Mad Men in the Dark

In a study of 40 young men, those given alcohol had an easier time thinking creatively than those who stayed sober. Naturally, for the sake of my blog, I thought it would be an interesting experiment for me to test those findings for myself. The Mad Men edition of "Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School" at the Mercury Lounge, however, was anything but a controlled environment. The bar was dimly lit, the rumour about five dollar tacos was bogus, and Emily (my classmate/guinea pig) and I had to sit upstairs because there was limited seating available around the models’ platform. Nevertheless, despite our many obstacles, we ended up having a really good time.

In the beginning, the going was tough. The models were clothed in inconsiderately difficult clothing for my drawing level (suit and dress), the other artists present wouldn’t stay still for long enough for me to draw them and… there were no tacos.

But then, halfway through my second beer, I found the gumption to take out my new pastels, and I’m glad I did. I, a floundering novice trying to draw flowing material in the dark, had done the impossible and found the easy way! Not only were the lines from the pastels more visible in the cellphone glow, but I could also get away with so much less attention to detail. I no longer had to put so much effort into making sure my dresses didn’t look like potato sacks, and it felt liberating.

TIP: If you’re around my level and attempting to draw clothing for the first time, watch this tutorial and use charcoal instead of pastels. While I was content with my drawings from the Mad Men event, I have since run into nothing but trouble with those goopy villain-sticks!

 My experiment rendered positive results, but I still wouldn’t send a first-time life drawer to a Dr. Sketchy event. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a beginner should be granted with good lighting, sobriety and naked models. 

My first few sketches of the night

Emily's drawings

my last drawing of the night


Cindy Olberg

Cindy is an aspiring writer who has recently decided to adopt a new hobby. Equipped with her sense of humour and limited artistic ability, she will take you on a tour of some of Ottawa’s life drawing workshops, and hopes to inspire you along the way. 

Follow Cindy on Twitter and Instagram
Find a life drawing workshop near you