Dr. Sketchy’s workshops merge art and sex

Art + sex. Seems like an equation that works…

Art + sex… Seems like an equation that works

But is it? According to local Vancouver artist and burlesque aficionado Shary Contrary, the humanity of art can sometimes become buried in stale, sterile drawings. Life is reduced to figures drawn and observed in tight-lipped scrutiny.

In Shary’s “anti-art” workshops, models become breathing subjects that chat and laugh and drink with the people sketching them. Not objects to be observed, but subjects in a cabaret performance, led by a gregarious host with a penchant for whiskey.

Aiming to combine art and performance, Shary discovered the original Dr Sketchy’s event, which was started by Molly Crabapple in New York City. Discussions with her friend and official photographer Gary Hendry, along with a few stiff drinks, led Shary to apply to start her own branch. The result was a Vancouver chapter.

Catch the regular art classes at The Wallflower Diner on Main St. Their latest local event, featuring Lincoln Electra, is Sunday, October 4, 2009, at The Wallflower on Main St.

It’ll be “Part art class, part cabaret… 3 hours of drinking, drawing and decadence! You bring your pencils and paper and we’ll bring you the most beautiful, bizarre and outrageous models for your sketching delectation! Think burlesque dancers, drag kings and queens, circus performers and we let you draw them for a whole three hours!” More information is here.


Art Darts: Why can’t figure drawing be sexy? That is, why is it NOT, in most figure drawing classes?

Shary Contrary: Nude modelling in traditional figure drawing classes treats the model as an object to be studied. Very seriously. In a quiet room. It is a solemn practice—and what’s worse is the class pretends the model is not even there. Warm, naked bodies are reduced to sterile, platonic solids. I’d rather be a pair of tits than an octagon. And I’d rather be a whole person than a pair of tits! 


How about the relationship between the model and the artists—does that change with Dr. Sketchy’s?

SC: In the flavour of all cabarets, the performer is much more interactive with the audience, mingling with the crowd, handing out prizes for their favorite drawings (as in favourite, not necessarily “best”) and knocking back drinks… Vancouver is swimming with creative talent but there are very few venues that bring them all together. 

One thing people might wonder is the line towards (potentially creepy) voyeurism. What are your thoughts on this, and how to negotiate it?

SC: I welcome the drunken hecklers who come to check out the performance. We always have a group of wild artist partiers whose mouths get as much exercise as their hands. For those curious voyeurs who say they can’t draw and just come to watch, I have a special 2.5-foot pencil that I offer them—with real lead and eraser! No one can say no to a giant pencil, and no one can draw well with it either. It’s a great leveller. Before long, they are drawing along with everyone else, laughing at their work, and having a great time.

What was your introduction to cabaret culture?

SC: I was doing this crazy art, all big butts and curvy women, and I didn’t know what to call it. I moved to Vancouver and heard about this “burlesque” festival and I felt compelled to go check it out. I met Crystal Precious and Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society and it hit me—my art was burlesque! 


What do you like best about the Vancouver Cabaret scene? Anything you’d like to highlight?

SC: I highly recommend checking out the local Vancouver burlesque scene: Kitty Nights at the Biltmore, Screaming Chicken’s Taboo Revue, and other events all over the city. It’s something you can’t appreciate by watching it on a movie, or on the Internet. It is part of the DIY movement, a hand-crafted labour of love, it is about bringing people together and appreciating the talents they have to offer.