Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Doctor Sketchy's Anti-Art School, Pittsburgh

This Saturday past I went to an event at the "Future Tenant" gallery here in Pittsburgh called Doctor Sketchy's Anti-Art School. This event required a ten-dollar donation to the Pittsburgh Toonseum in order participate. It was essentially a life-drawing session with a variety of non-traditional art models (girls with piercings, tattoos, and unusual hairstyles). The draw here was that they would have little contests with some random prizes for the winners.

I had never been to one of these events before, and I was looking forward to it for quite some time. In the hours before it started, I decided to go on a long bike ride. As they had closed the route that I was going to take unexpectedly, my ride home was actually about ten miles longer than I had planned for in almost ninety-degree weather (and I am really, really out of shape). This is important to remember so that when I say that I was tired before I walked the mile to the event there is no misinterpretation. Getting home later than I expected, I showered, picked out some clothes, and began to decide what art supplies I wanted to bring. I had expected a few long sets with just a few models, so rather than haul my entire big sketchpad down to the gallery with me I tore three sheets of drawing paper from my 11 X 14 tablet and rolled them into my art tube. For a drawing surface I carried a large clipboard that I had recently purchased from the Goodwill store for two dollars, as it had a handle and my more expensive drawing boards do not. I did all of this because I really didn't feel like hauling my Art Institute of Pittsburgh portfolio bag to the place with me. I brought a bag of various hardness pencils to draw with, and topped the whole of my outfitting with my "Most Pretentious Art Hat," which is really just a golf hat that kind of looks like a beret. I set out later than I would have liked, but I would still get there a little early.

When I first arrived, I noticed (possibly for the first time ever) that Future Tenant is not air-conditioned. Fortunately, after I had made my donation, the drinks were free (I ended up drinking almost all of their Diet Pepsi and a few glasses of water before the night was over). Future Tenant is a rather small space, and they had set up buffet tables with white paper tablecloths on them for the guests. I felt that this was rather pointless, as there really wasn't a stage for the models to pose on. What it amounted to was that if you were in any row but the front one, you couldn't see the models except for their heads and shoulders. Putting them in the center of the room, or having a runway or stage for them would have been better.

The event was M.C.'ed by "Doctor Sketchy" (real name Joe), a loud man in a loud suit who presented the contests and the models. For what he had to work with that night, he did a really good job and I salute him. The theme that night was High Fashion, and one of the models was actually running the show because she was going out to Los Angeles to be a fashion designer. All of the outfits worn by the girls were designed by this model whose real name I cannot recall but went by the pseudonym Vontinka.

This wasn't exactly what I'd call a free-range art show. It was somewhat annoyingly strict in terms of what they wanted you to draw and how fast you had to do it. The first exercise involved drawing a penguin. Like a fool I tried the realistic approach, but the prize was given to a girl who drew a cute and well-executed primitive. You will have to forgive my description of the proceedings, as I didn't really have time to take any pictures of other peoples' work.

Next, we got into the models. We were given two five-minute poses with the first model, and as I hadn't done any real life drawing in awhile it took some time to get into the swing again.

Still, I didn't think that it was all that bad, until I saw the one that won. That's when I knew that I was way out of my league in terms of skill. I just couldn't hold a candle to these other (and usually younger) artists.

The next exercise came when they wanted a drawing of the gallery's namesake, "Future Tenant." They only gave us two minutes to sketch it out, and I really wasn't sure what to do, so I churned out the following cartoon:

I wish that I had more time to finish the cop, but this is the one that won. The gallery's proprietor cracked up when she saw it, so she had to choose it over the Astronauts everyone else was drawing (future tenant, get it?).

It was time for the second model, which as it turns out works at the Bee-Hive coffeehouse that I sometimes hang out at. She has an excessive amount of tattoos, and a shaved-head with a patch of green-dyed hair, but she's actually a really cute girl. I say this because my drawings of her turned out AWFUL, and they can't convey her sublime natural beauty.

See what I mean? I still feel really bad about those, particularly because I see her on occasion when I visit the Bee-Hive. I apologized to her the last time I got iced tea there.

I should point out that in case you haven't noticed yet, all of the "high-fashion" dresses are the same design - a one-piece job with the separation between the skirt and brassiere right below the latter, which makes any fine-looking woman look like she's trying to look like either a toddler or a pregnant mom-to-be. I can't say that I liked the dresses, but that is the current style at a lot of those "pay fifty dollars more than the clothes are worth for discount store quality" stores.

Anyway, the next model and the first model teamed up on the next set, and they were wearing some rather form-fitting clothes, but as it was a ten minute set to draw two figures I didn't finish one (because people were in the way) and failed to tweak either.

After that, she took a break and the fashion designer was brought up to the front and made to pose. She was a tall, skinny girl with red hair and some of the deepest eyes I've ever seen on a person. Unfortunately, both my drawings of her turned out really bad, and I opted to not include them for the sake of this blog entry.

At this point, I began to run low on drawing paper, and had used up both sides of all three sheets. I began to make the drawings smaller and less inclusive to the total figure to save space.

The next model was announced by Doctor Sketchy, right after he said that he didn't know how they were going to replace Vontinka when she had left - the next model was a dead ringer for her, though her eyes were maybe not quite as deep, but still almost as interesting. I got one decent picture of her with a teddy bear in the two ten-minute sets we were allowed.

We then took a little breather while the Models changed costumes again. I got up to get another Diet Pepsi, when who should I see sitting right behind me but my old instructor, Ms. Love. I knew that she probably didn't remember me, and that even if she did that she didn't care one way or the other, much less like me. I just waved and ignored her the rest of the evening.

The exercise that followed was pretty much the same as the "Future Tenant" drawing, except that the theme was "High Fashion." My drawing was of a dress model with a bong mounted on its headpiece and syringes for needles. I lost to a drawing of a marijuana-smoking shoe.

One of the models from earlier came back out with a different outfit on, and she did a few two minute poses:

Once these were done, she did a fifteen minute long pose, aided by the Teddy bear's head:

For the last set, the three main models of the evening changed to long-dress type costumes with some really revealing tops, and made a bustle-train for ten minutes. I was so low on paper at this point that I had to make the drawing exceptionally small in the margins of the overall sheet, but I still managed to get all three figures.

That pretty much wound up the night. I turned to leave and found that Ms. Love had left (probably a great deal earlier), I can only assume because she didn't win any of the contests. This would be something that I would do again, though it would be better if I had friends that were available to do it with me.

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