Drink and Draw Social Club: Celebrating art under the influence
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For those of us without the talent to make a career of it, or the passion to stick to it as a serious hobby, drawing is something we just sort of give up on somewhere along the road from childhood to adulthood. Perhaps it’s due to a lack of time, a lack of initiative, or a perceived lack of talent, but it’s striking that an activity that kids find such pure, unembarrassed joy in soon transforms into a skill you either do or do not possess. Thankfully, the Drink and Draw Social Club—which meets Friday, January 18 at Frank’s Power Plant—has found a solution to these artistic inhibitions, and it was right under their noses all along: alcohol.
“The official Drink and Draw Social Club was started in Los Angeles back in 2005 by three professional artists: Dave Johnson, Dan Panosian, and Jeff Johnson,” Terry Haller, founder of the Milwaukee chapter, says. “They all worked in the illustration, animation, and comic-book worlds and thought, ‘Let’s get everybody out of the galleries and their studios and get together to do what we would be doing anyway, but in a more social atmosphere.’”
Back in 2007, when Haller contacted the originators about setting up a Milwaukee branch, he found it would be only the third in the country, the second being in Atlanta. Since then, it’s grown faster than anyone had anticipated. “Now it’s not even a national thing, it’s a global thing, with chapters all the way over in Singapore, Japan, Australia, London, all over the place,” Haller says.
But the meetings, which take place at a different local watering hole each month, aren’t simply for professionals or even ambitious amateurs—they’re also for those who just want to get tipsy and screw around. “There are teachers, industry workers, office professionals, and then there are illustrators, painters, graffiti artists, and tattoo artists. It’s a whole mix, and that’s what I love about it,” Haller explains, pointing out that it’s not about how good you are or the finished product, it’s about having fun with the process. “It’s a pressure-free zone. However seriously you want to get or however casual you want to be about it, that’s cool. That’s the beauty of it. It’s completely common to find some people just kind of doodling, and then right across the way somebody else who is intensely into what they’re doing.”
The club provides chipboard to draw on—you bring your own pencils, pens, paints, camera, clay, or, really, any tools or media you want. (Within reason of course: “If somebody shows up with an arc welder we might have a problem,” Haller jokes.) The bar, of course, serves up the drinks, which act as a social lubricant as well as a creative one. “It tends to loosen everybody up,” Haller says, laughing.
Each meeting has a broad theme, January’s being “Lucky 13” on account of the New Year. But after imbibing, themes often go out the window quickly, much to Haller’s delight. “One of my favorite parts of the evening is just going around and gathering stuff and seeing what people came up with,” he says. “Because as much as we can throw a theme out there, groups big and small just go their own way with it, and I find it fantastic to have no idea how they got there from where we started.”
And, who knows, your inebriated doodles might even end up in print, since Haller has plans for a book project this year, reproducing some of his favorites from his massive personal collection (with the artists’ permission, of course). “If anyone doesn’t want to keep their art or is willing to donate it, I collect it all and scan it all,” Haller explains. “I probably have the vast majority of the art created since the very first Milwaukee event.”
Comprising close to 1,000 pieces, according to Haller’s best estimate, that massive communal body of work includes art from Drink and Draw Milwaukee’s most die-hard regulars (the “Brewmeisters,” as Haller calls them), including such notable locals as Allison Westbrook and Matt Chic of Night Light Comics, as well as the orphaned efforts of one-time attendees, an eclectic mixture you can get a taste of at the group’s Facebook page. Between the casual atmosphere and good company, there’s really no downside to turning up, even if you haven’t put pen to paper in years. Just don’t drink and draw and drive.