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At Draw-a-Thon, Some of Best Pictures Emerge at 3 AM 

L-R: Drawing of people looking into the Draw-a-Thon by Tianxu (Tim) Guo (B.I.D. '12); drawing by So Hee (Lydia) Park (Industrial Design '15).
For at least six months before the Pratt Draw-a-Thon, artist-models Alan and Morgan Williams gather costumes and props for the elaborate tableau that has become a hallmark of the annual all-night drawing event.

At the Draw-a-Thon, they don the costumes and pose for eight hours (taking regular stretching breaks) so Draw-a-thon participants can sketch, draw, or paint the husband and wife modeling duo as well as the entire scene they have crafted.

A costumed pose is just one of the unique elements of the Draw-a-Thon, a drawing marathon the Foundation Department has been holding for the past 24 years. Participants spend from 7 PM on a Friday until 7 AM the following Saturday, sketching, drawing, or painting from any or all of the 18 models on hand.  Except for Alan and Morgan Williams, most of the models are nude, with some doing a series of quick poses and others holding their positions for hours at a time, giving the artists a chance to practice various techniques.

“I like the energy and the fun of it,” says Alan Williams. “I haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t have fun and it’s rare that you can do a job in which, even though it’s a long, hard night, you have fun the entire time.”

The Williamses began working at the Draw-a-Thon nine years ago. Over time, the tableaux they create have become increasingly elaborate—and humorous. Last year they staged a scene they called “Bacchus and the Off-Limits Nymph.” This year they imagined how Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa, might have looked if it had been sculpted after St. Teresa and the angel had their rendezvous. Morgan posed with a cigar in her mouth.

“The students loved it,” Williams says.

About 530 participants took part in this year’s Draw-a-Thon heldon Friday, April 13, 2012. Organizer Doug Wirls, associate professor in the Department of Foundation Art, has run the Draw-a-Thon for the last six years along with several of the department's faculty and staff. He says the event follows a similar pattern each year and this year’s was no different—but great just the same.

“The atmosphere was exactly the way we like it, which is fun and serious. Sometimes I stick my head into a studio that might have 50 or more people working in it, and it’s as quiet as a library.”

However, that quiet is punctuated at about midnight, when drummers come by to energize the drawers. There is a pizza break, paid for by the Office of Student Involvement and catered by Culinart, which also helps Wirls secure donations of drinks. At last count, Wirls says, artists consumed 800 slices of pizza and 700 cups of coffee. Utrecht contributed paper, pencils, and other supplies.

Among the regular participants is Sandra Gaddis (B.F.A. Media Arts ’04). She is a graphic designer who loves the hands-on drawing she gets to do even if it’s just for one night a year.

“When we graduated my friend and I decided we’d try to go back every year. I don’t usually draw all year, so we pack it in all in one night,” she says.

Usually, only about 150 make through the entire night, but Gaddis says it is at the oddest hours that surprising things happen.

“Sometimes at three AM is when the drawings start to look crazy. It’s fun to look back and see how you’ve progressed from seven PM to ten PM to 3 AM,” she says. “Then sometimes you get a rush of energy and do a perfect drawing at two o’clock in the morning.”

The Draw-a-Thon was started by the late Professor Al Blaustein, a longtime professor in the Department of Foundation Art. The Draw-a-Thon is also a fundraiser, with part of the $10 ($15 at the door) entrance fee going toward an emergency fund for the Foundation Department.

Wirls says the excitement of drawing all though the night gives participants a certain charge that keeps them coming back every year. “There’s a kind of shared purpose that makes it special,” says Wirls. “It's a big celebration of the human form and its place in art and design."

Text: Abigail Beshkin
Images: Courtesy of Tianxu (Tim) Guo, courtesy of So Hee (Lydia) Park

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Reader Comments (1)

I would love to be there.....
June 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermarguerette

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