Artcore: Molly Crabapple

At Cliterati, we’ve long been fans of the lovely Ms Crabapple and her absurdly prolific career. Along with co-host, aesthetic arbitrator and graphic design god, John Leavitt, she founded Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. It’s now the world’s largest chain of alternative life drawing classes, with over 100 branches in every continent except Antarctica and Africa .

Since then, Dr. Sketchy’s has spawned a book, calendar, jewelry line, US and European tours, an internet radio show, a series of comedic YouTube shorts, and a show at the Edinburgh Fringe. As a result, Molly’s attracted press coverage from publications as diverse as Time Out, The Village Voice, Bizarre, Playboy.com, The Scotsman, BBC Radio and Fleshbot (and that little list barely skims the surface of her profile..) She’s illustrated for some of the most esteemed publications around too: Marvel Comics, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Playgirl are just a few of her fans. Her art is in the permanent collection of the New York Historical Society. Oh, and then there are her graphic novels. She’s also illustrated nine books, including her own, Straw House (First Second Books) and Scarlett Takes Manhattan(of which Crabapple says, “It has Tammany Hall, bad politics and early-lesbian culture in it. And it’s very dirty.”)

The diminutive 27 year old has already been described as “a major talent,” by award-winning graphic novelist, Warren Ellis, and “A downtown phenomenon,” by the New York Times – and that barely scratches the surface of the modern-day bohemian. Author Kevin Fitzpatrick says, “Molly Crabapple is to New York art and culture today what Dorothy Parker was to wisecracks and bootleg gin in the Twenties while The Guardian describes her as, “”Equal parts Hieronymus Bosch, William S. Burroughs and Cirque du Soleil.”. There’s no doubting that Molly is on the ascendant. Where she’ll stop is anyone’s guess.  Her latest project is one example of her creativity.

In September 2011, Molly locked herself in a hotel room, covered the walls in paper, and filled 270 square feet of wall with art. The project, called Molly Crabapple”s Week in Hell, is a wild ride through the imagination of an artist stretching herself to the limits of her endurance. The  book chronicles the trials and joys of the Week in Hell, including visits from some of New York City”s artistic luminaries, absinthe parties, live models, and musical accompaniment, with gorgeous photographs by Steve Prue.

Molly showed her creativity in her approach to getting it published too. The project was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign which garnered 745 backers who watched the whole week unfold in live webcasts with the artist, following Molly into the madness of art.

So where did Molly’s talent spring from? “I learned to draw in a Parisian bookstore. My pen and ink technique comes from hours spent copying Alice in Wonderland and A Tart’s Progess. I soon fell in love with the feel of making ink lines- the crackle of the paper, the scratch of the pen nib, the sensual pleasure in drawing a curve. “

Her career is full of such anecdotes – such as the time she spent as a life model. “As a young art student, I realized I could either stock shelves for five dollars an hour or contort naked for a hundred.  For three years I worked as a professional nekkid girl in situations legit (Lowrider, famous French fashion photographers) and not (the dentist from Massepequa who had a heart attack shooting me).  While my attitude is such that I’d make a piss-poor nude model these days, I’ll never regret either the money I made or the reservoir of stories it gave me.  To hell with honest employment!”

As resident Toulouse Lautrec of The Box, one of New York’s most exclusive nightclubs listing Mick Jagger among its members, Crabapple is no stranger to mingling with the glitterati. But she remains cheerfully down-to-earth (in a recent, sadly rare, UK trip she ended up introducing me to the joys of man-on-man porn…) and openly confesses her turn ons are “Muscles.  Tattoos.  Masculinity, regardless of gender.”

Molly is a true icon for living the dream: she freely admits to living her own. “Being able to draw pictures, travel the world and have a mini cult is really all a girl could ask for.”

After all her hard work, there’s no doubt that Molly deserves her happiness.

Find out more about Molly at MollyCrabapple.com. For more information about Dr Sketchy’s anti-art class see DrSketchy.com

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