Posted on Dec 10, 2012 in Berlin | 2 comments

Berlin Burlesque book by Paul Green

I met the photographer, Paul Green, who created this book, Berlin Burlesque, consisting of beautiful photos of dancers from the Berlin burlesque scene. I am going to meet him again this week to buy one of these books from him.

Today was the first time I got a glimpse of the Berlin party scene, and I don’t mean politics. I felt the magnetic pull of wanting to party and got an inkling of how friendly and fun this city is, and how easy it would be to end up on an all-night bender through the vast number of pubs and clubs. This city is teeming with international hipsters and artists and creative professionals.

I went to Dr. Sketchy Berlin on this snowy Sunday, December 9. Dr Sketchy is an international anti-art-school life drawing event held in many cities around the world (I have been going to draw at Dr. Sketchy Vancouver for the last two years). You pay around $10 to get in. For that you get one or two models in creative costumes, often from the burlesque scene, who pose for you to draw them for three hours. There’s music and you can buy food and drink and chat with other people while you draw. The models get to dole out small prizes for drawings they like. Many illustrators and computer animation artists come here to practise their skills, as well as urban sketchers like me. I find there’s not much overlap with the art school life drawing crowd, because when I mention Dr. Sketchy in art school drawing sessions, people look at me blankly. Most have not heard of it.

Dr. Sketchy Berlin

One of the models, Minou Moustache at this Dr. Sketchy Berlin session joined us afterwards for a beer, still in his Mexican makeup. Really nice guy, and a first-time model. I just have to post this here to show that I am hanging out with young male models in Berlin now, and it’s only taken me three weeks ;-). I asked permission to take his photo, but taking photos of people is less acceptable here than in Vancouver.

The venue for Dr. Sketchy Berlin is the White Trash Fast Food Restaurant, a typical Berlin venue in that it is multi-purpose: it’s a restaurant, a bar, a DJ lounge, and a tattoo parlour. In Vancouver, there are strict rules outlining what is a restaurant vs. a bar vs. a night club, and in which zoning of the city they are allowed to operate. Never even mind the tattoo parlour. The food I tried at the White Trash Fast Food was not very good, so I will make a sweeping generalization and say that in Berlin, the food is secondary to the experience of the vibe. In Vancouver, it may well be the opposite, since we are a bit of a foodie city. In Berlin, I get the impression that the food does not matter as much.

But there is a certain laissez-faire, a why-not? attitude, more open-ended options to run an evening establishment here in Berlin that we could use more of in Vancouver. Berlin has a loose, improvised feel, yet at the same time it’s all put together with a lot of thought and works extremely well.

The model from the photo above

A sketch I did of the model Minou Moustache. I did all the drawings on this page on the iPad, with the Paper app.

After the 3-hour drawing session, during which I already met a couple of nice people who were sitting next to me, a Berlin illustrator, and a Vancouver(!) animator, I ran into Omar Jaramillo, one of the urban sketchers I had met at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Lisbon last year. We will try to get together for a coffee sometime while I’m here. He’s a friendly guy, originally from somewhere in South America, and seems to know everyone.

Dr. Sketchy Berlin

Two of the models at Dr. Sketchy Berlin.

Then I was on my way home, already had my coat on, when I got invited to join a group of sketchers for beers. We grabbed a table, a couple of the models we had just drawn joined us, we ordered food and drink, talked, showed each other our sketchbooks, I got advice on what to do in Berlin, people came and went at the table, and by the time I was back out on the street walking home, it was 8:30 pm. I had been in that bar since 2 pm, for 6 1/2 hours, having a fun time with a bunch of people from all over the world that I had never met before: A Colombian architect, Felipe; a Mexican comic book artist, Tony; the model Minou Mustache; the photographer Paul Green from Australia; and Lala Vox from Mississippi (her burlesque stage name). She was the MC and is also an illustrator and a burlesque artist. She moved to Berlin in 1995 for love, and is still with her man, the German DJ U.F.O Hawaii, who spun fun and chilled tunes during our drawing session. Dr. Sketchy Berlin even has its own theme music, see the YouTube video at the top of this page.

Dr. Sketchy Berlin

The burlesque model Golden Treasure at Dr. Sketchy Berlin, posing as Frida Kahlo.

I am beginning to understand how the Berlin party-vortex can suck you in. Everything is open all night. There is always another bar around the corner. People move from table to table and bar to bar and socialize. Random amorphous groups form, lose a few people here, pick up another person there. There seems to be no cliquish-ness, no establishment. Everyone is from somewhere else, everyone is creative and has the potential to inspire someone else.

I am romanticizing, of course. But not completely.

All I know is that I now want to go clubbing in Berlin at least once. As Berlin would say “why not?”

KulturBrauerei, Berlin

The outside of the KulturBrauerei, Berlin, a former brewery converted into shops and venues. Its central courtyard houses the Lucia Christmas Market.

Walking through the Lucia Christmas Market in drifting snow

Walking through the Lucia Christmas Market on the way to Dr. Sketchy Berlin in drifting snow.

Warming coats at the Lucia Christmas Market, Berlin

These are hilarious: Warming coats at the Lucia Christmas Market. There are several of these giant coats. You can sit in one of several seats and stick your arms into the sleeves of these giant coats to warm up. Of course, that looks ridiculous = instant fun.

Berlin City Bikes covered in snow

I walked down Schönhauser Allee to Dr. Sketchy. The central path in the middle of this large boulevard was covered in snow, and so were the Berlin City Bikes. I did not rent one today, but I enjoyed my walk in the snow on a quiet Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm, when Berliners are still coming home from their Saturday night parties. I am not sure when they sleep here.

Berlin U-Bahn station with TV Tower

Just wanted to record the typical entry to a Berlin U-Bahn station. With the TV Tower in the background. In Vancouver we have the North Shore mountains, in Berlin they have the TV Tower.

Kunsthalle Berlin

Platoon Kunsthalle Berlin — a venue for art built from shipping containers. Read the website. They also have DJ parties on the weekends. No cover charge. Berlin just likes to party, and it wants you to join in.

Jewish Cemetery, Berlin

A Jewish cemetery is located on Schönhauser Allee. I have been meaning to go there, but it is closed on Sundays, so I took a photo through the iron bars of the locked gate for now.

Berlin courtyard

A Berlin courtyard. Nothing special about this courtyard, but it’s just typical for Berlin that you will see evidence of art and creativity everywhere, such as this graffiti. I just think that is so cool.

White Trash Fast Food Restaurant

Waiting for the Dr. Sketchy session to start at the White Trash Fast Food Restaurant, an eclectic, multi-level place which used to be a Chinese restaurant.

Dr. Sketchy Berlin stage setup

Dr. Sketchy Berlin stage setup for today’s session themed “Mexican Session”.

Handstamp for Dr. Sketchy session

My handstamp for this Dr. Sketchy session says “Mahlzeit” meaning “bon appetit”.

Berlin snow man

Even the snow men (or is it a woman?) look creative in Berlin and wear a jaunty artist’s beret.