Lush Life, Portraits from the Bar, Series 2 by Jill Degroff
Story by Sara Gorelick
Lush Life, Portraits from the Bar, has released its second installation of the series, and saloon artist Jill Degroff has done it again; this volume is as captivating as the first.
Lush Life looks at the heart and soul of the industry; the people who make it possible. Degroff’s pages catalog stories from the bar illuminated with sketches bearing a stunning resemblance of the movers, shakers and stirrers the spirits industry has come to know and love. Though you’ve heard their names, communicated with them via email, Skype, or Facebook, and may have been fortunate at one point or another to be seated at their bar its possible you don’t know their backstory and what it took to get them there. Curious? Well, Degroff’s book is the perfect jumping off point.
The book gives you the opportunity to glimpse friends and colleagues through an artist’s eye. The sketches are expertly detailed, catching the expressions that come to mind when we think of the characters we know and love or simply admired from afar. Degroff gives you the ability to throw away any stigmas or preconceived notions about the attentive and often attractive bartender – it is no holds barred from the first story.
The tales on these pages are a reminder of the intricacies of a job which is so much more than mixing booze and slinging shots. Personal stories will cause you to reflect on your own experiences and feel the camaraderie we have all come to know and love. The purpose of the Lush Life collection is strong for Degroff, who knows that it is so important to find time to set it all aside and truly connect with the moment and the person beside you. She says, “The experience of gathering stories for the second edition drove home the lesson that the stories are getting lost now, the art of storytelling is disappearing, with everyone now leading very hectic lives, continuous multitasking and into their gadgets.”
Using no gadget more high tech than a pen or paintbrush, Degroff’s artwork is impeccable; catching features in a most observant way, exaggerating the prominent features while picking up on the slight nuances of a smile or the crease of a forehead. “She works in a three dimensional way, one for the hardest things to work in perspective,” said artist, teacher and art therapist Rosemary Kreder. “You can tell Degroff is a happy person by her drawings and you’d recognize her work. She carries forth a strong gimmick and her pictures make you feel good…this is what art is all about.”
Degroff had limited formal training, and drawing caricatures is a passion she developed after years of doodling in bars and eventually acquired the knack for nailing people. She explains, “I lived in many edgy neighborhoods with bizarre characters. My lower east side tenement featured a different phantasmagoric hell on every floor – from the outpatients from Willowbrook to refugees, gypsies, drug dealers – so there was tons of fodder and I loved to befriend them so I could enter their world and draw them.” Citing Diane Arbus as her biggest influence, Degroff added that her most instructive training came from Friday nights in South Bronx with her best friend (gay and Puerto Rican) and his family eating pastelis, cuchi fritos and learning to dance Salsa, making her the artist she is.
As there is an artistry to the skill of these bar greats depicted on these pages, the same bartenders who are eager to listen to their guests’ story, Degroff’s Lush Life is a chance to see what these bartenders may tell if seated at your bar. Stories tell of hard work and perseverance, while others delight in carefree spirit. No matter the country of origin, each story is as unique as the person telling it, as different as the cocktails they make. A who’s who directory, this quick and enticing read will have you waiting for book three.
“As I stood there behind the bar, it dawned on me that I was center stage and they were a captive audience,” – pg. 5, Dale Degroff
“It has given me a life to create and explore with other like-minded, passionate people and brought me to celebrations as well as the greatest dinners around the world. It’s like a fast ride on my bike; I never know where the next turn is (don’t kid yourself, none of us do), flying along, enjoying every moment of this incredible ride,” – pg 48, Michele Duval
Want your own copy? Purchase a personally signed book by Jill Degroff for $20.00 at http://www.kingcocktail.com/LushLifeBook.htm