I met Mike when Courtney asked if I’d like to join them for a sketch sesh. I said, “of course!” but was kinda nervous about sketching with the two of them. They are what you might call real artists. The kind of artists with degrees in art, who show their work in galleries, write books on art and craft, and teach others how to make art. I am a bit of a poser. I am a “paint in my living room after I finish work, don’t really know the difference between student and professional materials” kind of artist.
I decide to go sketch anyway. After scarfing down a terribly saucy, terribly delicious falafel in Mike’s studio space, we get to it. We each start on a sheet and when someone gets tired or feels like they’re done we exchange work. Then we exchange one more time so that everyone has made a mark on each sheet.
It was magic.
I loved trying to figure out how to enhance their work. I love how clearly Mike and Courtney’s styles come through, and how they play off of one another’s work. (You can see more of their collaborations on Instagram under the hashtag #ccrabbit.) I wasn’t even that scared to mess up their work because there was no ego about it. Turd it up? Doesn’t really matter, flip the page and start something new.
Here’s one of my faves from the night:
This collaborative way of drawing reminds me of old Persian miniature painting. Each artist would have a specialty, such as gold leaf, color, calligraphy, and would only add that particular element to each work. Paintings were a result of several artists’ efforts.
Several years ago the Asian Art Museum here in San Francisco hosted an exhibit that played off of this idea. Karkhana: A Contemporary Collaboration included paintings that had been passed from artist to artist. Here you can get an idea of the process (excuse the shitty images throughout this post, these are quick phone snaps of the exhibit catalog):
This brings us to the awesomeness that is Social Sketch, a monthly event recently started by Courtney and Mike which alternates between San Francisco and Oakland venues.
It’s an open event, you can find upcoming dates on Instagram #socialsketch or Facebook. Bring beer, burritos, and your favorite pen or paints. Start a work, throw it in the middle of the table, take someone else’s and add to it.
Why I think this simple concept is so good:
there’s no ownership of the work, no ego because you don’t necessarily know who made what, no money involved so it’s not really competitive. You make something you’d never otherwise make, meet and work with skilled people, have dedicated time to hone your craft, take cool shit home. And if you make something crappy, it doesn’t much matter. Throw it in the center so someone else can fix it, and start fresh.
I would love to employ the social sketch concept in other aspects of my life. How come it’s so hard to find paid gigs with this same spirit? Projects where you work with cool people, with no ego, who help to make something that wouldn’t otherwise happen alone. I suspect work projects don’t feel this way because they involve money. As soon as you pay or get paid for shit it changes the dynamic of the relationship, and people tend to feel more possessive of the process or final products. Even so, I’m looking to embrace social sketch in other contexts because it’s a fun way to work, and a lot of cool stuff gets made.
Here’s some collaborative pieces from previous Social Sketches. Hope to see you at the next one!