019 with private commissions now starting at $10,000 I conceived a more accessible and affordable business model – The Digs Collection.
The Digs Collection is not your typical homeware company. Digs is short for diggings, both words are slang for home. The objective was to create a series of ready-made murals and large-scale artwork that re-define wallpaper.
The Digs Collection has appropriated the original motto creating “home is where your toothbrush is.” which calls to mind that ‘home’ is ever-changing. A bit like the quest to understand who we are and our purpose on the planet. We are all curious energy that shifts and changes. The Digs Collection, therefore, reflects this metamorphic concept as a tangible artwork in your home, in your personal sanctuary, for you to wake each day a new butterfly and to begin another day of transformation. The philosophy is to evoke the home with aspiration, either of who you are or who you want to become. It’s more than just artwork it’s a moral to live by.
How did your show at the Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles come about?
It was the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas party at La Parc Suite Hotel where I waffled for two hours to the GM of the Mondrian LA. The poor bugger! He mentioned he had a wall I could paint a mural on. The next day I rolled into the hotel to view the space, which included an exhibition space in lobby’s Magic Box designed by Philippe Starck, and the entrance to the infamous Skybar for the hand painted mural. Timing was difficult for me to produce a January exhibit, so I introduced the hotel to K. Ryan Henisey of Art Lounge Collective. Ryan won the contract for the space for a year, and I could choose my timeslot, Art Lounge proceeded to represent me in this show, it was a win-win all around.
I wanted to use this opportunity at the Magic Box to explain the meaning behind the symbolism and metaphors in my illustrations, re-telling of fables and moralistic stories. I proceeded to approach this by creating an Oracle Card Deck and Color-in Instruction Guide Set that worked in conjunction with the artwork in the show.
The Bad Romance, Pretty Toxic Thing, art exhibition previewed at the Magic Box in the Mondrian West Hollywood, June 2022. It was inspired by the song of the same name. Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, which entwines the over-arching lyrical meaning and fairytale to create a new world of highly imaginative mural scale artworks. The artwork explores pretty things that are toxic. This was a new artwork collection which redefines wallpaper, an 84-artwork series, Oracle Card and Coloring Book set, and an Instagramable hand-painted mural on the Skybar entrance wall; in collaboration with Art Lounge Collective, sponsored by Dunn Edwards.
What inspires your art?
I am inspired by anything; my brain never stops ticking with ideas. I seriously could create a collection from a trash bin! Though in all seriousness I would say right now I’m mostly inspired to build on symbolism and hidden meaning. I have been obsessed with treasure maps since I saw the Goonies, so I’d love to create a live installation series that feeds back to an experiential adventure, which makes me super inspired!
Are there any artists that have influenced your works?
I would say I have a melting pot of influence that thread throughout the work. To name a few, YBA movement, Cindy Sherman, Paul McCarthy, Picasso, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Disney, and Pixar.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
Conception, it’s a lightbulb that flickers on, I get a clear vision, so strong. I do work backwards however I am not committed to the that original image. I am open to see how the idea is nurtured and organically evolves. But 99% of the time is lands back to the vision like a prophecy. Its bonkers!
Birthing, I will do what every it takes to make that vision happen, my process is long and arduous. Research is the first step, followed by creating a draft concept, once this feels right, I’ll undertake all the hand illustrations, painting or re-drawing those hand illustrations as vector drawings. Composition is next using the draft as a guideline. Voile it looks exactly as the foretelling!!!
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment to be in your artistic career so far?
This year I have what I call the ‘Impossible-Possible” project to pull off! I have several of these to create this year, but I am armed with pencils sharpened for this challenge!
The biggest of them all is Once Upon a Cocktail – West Hollywood, an illustrated cocktail recipe book featuring 65 of the most notable bars, restaurant, and hotels in the City.
This project began four years ago, like another of my favorite ways to start a new adventure, it began with a romantic breakup! I was back living in West Hollywood and now had the time to dabble with ideas. I had been toying with the concept of illustrating a recipe book since visiting a speakeasy in Vegas. The way they presented their menus gave me so many off-shoot ideas. I had also noodled around a design bible concept of all the interior hot spots in the local Design District. My longtime collaborator and client, the GM of La Peer Hotel, Nick Rimedio, loved both ideas, however, the timing was off.
Skip a few years and a pandemic to Christmas 2021. I rolled into the lobby to meet Nick with the pitch deck to Once Upon a Cocktail, within seconds he was in and behind the project full throttle! Nick introduced me to Sarah Mengoni, from Historically Drinking, and like it says in the web address Sarah has prolific knowledge of history and drinking, and boy was I lucky to snag her as the mixologist on the book. Sarah is curating the cocktails, so we don’t end up with twenty-five margaritas, as well writing intriguing tasting notes! Funding has been very enlightening, and I am proud to say I have a mixed bag of fabulous sponsors to mention a few, Kuleana Rum, Casamigos, Neft Vodka, Visit West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Design District.
The book is larger than life and a citywide affair. West Hollywood is a community based on tourism; we were drowning out over Covid but this book a hell of a life raft of what that community does when we are back standing on our feet! So far included in the book are venues such as the Andaz, Mondrian, Soulmate, Gracias Madre, SUR, Stache, Cecconi’s, Olivetta, and Katana. I called it the “Impossible-Possible” as there is so many moving parts and element to this book, but it has me at the helm and I will nail this challenge headfirst, and this will be my biggest accomplishment to date. Watch me!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Be indifferent to the outcome. In the creative field if you don’t enjoy the journey, the process, give up! You can’t just live for the end and the finish line. Everything happens in its own divine time. You can’t push to make things happen. You can only do one thing at a time so do it well!
What would you like viewers to take away from your art?
I would like to evoke something, like awaken Cleopatra from the tomb, or create an aha moment! I also have the desire for the viewer to have a sense of inclusion, connectivity, or a sense of ownership to the artwork.
Where can we find more information on your artwork, buy it, or see it in person?
welcometothebrightside.com is the over-arching destination to find the artwork. This is the parent company to all the magic she creates.
thedigscollection.com is the online store for the mural wallpaper line, clothing, oracle cards and books.
@welcometothebrightside on Instagram, to follow Katie’s adventures in creative life.
Photos courtesy of Miss Brightside /// Welcome to the Brightside /// The Digs Collection