THERE’S no crisis of artistic inspiration that a $5 mojito and a dancer in G-string and pasties can’t fix. Just ask the subculturally minded students of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, an international string of life-drawing classes that has recently established biweekly sessions at the Bungalow Club in Hollywood.
Since taking over the restaurant’s ornately appointed upstairs area in October, the good doctor has attracted photographers and name outsider artists such as Van Arno and Audrey Kawasaki to render L.A. burlesque luminaries -- such as Velvet Hammer’s Nina La Fiamma and Jewel of Denial -- as best they can during happy hour. It’s strong medicine, to say the least.
Dr. Sketchy was first realized more than a year ago in New York City by Brooklyn-born illustrator Molly Crabapple, a.k.a. Jen Caban, and artist A.V. Phibes. Nowadays, Crabapple counts Los Angeles among 13 other currently operating classes around the world, with new classes in Toronto, Berlin and San Francisco opening in a month.
For all these classes, Crabapple insists, albeit from a distance, that certain guidelines listed on the class website (www.drsketchy.com) be adhered to. “Most Dr. Sketchy’s have a sort of irreverence,” she says. “They’re throwing contests. There’s drinking. It’s not just sitting silently and concentrating on people’s rib cages and muscles.”
Like Crabapple, the local head of Dr. Sketchy’s Los Angeles, Kat Bardot, a.k.a. Katie Schiff, also possesses the requisite art school pedigree and burlesque background needed to get Dr. Sketchy off and running wildly into the L.A. art scene. Starting the class in October, Bardot implemented the basic Sketchy’s class format of introducing the model, who occasionally does a show for the artists, and then handing her over to the artists and photographers for sessions that range from 10 one-minute sketches with the model fully costumed to the final 30-minute session in which the model is only partially nude.
Municipal laws routinely prohibit the combination of alcohol and female nudity in unlicensed venues, but for some students, such as Kathy Zandueta, this works out perfectly. “I liked that it was not all nude figure drawing, that there was also gonna be some costumes,” she says. “I liked that there was burlesque. And I like that it’s dancers, because dancers know how the body moves.”
OTHER life drawing classes in the area, such as the long-running Drawing Club, also use models from underground scenes such as burlesque and roller derby. In addition, Crabapple has also plied her New York classes with drinking games and contests that award prizes for best use of a woodland animal in a sketch, so Bardot hopes to shake up the admittedly rote procedure of her current classes with similarly themed contests and models from the fetish and punk-circus sideshow communities.
But because anti-art cannot be taught, Bardot pledges never to provide instruction or to moderate for her class. “It’s more about the experience and practice, really,” she says. “People take the ideas they get at Dr. Sketchy and go home, do a painting inspired by that session. It’s more really of an open forum and not a formalized class.”
Regardless, it is an evolving brand, with support from art journal Juxtapoz connecting the class with its target market and “Dr. Sketchy’s Coloring Book,” Crabapple’s smartly snarky hagiography of the art school’s genesis, selling out its first printing.
However, the goal, at least locally for Bardot, is quite simple.
“I just want people to catch on to an alternative type of figure drawing to art,” she says. “I had figure drawing classes through art school and had some unfortunate-looking models in some terrible poses. I wanna break free of all that and have people see burlesque in a different way.”
Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School
Where: The Bungalow Club, 7174 Melrose Ave. L.A. (323) 964-9494
When: 4 to 7 p.m. every other Sunday; upcoming classes Sunday, with model Zoetica Ebb, and Jan. 21, with Ruby White.
Price: $10; $15 at reserved tables