Taking it off for Dr. Sketchy

It’s no surprise that Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School has pricked the attention of audiences in New York, Hollywood, Rome, Toyko and Melbourne. After all, is there any better way to spend your Monday night than watching a pretty girl slowly strip and pose? I doubt it.

Dolled-up figure drawing: Artist Ben Betsalel sketches Cherry Poppins of Bootstraps Burlesque. Photos by Jonathan Welch.

Stepping into Hookah Joe’s for Asheville’s first experience with the global tour, the mood is already set. A red satin-covered couch is stage right, a turntable stage left, pumping music that sounds like a Russian circus, heavy with horns. Diane, a petite woman dressed in a fitted black corset, keeps the mood sultry, spinning solid beats and crackling vocals. The artists of the night trickle in slowly, setting up their various materials—pencil, graphite and watercolors. Oddly enough, they are evenly matched: Six women and six men have agreed to partake in tonight’s exciting challenge.

Anxious glances at the closed curtains anticipate the arrival of Cherry Poppins of Bootstraps Burlesque, our main model for the evening. After a fashionable few minutes drag by, she slinks out in a floor-length black fur jacket with a tight red dress underneath. She drops the overcoat and walks stealthily in stilettos, swooning slightly at our applause. Atop her crimson ringlets sits a miniature pinstriped hat, and as she sashays softly, her audience hoots and whistles at the reveal of seamed stockings. Truly, this is an intimate and intriguing thing to behold.

Corky Bordeaux, the event’s organizer and emcee, greets everyone with her raised martini glass and coquettish grin, and explains the rules for the night. First, a quick warm-up, consisting of 10 one-minute poses followed by five two-minute poses, and a submission from everyone of their best work. The artwork, she notes, will be judged by volume and not votes.

Corky sets her watch and winks at Poppins, who demurely waits for her cue. On command, she cocks her hips, purses her lips, and freezes. The artists start sketching feverishly. The artists have varying skill levels, but there’s no pressure to produce or compete, simply to have a good time. The fellow next to me mutters, “It feels like speed drawing!” as he races to capture her changing physique.

A cherry good time: Local burlesque performer Cherry Poppins poses for the class.

“[Events like this] gets people out and it’s entertaining,” says Ben Betsalel, a local artist who Xpress asked to join the class. “It’s good to incorporate art into other things—this is a blend of work and entertainment.”

The participants finish Round 1 and hand their choice pieces to Corky for a group evaluation. The prize is a bottle of handcrafted blueberry mead from Asheville’s own Smokey Mountain Meads. Oh, to be able to draw more than stick figures and flat houses with chimneys. The winner is cheered unanimously, and she happily hugs her sweet fermented treat.

Everyone settles down for Round 2, which has been extended to four five-minute poses. Cherry saunters to the middle of the room, removes her elbow-length black gloves with her teeth, and straddles a chair. As she crosses her legs, we see she is wearing thigh-highs affixed by a dainty garter belt. The artists breathe a collective sigh of relief (or was it lust?) and begin drawing.

“Everyone’s got it in them to be creative and draw,” observes Betsalel. “This is a chance for people to come out and give it a try.” He pauses and adds, “It’s also got great incentive!”

On the final pose, Cherry slips out of her dress and throws her arms in the air theatrically, similar to a gymnast’s bow. Corky echoes our clapping, purring into the microphone to see if Sneaky McFly is in attendance. A bald man with large ears unceremoniously takes off his shirt as two artist volunteers depict their interpretation of Cherry’s newest pose, scribbling on Sneaky’s hairy chest and back with permanent black marker. It’s unclear what happened to Round 2’s winner, but no one seems to mind. This night just keeps getting better and better.

For the third round, Cherry Poppin’s corset and tights come off and she’s in a red bra and sequined hot pants. The artists are instructed to draw with their non-dominant hand and all 12 switch to their left. The results are wobbly yet still impressive. Another bottle of flavored mead finds a new home.

The fourth and final round is a 20-minute pose and the artists must incorporate their favorite vice into their masterpiece. Cherry unhooks her bra and reveals shiny pasties, stretching out like taffy on the slippery couch. Surfboards, booze and other women find themselves with Cherry. The results are the best ones yet.

[Marissa Williams can be reached at mwilliams@mountainx.com.]

who Dr. Sketchy’s presents A Very Naughty Christmas Affair
what Life drawing event featuring Lisa Zahiya: Belly Dancer of the Universe
where Hookah Joe’s
when Thursday, Dec. 18. 7 to 10 p.m. Doors at 6 p.m. ($10. www.myspace.com/drsketchysasheville)

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