Characters welcome

Dr. Sketchy Dayton, not your average
“drink and draw”

At a recent Dr. Sketchy event: Ileana Gray in her traditional Dia de los Muertos outfit and make-up.

By Gary McBride

When artists gather for Dr. Sketchy, they’re treated to something different every time. It might be Lara Croft, or maybe Bogie & Bacall, or Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) or the Witch Queen, or a woodland sprite, or…

On Thursday, Feb. 1 at Therapy Café, the characters will be cartoon favorites Rick & Morty, as portrayed by local cosplayers Meg and Aaron – with appropriate scenery and props to boot.

“Every month we have a costume themed figure drawing event with models in complete outfits and make-up,” says Crystal Ash, co-founder of Dr. Sketchy Dayton. “Also, we usually include a live performance in the middle which might be music or stand-up comedy or even a burlesque routine. For artists, it’s a real event – more than just sitting and drawing someone.”

“My partner, Sarah Musick, had modeled for the original Dr. Sketchy in New York. I used to drive to Cleveland on a regular basis to attend events there. So we decided to bring it to Dayton,” Ash continues. “Dr. Sketchy is not something we invented. There are branches all over the world – they’re in Tokyo, in London, San Francisco, as well as smaller cities and towns everywhere. We’ve been an official franchise of the original group since 2014 – we pay a small monthly fee to use the concept and the name.”

Musick serves as emcee for the events, as well as helping the models put together a unique look and setting up the stage décor and so forth. She also recruits the people to pose, even though not all of them would consider themselves to be “models.”
“Pretty much anyone can be a model for us – any body type, age, race, gender, etc.” But there are two requirements. “You should have some sort of interesting costume or wardrobe or character in mind that you can play, and you have to be able to hold a pose for up to 10 minutes. Just talk to Sarah if you’re up for trying it.”

“Artists of any skill level are welcome, too, in any medium. Most do traditional charcoal or pencil, some work on laptops or tablets, some draw cartoons, or whatever. We’ve even had people bring in their portable easel and paints,” adds Ash. “Towards the end of the night, we have a little contest where the model gets to look over the drawings and choose a favorite – the winner gets a free drink!”

“We’ve started to allow some photography as well. We set aside time at the beginning of the evening where photographers can come in, direct the model, and get some fun pictures,” Ash notes. “No flash during the drawing times, but you can take photos then, too, as long as you’re not disruptive and don’t mind the models just sitting still.”

“Even if you’re not an artist, but like art stuff, you can come, hang out, get a drink at the bar, quietly chat with your friends, and just watch the whole thing. Always a very relaxed social atmosphere at Therapy,” Ash continues. “They’ve been great hosts for our events from the start. And they serve yummy drinks.”

“Some other ‘drink and draw’ events are totally unstructured, and may not even have a live model. Or there are more academic style figure drawing groups, where the artists just sit in a circle around a nude model,” says Ash. “Well basically, we’re taking the best of two things that already exist and making this hybrid that’s more rigorous than a drink and draw, less stiff than an academic figure drawing group.”

While some of the outfits may be revealing, the emphasis is on the costumes, not skin. “As a person who likes to do figure drawing, that’s one of the things I felt was lacking in just classic figure drawing,” Ash comments. “First of all, I want to draw people with clothes, because that’s how people go about their lives. You also really want to have some interesting clothes – you don’t want to draw somebody just in a t-shirt and sweatpants. Having a different theme every time gives you an array of various clothing and models and settings to draw. It’s not the same model every time, it’s not the same costume.”

The events have featured dozens of themes over the years. “A few of my favorites have been when the model wore his Cold War military uniforms, both American and Russian. Also the Frank Frazetta themed “John Carter” characters – I’m a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy genres. We had a “Casablanca” theme I really liked, too.” Ash adds “It’s nice that we also regularly have male models or pairs of models – that’s something else that’s different about us.

Ash observes that portraying a character for a Dr. Sketchy session does take a certain type of personality. “It’s kind of performance as much as it is modeling.” 

The next Dr. Sketchy Dayton will be Thursday, Feb. 1 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Therapy Café, 452 E. 3rd St. Admission at the door is $7, or advance tickets can be purchased for $5 at More information is also available at

Reach DCP editor Gary McBride at

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