Imagine a drawing class and you probably conjure an image of a studious group of experienced artists silently sketching a bowl of fruit whilst a demanding teacher paces back and forth whispering criticism to students.
If you were to take that image and replace the studious group of experienced artists with a fun gaggle of drinkers who might not have drawn anything since kindergarten, and then were to substitute the whispering teacher with an gregerous social director, and then were to swap out the bowl of fruit for a corseted madam doing a dance routine inside a steel cage, then you’d have a vague picture of what it’s like taking a class at Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School.
A Dr. Sketchy’s class is like a cross between an alternative burlesque show and an overdose of artistic mayhem. In a Dr. Sketchy’s class it is the models, not the students, who are the center of attention. And what models they are! Tattooed hunks, leather-clad submissives, feather-covered dancers, torpedo-brassiered vixens and/or skull-decorated Hindu goddesses perform a sort of stage show. The students, meanwhile, draw the surreal scene while class leaders organize drawing games and competitions.
Dr. Sketchy’s anti-art classes are no place for children, partly because the models who perform are in various states of undress and partly because of the copious amounts of alcohol consumed. But other than being the requisite age—and having an open live-and-let-live attitude—there are no requirements for participants. Students (called “art monkeys” in Dr. Sketchy parlance) come from all backgrounds and often have no artistic skill.
Dr. Sketchy’s was started in by two art school drop outs: illustrator John Leavitt and model Molly Crabapple. (One of Crabapple’s major influences in starting the school was her time spent working and living in Shakespeare & Company, which regular Spot Cool Stuff readers may remember from our roundup of the World’s Best Bookstores).
The first anti-art class took place in 2005 in a New York City dive bar. Since then Dr. Sketchy’s has moved into more comfortable digs and to many more places. There’s a Dr. Sketchy branch in over 100 cities from Akron to Zagreb with applications from people wanting to start a new branch pouring it at the rate of a dozen per week.
With so many Dr. Sketchy’s branches there’s a reasonable chance that you live near one. Even if that’s the case, Spot Cool Stuff suggests partaking of an anti-art class on your travels. The Dr. Sketchy’s in, say, Stockholm offers a very different experience from that you’ll receive at Dr. Sketchy’s Tokyo or Detroit or Guadalajara. That’s because each branch is independently run and each pulls from their local pool of subcultural models; a Dr. Sketchy’s class is an amazing foray into the otherwise difficult-to-access underground performance scene of a particular destination.
If you can’t make it to a Dr. Sketchy’s anti-art class—or don’t dare try—you can get a peak into the bizarre burlesque anti-art world through the Dr. Sketchy’s Official Rainy Day Colouring Book. Within its pages you’ll find drinking games, burlesque paper dolls and over 100 illustrations that are definitely, definitely not like any drawings you had in your coloring books when you were a kid.
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