Last Wednesday was the inaugural show of Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School Norwich. Hosted by Natalya Umanska and held at The Unthank Arms, the night was billed as ‘a night of dames, drinks and drawing,’ where cabaret and life drawing collide.
Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School was founded in Brooklyn, NY, in 2005 by US artist Molly Crabapple; branches can now be found in over a hundred cities all over the world, and thanks to Norwich based burlesque artist and producer Natalya Umanska, herself having worked as a portrait and life model, Norwich is now one of them. You don’t have to be a professional artist, or indeed have ever so much as doodled an anaemic-looking stick man, though professionals are welcome too.
‘Molly Crabapple believed in encouraging art to be taken out of the environment of professional sterility. Drawing can be accompanied by music, talk, absinthe, sequins and life and the models are those of the underground cabaret and burlesque world. Having attended Dr. Sketchy’s in London last year I instantly fell in love with it. It brought art and performance together in a way that was accessible for everyone. The mix of people of all ages and all abilities was really refreshing. There were established artists busy with their favourite box of pastels and those less experienced happily experimenting with wax crayons all focusing on suitably sparkly girls and wild musicians!’ – Natalya Umanska
Every Dr Sketchy’s branch is structured in a slightly different way, and each night has a different theme, which in this case was Burns Night, featuring performers A’dora Derriere, international burlesque sensation (who herself used to run a branch of Dr Sketchy’s in Australia, which gives you an idea of its scope!), and myself (Daisy Black), not forgetting the particularly dapper-looking stuffed fox…
The evening kicked off at 7pm with an introduction from Natalya Umanska and a hoop performance from me, followed by a mixture of poses from all three of us to a soundtrack of carefully chosen vintage tunes, the chink of glasses and scratching of pencils. We did a mixture of short and long poses, together and alone, with and without props, and with different concepts suggested by Natalya. I tell you now, holding a pose of live drawing is a lot harder than posing for photos; every muscle decides it wants to twitch and after a matter of seconds your muscles begin to burn. It’s also an exhilarating experience, and a particularly interesting one for me coming from a family of artists: I’ve drawn a lot of models, but have only on a few occasions been on the other side.
During the interval, there were some games (more on that later), then A’dora Derriere opened the second act with her act Bondage Black Swan, which I think came as a surprise to the less cabaret-familiar members of the audience! It went down a storm. It was wonderful to see people experiencing something new which they otherwise might never have seen live.
For the last hour there were more poses (in different costumes) including some longer ones, and the night wrapped up at 10 o’clock. The audience/artists were asked to pick their favourite and hang it at the back of the room, and A’dora and I chose a winner and a runner-up. We ended up choosing two more for ‘special mentions’ as it was so difficult to choose.
The atmosphere was lovely throughout the evening, very warm and inclusive and I’ll definitely be heading along to the next one with my sketchbook. I’d advise booking in advance and arriving in time to find yourself a good spot. It’s on 27th February, with an Anti-Valentine’s theme and featuring the spectacular Sophia St Viller.
On that note, a few words from Natalya Umanska…..
How often will Dr Sketchy’s run?
Currently our events are on the last Wednesday of the month at the Unthank Arms on Newmarket Street, Norwich. Our next event is on Wednesday the 27th February. We’ll be welcoming the international burlesque sensation, Sophia St. Villier, and musical genius, Nick Murray Brown, with his accordion to model for us. The evening has an Anti-Valentines theme.
On Wednesday the 27th of March we have the beautiful Diva Hollywood and her bullwhips to keep us entertained. You can check our Facebook page to keep an eye out for details of future dates and models. [Links below]
What can we expect from future Dr Sketchy’s?
We are currently planning collaborations with other artistically minded organisations and looking at running larger scale events on a quarterly basis to compliment our monthly events. We are exceptionally lucky to have such a vibrant cabaret and art scene in Norwich but there are many artists which would enjoy Dr. Sketchy’s across the county so we will be out and about later in the year.
Were your expectations of the night fulfilled?
Very much so! The event was really well supported with a good turn out of artists of all abilities. They showed great appreciation for our models, Daisy Black and A’dora Derriere, (Both girls did some beautiful performances!) and they all joined in with our games of “Hunt the Haggis” and “Pin the Pipe on Robert Burns” (which is like pin the tail on the donkey but different). The Unthank Arms has a lovely intimate feel to it, it’s a great looking Victorian venue and its friendly atmosphere really lent itself to the occasion. We are really looking forward to our next event there.
Best part of the night?
That is a really difficult question to answer. If I had to choose it would probably be watching everyone sketching away during the last pose of the evening and realizing that after months of planning, dreaming, worrying and hard graft Dr. Sketchy’s had finally arrived in East Anglia and it was worth every minute of it.