Interview with Molly Crabapple, founder of Dr. Sketchy’s

Interview with Molly Crabapple, founder of Dr. Sketchy's

Molly Crabapple is an ex-burlesque dancer, ex-model, comics illustrator and founder of the Glorious Empire of Dr. Sketchy’s – art classes with burlesque models that embody the free spirit of the burlesque tradition. We were so delighted to hear from her, we begged her to tell us more.

Combining burlesque beauty and art classes was a stroke of genius. Was it your experiences as a model that gave you the idea?

Yes indeedy! I worked as an artist’s model during college, and my hours spent contorting for classes gave me ample time to dream up Dr. Sketchy’s burlesque art classes.

What is the purpose behind Dr. Sketchy’s? Is it giving the world something it has been lacking?

I think the purpose of Sketchy’s is threefold. For non-artists, it provides a cheeky, non-judgemental place to try drawing. For models, we pay a much higher than average wage and celebrate their glorious personas. And for creative professionals, we provide a decadent fantasy version of la vie artistique.

Can you describe what goes on in a three hour Dr. Sketchy’s art class?

At Dr. Sketchy’s, we provide the most glamorous and talented of subcultural models. Interspersed with the drawing we have skits, antics, contests, and booze a’plenty.

Molly, you founded Dr. Sketchy’s in 2005. How did you actually do it?

I was working as a burlesque dancer, so I had a fair familiarity with both New York venues and pretty girls named Lulu. I talked a neighborhood bar into letting me throw the first session, and my friend Dottie Lux was kind enough to pose.

Dr. Sketchy’s is famous for its, ahem, syphilitic spread across the globe, a fine example of the DIY ethic in art…

Dr. Sketchy’s international scope delights and dazzles me daily. We’re now in over 65 cities, including London, Paris, Tokyo, Melbourne, Hollywood, and even Bogota, Columbia. Dr. Sketchy’s first started going viral in ’06. When I advertised our sessions on LJ groups for artists, folks from all over the world wrote to me and said they wished they had something similar in their city. So I told them how to do it. My big inspirations were National Novel Writing Month and the Austin Craft Mafia. Check them out for some inspirational DIY Empires.

Will DIY ethic supplant the old-school supporting of the starving artist by a gout-ridden rich patron?

No knocking gouty patrons! I wish I had one of my own : ) But it’s important to realize that there will always be more people who want to make art than there will be millionaires to support them. DIY ethos let you do what you love while bypassing traditional gatekeepers. That’s a pretty glorious thing.

Warren Ellis described your own art as “Bryan Talbot via Aubrey Beardsley, an English aesthetic taken international by a New York City girl.” Praise indeed. Have you worked in comics?

I have! In fact, me and coconspiritor John Leavitt are hard at work on our first graphic novel. It’s LGBT love story set in the 1880’s vaudeville world. An ambitious showgirl and a cross-dressing theatre impressaria take on Tammany Hall! It’s called Scarlett Takes Manhattan, and is coming out July ’09.

Dr. Sketchy’s has a book, a calendar… and soon a documentary, we hear?

Yes indeed! Go Numb Films is working on a Dr. Sketchy’s documentary short. We felt that our international scope and onstage antics really needed to be captured on film. If you want to catch some concentrated Sketchy’s action, check out the talented Zoe Fitzgerald’s video.

Once a prospective Dr. Sketchy’s principal has filled out the form and been accepted, how would they go about setting up the branch?

Well, it’s a complex process that involves voodoo sacrifice, interpretive dance and many tributes to yours truly. Seriously, if you’re interested in Dr. Sketchy’s, click here and apply. After that, it involves hooking up a venue, finding hot models and promoting, promoting promoting. We have a ton of UK branches, in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, Belfast and Coventry. Dr. Sketchy’s loves the UK!

Is there something we really should have asked you, but were too selfish to realise?

Ha! Well, I’ll just say that my big New Year’s resolution is to do more large scale theatrical design (something I was lucky enough to do for Mayor Bloomberg this summer). If any ballet/opera/theatre directors are Mookychick fans and read this, call me!

You’ve read the interview, darlings of the powdered night. Now visit Dr. Sketchy’s. Love the good Doctor, the way he loves you.

Find a pub and turn it into a sumptuous artist’s garret for the night!

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