“We have a request to see more décolletage,” says turquoise-haired Kelly Castillo as she adjusts the ponytails of Kelsie Blackwell, the leggy model wearing a tutu and bra that matches Castillo's 'do.
Blackwell sits astride a molting bale of hay in the tiny lobby of Rothick Art Haus, the gallery Castillo and her husband, Nick, run. She doesn't even attempt to pronounce the French word and just asks, “What's that?”
“The face and chest skin,” Castillo says.
“They're not going to get much bigger,” says Blackwell, laughing as she slips a hand into her bra to perform a quick lift and separate on her breasts. When she removes her hand, a smattering of glitter flicks off and hits the air. “Oh, my god. I think I put too much on. It's everywhere.”
“Glitter is the herpes of the craft world,” quips artist Glenn Arthur, MC of the biweekly “Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School: Anaheim Chapter.” “It will go home with you.”
I'm sitting on a high chair in the back corner of “Dr. Sketchy's Ho Down” on a Sunday night, watching this delightful sideshow. The theme tonight is cowgirl paraphernalia, and the intimate space is full of men and women clad in black, pencils and pens scratching out Blackwell's image on blank sheets of paper. The mood is jovial, warm-hearted and a little smutty.
It feels like home.
According to its website, “Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School” began in 2005 and is “the world's premier alt.drawing movement.” Basically a life-drawing class consisting of alterna-girls—Goths, punks and burlesque-y types—Dr. Sketchy's began its life in a dive bar, but now boasts branches in more than 100 cities, 16 countries and five continents.
Arthur and Castillo enjoyed the experience but didn't want to drive the 50 miles up and back to LA, so they approached Molly Crabapple, the school's founder (along with A.V. Phibes), and asked permission to start an OC chapter. It took a little finagling while the two assured Crabapple and Phibes they weren't stealing their thunder, but now the local school will celebrate its second anniversary on Jan. 8.
* * *
It's Blackwell's first time modeling, and she seems totally at ease.
Glass of wine in hand, she graciously accepts the friendly comments about her legs, beauty and fairly awesome ass all in stride. Only once do I notice her shaking, and it's about 15 minutes into a 20-minute pose. “It's like hanging out with friends,” she tells me later, “except I have to sit still. It's painful. I'm a dancer, so I don't ever stay still . . . even when I sleep!”
Topics of conversation overheard during the three-hour session: hardcore punk. Disneyland. High anticipation for the new Muppets movie. Celestial Seasonings tea. Prior models. Pouting, slo-mo and deus ex machina in The Immortals. Hobby horses. Catherine the Great. Facebook. Tron. The music of “old-school blond dude” Paul Williams. Dominatrixes. Huell Howser. Zombies and anal sex.
Not necessarily in that order.
“We aren't kid-friendly,” photographer (and occasional Weekly contributor) Amy Kaplan tells me, matter-of-factly, between shots documenting the evening.
* * *
At the smoke break, I ask Castillo and Arthur if they ever have men strip down and pose. Castillo says they've asked, and while their patrons said they didn't mind if there was a guy and a girl, they preferred to focus on girls. Even Arthur, who's gay, is more interested in women as models.
“Women are fun,” he says. “They're more dramatic, and you can dress them up.”
Castillo laughs and agrees: “It's also easier because a lot of what the models wear is my stuff.”
* * *
Dr. Sketchy's pays its models $30 per hour.
When Arthur places a glass jar by Blackwell, he tells the artists to tip her because she's “fabulous,” and then drops a few bills of monetary love from his own pocket. It's only a matter of seconds before the jar fills up.
* * *
The endearing attraction of Dr. Sketchy's under Arthur and Castillo's watch can best be summed up by the experience of Casey Kwock.
He has been attending Dr. Sketchy's for the past year and a half, after coming with friends. He kept coming, though his friends didn't, and he eventually became enough of a familiar face that Castillo trusted him to handle the money while she supervised the models. Now, he works the door twice a month; attends to the cash box; is responsible for pulling the white modesty curtain in front of Rothick's glass door, barring the casual passerby on Harbor Boulevard from getting a glimpse of the stripped girls inside; and then hangs out with his new friends at Denny's after they close shop.
“I came because guys at work posted a flier,” Kwock recalls with a smile. “I got a family out of it.”
This article appeared in print as “Ink-Stained Hotties: Scenes from the Anaheim chapter of 'Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School,' the alt-girl life-drawing extravaganza.”
Dave Barton has written for the OC Weekly for over twenty years, the last eight as their lead art critic. He has interviewed artists from punk rock photographer Edward Colver to monologist Mike Daisey, playwright Joe Penhall to culture jammer Ron English.