Ever since I was 17 and still in High School I have been figure drawing (yes, that means naked people). I also taught it for quite some time during the 80s and 90s.
Often times artists don’t really want to take a class in figure drawing, they just want to draw the figure. To fill that need around the country at art centers and museums and schools they have open figure drawing sessions. You pay a certain amount to cover the cost of paying the model, and then you just draw. They have someone in charge of hiring the models and keeping time, but that is about it.
It’s Not What You Think
Most of the time these sessions are very staid and mundane. I don’t mean there aren’t great models and drawings being done but, opposite of the popular imagination, they aren’t lascivious bastions of libertine men and scarlet women indulging in pornographic excess. They are models, male and female, with bodies of all sorts posing in academic poses that aren’t presented as sexual or titillating.
About 10 years ago a burlesque dancer in San Francisco, Molly Crabapple, decided to try something different to shake up this way of figure drawing. She founded the Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. It really isn’t a school at all, it’s just a fun, recurring event that combines performance, modeling, drinking and drawing.
Lot6 Art Bar
Last night (11/15/14) was the first Dr. Sketchy event in Tulsa in many years. I had wanted to go to it back when it was last active, in 2010, but never got around to it. But I had an opportunity last night to go. These are the drawings that resulted. Nothing fancy or profound, just some fun drawings. It took place at a very cool Art Bar close to downtown Tulsa called Lot6.
The Belly Dancer
The model you see here, Zaira Amar, first did a belly dance, then sat for a total of 5 drawings, ranging in time from 3 to 20 minutes in length. I can tell you, it’s not a lot of time when a model is nude, but put her or him in a costume with textures and baubles and jewelry and yards of fabric and it’s really not a lot of time!
She had a giant scimitar sword that she held for a few of her poses. I was worried she would drop it or cut herself somehow, but she obviously knew what she was doing with it having danced with it many time I think.
Here’s the finished drawing, completed a few weeks later. Here’s a link to a short story illustrated with this image.
In between the dancing and modeling there also was a stand up comedian, Drew Welcher. She was pretty funny, mostly self-deprecating about her sexuality and her body. She got a bit raunchy, but I was busy drawing her and was actually only paying so much attention to her routine.
The Burlesque Dancer
The other model for the night was Afsana Rose, a burlesque dancer. She did a very cool feathered fan dance, then modeled for times ranging from 3 to 20 minutes just as Zaira did.
While I was drawing, Hilton Price, the MC for the evening, took this photo of me drawing Afsana for future publicity.
Draw What It Is Doing, Not What It Is
I got a drawing lesson many decades ago from a great professor of mine, Michael Mazur. He said, “make your hand do what the thing you are drawing is doing.” In other words, if the thing is solid and rectalinear, then make your drawing hand make those solid and rectilinear movements. And if your subject is a feather fan, then make your hand make the movement a feather makes. That’s easier said than done of course, but that is what I kept in mind as I drew her feather fan in these two drawings.
Afsana had a many tattoos, most of which I was not able to capture in the short time I had. One tattoo I had noticed and was glad I was able to capture was a spider web in her underarm. All I could think about was how much it had to hurt to get it done!
Afsana changed costumes a few times. She wore a frilly sheer polka dotted light covering over a 50s style white push up bra in the pose above. Once again, trying to capture the action of that frilly outer garment was the key to the drawing.
In her final pose she was in what seemed like a pretty classic burlesque outfit. The preeminent feature was the very big feather boa. But it wasn’t feathery in the same way as the fan. The feathers were blocky and squared off at the end, so I made that sort of movement with my hand as I drew it. She also had long gloves on that weren’t too different in color from the boa so I had to make sure their texture and lines were sufficiently different enough to stand out.
At the end of the session the artists can submit drawings to be judged by the models. Each model, and the comedian, decide which drawing they like best and that artist gets a small prize. In my case I received a little sketchbook, something you all know I will use! I also got free admittance to the next Dr. Sketchy, so that’s cool as well.
It was a cool and different figure drawing experience. I made a number of new friends and had a great time drawing.
I might work on some of the drawings a little bit more. I am tempted to finish some, add color to others. We shall see and I will let you know!