In 2005 New York artist Molly Crabapple founded an “anti-art school” in a Brooklyn dive bar built on the appealing premise: “dames, drinking and drawing.” In the nine years since, Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School has become a movement, taking place monthly in 100 cities across the globe. Artists (and non-artists) show up at bars to sketch live models—mostly performers or pinup types—in a loose, social atmosphere with plenty of cocktails within reach.
Southern Nevada is home to two Dr. Sketchy’s. We see how they line up:
Sketching gone wild
Lolita Haze, the Nymphet of Burlesque, is onstage with whip in hand. Her ample bosom, slung in a dusty pink bra, is spilling out of her unbuttoned Western shirt. Host Michele Hengeveld tells us over the themed music that we have only 30 seconds to draw this pose—a “Quick Draw” contest to match the evening’s Wild West theme.
“I’m doing 30-second erases,” Dave Nusbaum says, brushing away erasure marks on his pad where two other sketches put my marker scratches to shame. The room has filled out. Artists of all skill levels concentrate on the platinum blonde Haze and her cherry-red lipstick as she strikes a new pose to the sound of AC/DC’s “Money Talks.”
Nusbaum, knocking out another flawless sketch, tells me he’s not a professional artist but attends other life-drawing sessions in town, including one at the Arts Factory and, for a while, a Sunday session at Blackbird Studios.
Near the back of the room Jazmin Arce and Andrea Knox share a table covered with oil pastels, graphite chunks, markers and pencils. When I ask if they’re artists, Arce cracks a smile and firmly states, “We are not.” They’re here to stretch their creative muscles and socialize. “I took art in college and went in another direction,” Knox says. “I like the fact that it’s low-key and there’s no performance anxiety.”
Arce buys a sketch just completed by Lee Lanier, founder of the Boulder City Dr. Sketchy’s. Haze does an outfit change and returns looking like a dessert, posing in a garnished red-and-white number. Eventually, the model selects winners from the notepads placed onstage, handing out prizes—tickets to House of Blues, free drinks and, for Steve Horlock, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles jigsaw puzzle with crayons.
It’s likely not his first win. He’s been attending Las Vegas Dr. Sketchy’s since the Vegas group was formed by Cha Cha Velour in 2008 at the Aruba.
“I love it,” he says. “It’s the anti-art school. I can have fun, have a few drinks, relax and I can make noise.”
Las Vegas Dr. Sketchy's Every third Thursday, 8-11 p.m., free with tips for models. Artifice, 1025 S. First St. #100, drsketchy.com/branch/lasvegas.
White tights and tinsel
“I don’t drink and draw,” Audrey Fox tells me, halfway through the session as I sip my beer. It would ruin her focus, she says, while checking out recent drawings on her Samsung tablet and turning to teach me “claw rescue”—her formula for fixing a poorly drawn hand, of which I’ve made two on a piece of copy paper.
“I like how it has a G.I. Joe kung fu grip,” Neil Kesterson, chimes in, his own accomplished drawings before him.
We’re in a quaint, low-ceilinged overflow dining space that doubles as wine storage at Milo’s Cellar—an intimate gathering place for the eight of us who turned out for tonight’s session, including Ira Cohen, visiting from New York, where he can never attend the Dr. Sketchy’s in the Village due to work.
Our ballerina model, Alexandra Keogh, curls up with a pillow, feigning sleep while we sketch her lines. The dancer’s white tights and black leotard are out of character for Dr. Sketchy’s, but this is Boulder City, where clothes, more often than not, stay on in public.
“We are a little more conservative than Las Vegas. No pasties,” says founder Lee Lanier, who originally held sessions in the basement of the Boulder Dam Hotel (and also founded the Dam Short Film Fest). “Las Vegas is rowdier and burlesquier.”
Still, the Boulder City sessions have featured a “tool-belt diva,” a Barbarella-style sci-fi model and a Kill Bill-themed night. The October 7 session promises an Elvis impersonator.
We listen to a can-can, David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.”
Fox, like Lanier, attends both Dr. Sketchy’s and won this evening’s first-place prizes—vanilla-flavored toothpicks, a Las Vegas Dr. Sketchy’s sticker and Christmas tree tinsel. Her works have a fashion illustrator’s bent, very stylistic and lyrical. Kesterson is new to the group, wandering in one night when a Milo’s waitress noticed him sketching patrons during dinner. She asked if he was there for Dr. Sketchy’s, but he hadn’t even heard of it. “I just sort of stumbled in,” he says.
Dr. Sketchy's Boulder City Every first Tuesday, 7-9 p.m., $10. Milo’s Cellar, 538 Nevada Way, drsketchy.com/branch/bouldercitynv.