Models Kevin Tallon, Nicole Howard, and Saraphina Curry are pictured in a scene from Dr. Sketchy Asbury Park’s GRIMM FAIRY TALES event in October 2018. Photos by CJ Mars
Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), October 10, 2019
It’s a truism that applies to any musician, comedian, deejay, trivia quizzard, bingo master, psychic medium, or variety entertainer who ever forged a mutually beneficial relationship with a restaurant or bar: if you want to have a steady gig, you’ve gotta draw.
Hidden beneath the bustling sidewalks of Asbury Park’s Cookman Avenue corridor, a passionate posse of offbeat art lovers has taken that bit of accepted wisdom to literal, face-value heart — by offering local denizens a genuinely one-of-a-kind diversion; one that speaks in equal measure to expressing one’s soulful self, while indulging in a healthy bit of masquerade and make-believe.
Presented year-round, on the third Wednesday evening of each month, the communal drawing sessions of Dr. Sketchy’s Asbury Park invite participants of all ages and skillsets to “draw together” in a relaxed and yet wildly vivid setting, equipped with live figure models who are spectacularly outfitted according to each session’s designated theme.
It all happens, colorfully and often oh-so-quietly, in the lower-level Basement Bar of the Bond Street Complex, that interconnected colony of rendez-vous accessible via the Bond Street Bar, Capitoline (Cookman Ave.), or Loteria (Mattison Ave.). With sessions starting at 6:30 pm (and lasting approximately three hours, including breaks), the events are neither sober instructional classes nor merlot-marinated Paint ‘N Sips, but a place where — in the words of Carly-Jean Booker — “some super crazy talented people can work alongside people who just want to work on their skills, with a little friendly competition, but no critiquing and no pressure.”
As the leader and public face of the Asbury Park group’s Team Sketchy, the arts aficionado who goes by the name CJ Mars maintains a “passion project” that’s loosely but officially affiliated with the original Dr. Sketchy events — the popular sessions that began in NYC, and subsequently spread to major cities across the U.S. and several other foreign shores. Call her “Doctor” if you must (in a way that suggests a Dr. Who-like regeneration process that ensures the long-term survival of the Sketchy franchise) — but as CJ sees it, she and her Team mates Tracy Coon, Celia Connaire, and Amanda Mercadante are not only offering their fellow New Jerseyans entree to a genuine international phenomenon (the Asbury chapter is currently the only regularly operating one in the Garden State), but carrying on in the spirit of the local chapter’s founder, Tim Lucas.
Organizing Sketchy sessions in the earlier years of the decade at various venues like the Jenn Hampton-era Asbury Lanes, Lucas made a late-innings convert in Carly-Jean, who “started attending in March 2015, and began to go almost religiously, it affected me so much.”
“I have a BFA in graphic design, and I was always into art, although not really figure drawing,” says the designer in the Ocean County library system. “Knowing people in the Burlesque scene, and getting involved with belly dance, I had friends who got me into some cool things…but I had never seen anything like this. It helped get me out of my shell!”
When Lucas stepped aside from his Doctorly duties, Stephanie Wolter kept the local group going in sessions at the Belmar Arts Council — but a move away from the area left the Shore chapter at sea, until CJ and company stepped in with the determination that “no way are we going to give this up…this has to go on.” And in October 2017 — two years ago this week — Team Sketchy hosted their first event; a Halloween themed offering centered around Witches and Warlocks.