Yesterday my phone spat out at me a screenful of “On This Day” photos.
That’s the day I attended my first Long Beach Ink & Drink. I live in San Diego. Long Beach is 110 miles away. I have been attending San Diego’s Sketch Party since 2017. It’s close! And I have drawings which document my attendance and participation.
But what is a sketch party? What is an ink and drink? What is a sketch and sip? It’s people getting together, in the same space, to draw on large sheets of paper laid out on tables. Ideally there are enjoyable beverages of some kind, and music too. They are an opportunity to draw, socially. Mind you, making art can be a nerve-racking, stress-producing process when done in front of other people. Amazingly, I have never felt such a welcoming, non-judgmental feeling when making art as at these events. No matter your skill level, all are welcome. Make some marks, maybe say a hello to your seat mates, and enjoy yourself. That’s it! I have felt encouraged. I’ve been complimented (no matter how I’ve felt about the quality of what I’ve drawn).
At sketch parties, I have felt more loved than I’ve felt at most religious services I’ve attended.
Writing from 2020, it might be, aside from traveling to see family, the thing I miss the most about the time before Covid/Coronavirus.
Back on that day in May I drove the long drive north–I picked up my friend Chris at his place in Fullerton. We made the drive on the 91 West and 710 South to Long Beach. As we have been doing since we were teenagers we zipped down the highway, talking up a storm and listening to tunes.
When we arrived there was… nothing. We parked on the street in front of a large warehouse. The warehouse had a mildly funky entrance and I could see murals through the fencing. But nobody was there. No-one was going in and out. There was no signage to help solidify in my mind that WE ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACE.
The flyer information had been sparse. Some cool artwork, a date, an address, and information about the sponsor and music.
I triple checked the Ink & Drink Long Beach Instagram to assuage my anxieties.
Eventually someone did show up and we made our way in. We passed a funky Marilyn Monroe statue and the murals. We got into a huge industrial elevator with a few other of the initial arrivals.
It was an amazing space.
Inside an enormous space filled with murals a dozen or so tables had been set up: paper laid out, chairs around. And I felt at home and started to pull art supplies from my backpack. Pencils. Pens. Chris did the same. He had many questions. Do we just start drawing? This was his first time to a sketch party and he was learning the etiquette. Chris had never been part of such an open-ended event. He’s participated in a few Middlecott Sketchbattles, which are an explicit competition, with rules and constraints. This was so different, so alien to him he took a little while to settle in. But once he did, he had fun and his Blade Runner composition got him attention and accolades..
I had no idea how long we would stay. Would we stay just a few hours? I would need to drive more than a hundred miles to get home once we were done. But we stayed the full four hours. I enjoyed every second. We drew. We chatted. We borrowed and loaned art supplies to our tablemates. The best. I bought some copies of the Long Beach Ink & Drink zine. I bought a few drinks. I circulated around and felt amazed at the number and variety of the drawings people came up with. So much was represented by the work on those tables: many skill levels, many styles, funny, intense, scary, cartoony, realistic, abstract, iconic, satirical, fan art, political.
At the end of the night I felt exhausted and exhilarated. We made our way back down in the freight elevator. My brain was buzzing with thoughts and new ideas.
My memories of that first drink and draw Chris and I attended together still inspire me.
And since then we’ve attended @radixrisingcreative‘s Spill several times. Each time is different, but each has been rewarding. The connection and creativity have fed my soul and were part of the most creative year in my life in a very long time.