One reads a lot about how going out of your comfort zone boosts your creativity. I don’t know if that’s the case with the activity described here.
A few years ago a friend told me about Dr. Sketchy’s. It is themed drawing sessions in a bar with the models whittling down their costumes to nearly nothing as the evening winds down. Burlesque, purposely strange and amusing. You can see how it all started (in NYC), and why, at the Dr. Sketchy’s FAQ. Note that the Northampton branch is not nearly as snazzy as the pictures on the official Sketchy’s page would indicate that at least some of the other branches are. Dr. Sketchy’s Northampton is decidedly funky, but that’s a compliment.
When I first went, several years ago, it was held at The Elevens bar in Northampton, now defunct. The Elevens was kind of seedy and the drinks fairly weak, but there was a stage and a backstage for the models and high tables and stools behind lower ones for two-tiered seating that allowed a pretty good view of the stage each time. They also had great playlists accompanying the poses. When The Elevens was shut down, Dr. Sketchy’s Northampton had several venues, none of them offering anywhere near the same visibility of the stage, if there even was a stage. My friend and I found ourselves wondering at our missing The Elevens.
Sometimes something you miss comes back to you. The Elevens venue has recently been taken over by the One Bar, and it is just like it used to be, seedy, good views of the models, great playlists. Dr. Sketchy’s back on the First Friday of every month.
Now this is not a venue where people above 40 generally frequent. Consequently, my friend and I don’t go unless the other is willing to go, so as not to be odd (i.e.,old)-woman-out alone. Still, it is always a bit uncomfortable not being a 20-something dressed far more out-there than we are. Plus, there are, potentially, people watching you draw. And drawing people is hard, particularly if there is more than one model. And there are people who can make really, really good, gallery-ready stuff — even with the 3-minute poses — sitting all around you, possibly seeing how lame your scribbles are in comparison to what they wonderously produce. And it’s pretty dark, so you can only kind-of, sort-of see what you’re drawing. Yes, it fills me with anxiety.
So why do I go? I go to have fun. I’m not saying it’s easy to brush away the other stuff. I never do entirely. And since I haven’t been to figure drawing at all in the last few years, my people-drawing skills are not great, adding to the anxiety. I have the constant loop in my head telling me what I am drawing is really bad and that I should have stayed home. But still I manage to have it be fun.
Much of the credit for the fun is due to the people who do the work to make it happen. The MC is Clyde Dale (who, I found out last night, works at State Street in his other life). The props are funky, no matter what the theme. Last night was particularly funny because it was advertised (on Facebook) as a David Bowie tribute. But when we arrived, the stage was littered with plastic Easter egg halves, had a dead-looking stuffed bunny, and the odd Easter basket here and there. The model started out wearing robes and a silver sparkly sort-of halo, posing like Jesus. Later, she labored under a very large cardboard cross. And then as the night went on, the model became more Playboy bunny than Easter bunny. There was some David Bowie music….
I think I go, despite the angst, because I want to be able to be comfortable there. My age should not limit what I do, as long as my motivation is just to enjoy what I’m doing, not to make it so that I seem young and cool. (As my Dr. Sketchy’s friend often says, “That ship has sailed.”). And my motivation has never been that. So the big question now is whether I will ever be comfortable in my own skin at Dr. Sketchy’s. Will I ever stop feeling like the old interloper who can’t draw? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I’ll keep working on it and hope I’m able to enjoy the ride.