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Dr sketchys Chester : Amber Ray takes to the venue

Dr Sketchy's anti-art school Chester, 1st ever Chester event, Waikiki Bar, Chester, June 19 2011. Article: Kerry Ashdown

"But I can't draw!" was the first thought that popped into my head when I first heard of Dr Sketchy's.

Having not sat down and seriously attempted to sketch something at all this century (my last attempts were for GCSE Art and Design 12 years ago) I was nervous entering the drawing arena, even if armed with a pencil kindly supplied by the organisers. When I heard there were no rubbers I was even more afraid of spoiling my paper with a misguided stroke until I heard there are no mistakes at Dr Sketchy's.

The alternative drawing movement bills itself as an 'anti-art school' and both the experienced artist and sketching novice (and everyone in between!) were made to feel welcome as Dr Sketchy's North Wales held its first ever Chester session at the colourful city centre Waikiki Bar.

The tiki bar's exotic setting proved an apt backdrop for the beautiful and tropically-attired burlesque artist Amber Ray, resplendent in feathers and flowers, to strike her poses in front of the drawing boards.

All the way from New York (where Dr Sketchy's itself originated), Amber Ray was in town performing at the Chestival Vaudeville Weekend. She proved a versatile muse at Dr Sketchy's, where excitement is injected into the traditional image of the life class by giving artists the chance to draw colourful underground performers.

Full-length Dr Sketchy's sessions usually include performances, but as this was a shorter one-hour session the action focused on quick drawing exercises, longer five and 10 minute sessions and a final 15 minute window to immortalise Amber Ray reclining in a classic manner.

Dr sketchys Chester : Drawing Amber Ray Dr sketchys Chester : the final sketches

However the hour session became almost like a burlesque performance in itself, as Amber Ray gradually shed her layers. She even climbed the bar's tiki centrepiece to ensure the sketchers had a variety of poses to capture - and there were plenty of challenges for the artists, from drawing with their non-drawing hands to imagining Amber Ray emerging from a tropical fruit, in the style of pin up artist Mel Ramos.

As we drew there was holiday island-inspired music to chill out to - and a few smiles when the Four Tops' Down in Acapulco crashed in - as well as summery cocktails to enjoy, well-received sustenance from fruity lollies and prizes up for grabs.

Although I am still not top draw in the sketching stakes I went away feeling more confident about putting pencil to paper. And thanks to Dr Sketchy's I learned that the artistic journey can be fun whatever your ability.

Dr Sketchy's North Wales and Chester will be getting out the drawing boards again soon - for more information visit

Photos: Leona Turford Photography