Sketches from Club Cumming’s “The Anatomy Lesson.” At right, an attendee sketches a model from the audience at Book Club’s “Drinking & Drawing” series.
By Kaley Roshitsh
Approaching a year in December since vaccine rollout began in the United States, businesses have been padding event calendars with higher confidence, and drink and draws may be stealing the spotlight.
The artsy-yet-affordable event is slipping back into repeat favor at two nightspots in the neighborhood. Artists or not, all are welcome with proof of vaccination, or masks, per the state guidelines.
Not new to the drink and draw scene, LGBTQ+-friendly cabaret bar Club Cumming’s “The Anatomy Lesson” has been striking a pose for four years now but since adapted for outside amid the pandemic.
The drink and draw, hosted by freelance illustrator and performer Anthony E. Kieren, happens weekly on Sunday nights from 6 to 9 at 505 E. Sixth St. For $10, attendees get their first drink and entry to the outdoor, socially distant sketch festivities, which include prizes and, of course, muscled models baring it all in thongs.
But to reduce the event to its titillating curb appeal (although many people stop by to see what’s going on) would be unfair.
Kieren’s series has been a way to platform an array of talent and “curate the people in my life,” be it past models such as singer Karen Marie, drag artist and activist Gloria Swansong or recently fitness model Will Hutcheson. Models are compensated and rewarded vigorously with applause. Even bar owner and actor Alan Cumming has shown up to pose.
Giving breezy instructions on a series of 1-minute, 5-minute and 20-minute poses, Kieren affirmed: “You can draw better when you take the pressure off,” nudging guests to pay the incredible bar staff a visit. (A drink helps).
While it’s easy to slack off as Rihanna’s “S&M” plays with model Hutcheson lounged atop a velvet banquet table or holding still in fluffy ears — the diligent artists (many of whom are professional artists) have a prize on the line.
Model’s choice wins once the time is up.
Last Sunday, as is practice, the winners were each presented with a vibrant bouquet. The floral arrangement was skillfully lassoed together in Boy Scout knots by Matt Robinson, better known as “Cookie,” and seemed to capture the idyllic hues in the rainbow that christened the chilly evening. Given Club Cumming’s safe harbor for the vibrancy of the queer community, it seemed natural to begin and end the session with a prism of color.
Booking a weekly series
Next up, a day later and only three streets over, artists of any skill level can cozy up with wine or coffee at Book Club, 197 E. Third St.
Weekly sessions happen Monday nights at 8, and while free to attend, bar visits and donations to cover material costs are strongly encouraged.
For the two-year-old bar, bookstore and coffee hangout, the drink and draw formed quite organically, with visual artist Shani Nizan approaching Book Club with the idea upon moving to the city five months ago. Nizan’s “Drinking & Drawing” series originated in Berlin but launched formally in New York this past July with Book Club.
Armed with a dry erase marker and arms-length board, Nizan kicks the night off with a short demo for the crowd. One lesson involved gesture lines, while another measured out proportions with a thumb and pencil. Afterward, the pencil-clad crew dwindles momentarily as a volunteer from the audience takes a seat for a series of timed poses, increasing in length from a few minutes to up to 20 minutes.
“I’m not this usual artist who can just sit home all day and just paint because I can’t; I like people, I need people, I need attention… I feel like I need this community,” said Nizan, on the importance of the event.
She also, perhaps counter-intuitively, championed the event in a few words: “No new people.” Of course, Nizan wants new people to show but hopes they keep coming back to learn, grow their practice and instill a sense of community.
To that, Eviatar Slivnik, a jazz musician and Nizan’s partner, quipped: “As an artist, it makes you better.” Slivnik is often seen drifting near the back to help Nizan, or as in two sessions ago, taking a seat for a first pose to get the crowd warmed up.
The sessions were, at first, bi-weekly but moved into a weekly format due to demand. Some sessions have clocked 50 attendees, per Book Club’s count. The seating format also switched to accommodate more artists in a longer row.
Nat Esten, co-owner and manager of Book Club alongside Erin Neary, is pleased with the turnout and eager to fill out the events calendar.
“We’ve been gradually dipping our toe into events, but the response from the community has been enthusiastic and Drinking & Drawing is our first weekly event, so yes, we are very happy with the partnership,” Esten said.
With the appeal of events and in a bid for being present, the bar instituted a policy of no laptops after 7 p.m.
Book Club also boasts a monthly poetry series hosted by a local poet and playwright, Robert Galinsky, as well as a monthly reading series hosted by author Alex McElroy.
“We’re slowly adding more to our calendar,” Esten added, referring to Book Club’s participation in the upcoming Bookstore Crawl on Saturday along with McNally Jackson, Bluestockings and other local stops.
Only time will tell if more local businesses follow suit, but for now, artists can log practice in the sprawling drink and draw scene right in the East Village.
Kaley Roshitsh is the first-ever sustainable fashion journalist at WWD. Her work appears on U.N. Women USA NY, Her Campus Media and the independent magazine she founded called ThriftEd Mag. You can find her on Instagram ranting about her latest thrift finds or the importance of knowing your neighbors at @KaleyRoshitsh.