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Dr. Sketchy's celebrates a year in Charleston

WANT TO GO?

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School First Anniversary

Featuring  Kitty Kilton and Bellarosa

WHERE: Kanawha Players Theater, 309 Beauregard St.

WHEN: 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: Pre-register (before 3 p.m. Sunday) $8, at the door $10

INFO: www.facebook.com/drsketchychaswv CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Local artist and photographer Chase Henderson wouldn't exactly call bringing Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School to Charleston part of some grand business plan. He was just looking to add something unique to the Charleston arts scene.

 When discussing the event a year ago, he said, "I love it when things happen in Charleston. This seemed to me like something fun that could work, and, if it worked, maybe others would try to find other fun things to do in town."

Getting rich by charging people to come draw pictures of his partially clothed friends was the furthest thing from his mind. It just seemed like a good time. On Sunday, Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School will celebrate one year in Charleston.

"But I didn't know if it was going to work," he said recently. "I mean, I hoped it would, but I had no idea."

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School was started in Brooklyn by illustrators Molly Crabapple and A.V. Phibes. The two hosted a figure drawing workshop for illustrators (amateur and professional), often in bars. Each workshop had a costume theme, with models dressing up as superheroes or characters from TV shows, movies or books.

The point of it was to have a good time and make art more accessible to audiences. It was a big hit, and soon the idea spread to other cities around the world. Currently, there are more than 120 cities with Dr. Sketchy franchises.

Henderson got involved with it after a mention on Twitter from noted science fiction and fantasy writer, Neil Gaiman. Henderson, a fan and follower of the author, checked it out and immediately wanted to get a franchise in Charleston.

The response has surprised even him.

"It's funny how that worked," he said. "We started off with a core of maybe seven or 10 people, but then others came in and that core shifted. So now we have a different core than what we started with."

Dr. Sketchy's kicked off its first few shows in Charleston at The Empty Glass but later moved to the Kanawha Players Theater, its current location.

"We had a really good experiences at The Empty Glass but scheduling and holding the Sunday slot -- that was just too much."

Henderson said he'd love to try hosting another event there, as well as maybe taking the show on tour to other parts of the state. In the meantime, Dr. Sketchy's remains in Charleston, usually held the third Sunday of each month. Every month, there's a new theme and, often, new models.

"I get asked about posing frequently," he said. "I'm always interested if you have a really good idea."

Novelty counts. Henderson said he never wants to repeat the same theme in the same way. Themes in 2011 included comic book characters, zombies, roller derby girls and mobsters. Some themes aren't as successful others, though Henderson pointed out that in some cases that isn't the fault of the models or the concept.

For instance, in September, Dr. Sketchy's did a tribute to the Cartoon Network show "Adventure Time," which included special prizes, like signed artwork from the show's creator, Pendleton Ward.

"We scheduled it opposite the Emmy Awards," Henderson groaned. "The Emmys won." 

Dr. Sketchy's first show was with just two models, Molly Tilly and Pepper Fandango, but by year's end, 19 different models had been involved.

"We've had a new model nearly every month," he said.

Some are friends. Most are local artists of one type or another and know Henderson through school or the arts community. All of them use stage names, as much to maintain a persona as to retain a certain degree of privacy.

Leo Tuxedo, one of the few male models, said part of the attraction to pose is that it allowed him, as an artist, to see both sides of the figure drawing process. "It's perspective," he said. "Making the art and being the art."

Lavender Menace and Lita Lane, two Huntington artists, agreed with Tuxedo. The pair posed as roller girls for a Dr. Sketchy show several months ago.

"We've done art modeling, and this is a chance to stretch out artistically and pose more interestingly," Lane said. "For artists, maybe, this is like a civil service."

"And it's just fun to play dress up," Menace added.

Elle Xohmbeah and Penny Maple, who appeared in the Bonnie and Clyde and Twin Peaks shows, said Dr. Sketchy's isn't only about figure drawing. It's performance art.

Henderson said putting together a show is a collective effort. The models help determine the themes, design sets and manage to operation.

"Pepper, Penny and Molly help behind the scenes," Henderson said. "Pepper often DJs and sets up the music. Penny designs props, and Pepper and Penny help set up. A lot of people help getting the word out."

The exposure seems to be helping some of them in their other artistic endeavors.

"I've gotten more interest in my other art and photography," Henderson said. "Pepper, I know, is everywhere. I think it's helped her some."

For 2012, Henderson has high hopes for Dr. Sketchy's. He'd like to see the show expand: more nights, more shows and more models.

"We're also trying to find something to do with FestivALL," he said. "Last year, we kind of participated on our own. This year, they want us. We just have to figure out what to do and where."

There's also the looming Mayan Apocalypse to think about.

"We'd probably want to do that one in November," Henderson said. "We'd probably be too late if we did it in December."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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