“The vice squad contacted the Bluefoot Bar for our very first session because they saw an ad for it and were, like, ‘We’re going to be watching you,’” says Lily Jackson, emcee for Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School San Diego. “In normal life-drawing [sessions], the models often get nude or partially nude.”
On Saturday, November 15, Dr. Sketchy’s will host a “drunken life-drawing event” at its new location, the Ruby Room (formerly the San Diego Sports Club). Since Molly Crabapple founded the first Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School in Brooklyn, New York, in 2005, over 60 branches have been established.
“Molly was a burlesque dancer who does illustrations, so that was her whole thing — screw the traditional thing, let’s get together, let’s have some cocktails and contests like best left-handed drawing or incorporating Smurfette into your picture,” says Doni Conner, an illustrator who regularly attends sessions in San Diego.
Jackson says at least half of the artists who attend the monthly group drawing sessions are female. “If you look at burlesque girls, they’re like real girls,” says Jackson. “They’re not stripper girls with fake boobs, not anorexic fashion-model girls.” Lady Borgia, a burlesque performer who models for Dr. Sketchy’s, explains that cabaret-licensing laws determine that where alcohol is sold, performers must have “a three-quarter coverage of the gluteal area, or the butt cheeks.” The nipples and underside of the breast must also be covered. “For a private event,” she says, “I was able to go to pasties and able to go nude or just have cloth coverage. In the bars we have to have a full bra and full bottom or boy-shorts kind of bottom.”
Most drinks are consumed during breaks between poses. “A lot of artists are pretty shy,” says Jackson. “As the evening progresses, I definitely notice people talking to each other more. [Drinking] kind of lubricates the proceedings, for sure.”
Conner says the drinking aspect doesn’t hinder or enhance her work but agrees that alcohol can facilitate interaction between artists during breaks. In a three-hour session, she might consume three beers. “Most artists and illustrators are sort of socially inept,” she says. “With a couple of drinks, you loosen up.”
One of the reasons Conner prefers Dr. Sketchy’s to more traditional life-drawing sessions she’s attended in Little Italy is that the models are costumed. “In a regular drawing session the model’s always nude, and there’s nothing more to that than maybe different sizes, shapes, and colors.” She prefers it when models bring props. “Once, two models posed on Twister, which was pretty hard [for them], but it was great.”
Modeling for artists is an art unto itself, says Lady Borgia, who used to do live nude modeling for a college art class. “It was nice to be able to figure out poses that accentuated the muscle structure,” she explains. “If you were to kick your heel up and lean onto that leg, that is going to accentuate the calf and quad; if you bend a bit more to the side and lift your arm up, you’re going to get more of the ripple of muscles down the back. The more I get to see what the artists are drawing and what they’re seeing, that’s inspiration for poses.”
Conner says she likes it when models make exaggerated poses, such as curving their backs. Of some burlesque models she says, “Because they’re not traditional models, their poses aren’t spectacular.” Conner attributes this to the fact that most burlesque performers aren’t accustomed to standing still for a long period of time. “They’re usually on stage, doing their acts and stripteases,” she says. When they do pose, too often “They’re laying down on the stage with their feet up on the wall or just sitting. A traditional figure model would know how to hold those exaggerated poses longer.”
According to Conner, even the boring poses of a live model are better than drawing from a photograph. “A photograph is two-dimensional,” she explains. “You don’t get to see the whole shape and form of a person. Let’s say you’re sitting at a table, and you’re at an angle where you don’t get to see the roundness of the shoulder — all you have to do is move a little bit, and then you can see how to draw the line. Also, a lot of fashion-photography lighting doesn’t allow for you to look at form as well as if you have a live person in front of you.”
Conner believes Dr. Sketchy’s attracts more illustrators, comic book, and graffiti artists than it does fine artists. “It’s a fun atmosphere versus a more serious one,” she says. At one session, burlesque performers Mynx D’Meanor and Indiana Jake created a series of poses in which they reenacted a Jack the Ripper scene. “From the beginning to the end of the kill,” Conner remembers. “Her being the hooker on the street and him meeting her, him giving her grapes, then taking her clothes off, to cutting her throat and having her on the ground. They even used red yarn as fake blood.”
Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School
Saturday, November 15
3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
1271 University Avenue