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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”