Dames, drawing, drinking and debauchery.
The four Ds of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School are easy to spot. Drinks, especially sangria, flow naturally at Firefly inside the Plaza Hotel. The dame in question is local burlesque performer Vi Vacious, who is lying on her back on the ground, faux fur shawl around her shoulders, breasts pert and covered only by shimmering pasties. She sits, legs crossed and propped up on a chair, posing for the group, which draws the curvy model. As for debauchery — well, this all feels far too much fun to be that productive. But it is.
The Vegas chapter of this monthly life/figure drawing group debuted at the 2008 Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend. Today, it's back, unofficially celebrating two full years of the group's unique marriage of titillating burlesque performers and art.
This outfit's creator and host, Cha Cha Velour, heard about the national Dr. Sketchy's movement and decided to create a Vegas group in order to help educate the local fine art community about burlesque. Despite the city's rich history in the art of near-nudity and tease, it's a small community, one that often has to remind people it exists.
For the rotating burlesque performers who participate, it's a chance for exposure, literally and figuratively. Each session begins with a routine. Seeing the final products, including what the artists emphasize or focus on, is also interesting, as Vi Vacious says.
Meanwhile, the artists get a mini-show and practice at their chosen medium. The theatrical nature of burlesque leads to interesting costuming and artistic challenges for budding artists. With Vi Vacious today there's the barely visible lines of her nude-colored leggings, the shimmering of her pasties and tassels, the ruffle of faux fur, the shadows forming a gulf between her exposed breasts.
"This is the perfect place for people coming into their art," says Jay Sin, a Dr. Sketchy's art monkey (as the participants are called). The amateur photographer has been here from the beginning and has missed only three dates in two years.
Today's special Burlesque Hall of Fame meeting has them at Firefly inside the Plaza Casino, where the rest of the weekend's festivities are occurring. Typically, the group meets every third Tuesday at Dino's Lounge, where drink and food specials abound. The events are free, though a tip jar for the model does make rounds.
Just over two dozen artists participate today, but some sessions have brought out 30 to 40 artists. Jay Sin remembers the group's humble beginnings, including one month where attendance was four: him, Cha Cha, the model and the model's sister.
"We wound up doing stick-figure contests," he recalls, "because everyone knew none of us could really draw."
Those silly contests have lived on. In addition to the model picking her personal favorite after the 20-minute pose, Cha Cha sometimes hosts PlayDoh sculpture contests. Shitty prizes — "courtesy of me and the 99-cent store," Cha Cha proudly proclaims — are given to winners. Today's prizes include a Dr. Sketchy's button, a Slinky and something called "bitch soap."
"I try to encourage everyone to have fun," Cha Cha Velour says. "I tell them, 'Move if you need to. Talk! You can talk!'"
And you can joke. Sessions typically run three hours and within the first hour, the host already has bragged about the new mic she's purchased, had the bartenders introduce themselves and taken musical requests ("Slayer!" someone shouts). Cha Cha also asks the crowd to "give a round of applause for Vi Vacious' breasts." Not surprisingly, everyone was happy to oblige.