Near the flashing neon “Cosmo” sign in the seedy second-floor pool hall of Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, a nude model stands posing, like the Apollo Belvedere, for the pub’s Tuesday night figure-drawing class.
“You do the Corcoran?” Jobie Jovanka, the class organizer, casually asks the model.
“Yeah,” says the svelte young woman. “I work at a lot of
Jovanka digs through her sparse tool box and picks up an aluminum lamp to shine on the model. “I’m a bitch,” Jovanka says. “That’s how I keep people out who I don’t want,” referring to the occasional drunk straggler who tries to barge into the class to cop a peek. “You can spot a person who won’t draw.”
Jovanka has attended the weekly drawing studios at Chief Ike’s since their inauguration last summer and began running the class recently. Most struggling artists must either make enormous financial sacrifices to attend drawing classes (a semester at the Corcoran, for example, runs upward of $6,000) or rely on cheap wine and a dedicated partner. And the latter really happens only to Leonardo DiCaprio and few fortunate others. For the rest, there’s the economical and downright pleasant scene at Chief Ike’s Tuesday night art class. The atmosphere is casual: Light jazz notes float unobtrusively into the room, and, for the most part, the artists who show up are a serious, unpretentious lot, if a bit humble in their abilities. “It’s an opportunity for people like me, who don’t have time or money to go to a place like the Corcoran,” says Jovanka.
Every two minutes, the model shifts her pose, and the students quickly turn their sketchbooks onto clean pages. Then a latecomer arrives, a new guy.
“You coming to draw?” asks Jovanka suspiciously. “You got your stuff?”
He nods sheepishly and begins to draw frantically, stealing only the occasional glance at the model.
Another student, Roger Hill, alternates his intense gaze between canvas and model. “It’s intimidating at first,” he says. “You come in with a blank piece of paper, there’s no instruction, and immediately you do your own stuff.”
Perhaps more intimidating, however, was the recent appearance of two police officers who showed up, on a hot tip that Chief Ike’s might be operating a nude bar. After a few minutes inside, the embarrassed officers retreated.—Guy Raz
Chief Ike’s Tuesday night drawing class meets at 7:30 p.m. Bring $5 and a sketchbook.