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Pompsicle: Celebrating the Weird in Sacramento

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Pompsicle, a series of life drawing workshops in Sacramento and San Francisco, started out because artist Ben Walker just wanted to escape from all the nudity.

In 2007, Walker, who was working at the 20th St. Art Gallery in Sacramento, decided there weren’t enough (or any) opportunities for local artists to draw from life with a clothed model. Traditionally, drawing from life is done with a nude model so students can learn about anatomy. However, as Ben discovered, this can get tedious. “I love creating characters and stories and that doesn’t really happen until you bring some interesting clothes and costumes into the mix,” said Walker. “I wasn’t looking to do more nude drawing workshops. From my experience they can be stuffy and artsier-than-thou.”

So Ben decided to pile on the clothes and the fun, and start his own series of workshops. The idea behind Pompsicle was to bring artists together to practice drawing from life in a “chill party” atmosphere, with themed costumes and music, and no judgements about experience or ability. The weekly events quickly grew in popularity and Ben hosted Pompsicles with models dressed as everything from roller girls to mermaids to Baptist preachers.

Model Rae Wright dressed as a character from the X 23 comic books

It was during this time that local artist Ryan Cicak got hooked on Walker’s workshops. “[I’ve loved Pompsicle] since the first session I went to,” said Cicak. “It was at the Fool’s Foundation in those days, and I’d been looking for a figure drawing class to get into. I walked downstairs, and there was this group of artists, listening to David Bowie and Radiohead, and this gorgeous girl dressed as a space cowgirl, that we got to stare at and draw. I thought, ‘I’m home. This is my church!’” Cicak and Walker continued to build the Pompsicle community in Sacramento for a few years, until life and work took Walker to San Francisco. Yet the enthusiasm and talk about Pompsicle drawing sessions never really died out. Walker started a Pompsicle branch in San Francisco and enlisted Cicak last year to run the sessions in Sacramento.

Sketch by Paul Fisher from a Mod themed Pompsicle

Walker’s San Francisco Pompsicle sessions have been successful in their own right; he teamed up with his model/stylist girlfriend who he said has really helped Pompsicle “blossom”. But he still has some nostalgia for the program he started here in Sac.”[Sacramento] is really the perfect place to have launched this sort of thing, because people are actually excited for cool shit to do,” Walker said. “Things that involve seeing something new, making some art and talking to people with similar interests. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find stuff to do that doesn’t involve buying crap at malls or eating at Applebees.”

Even in Sacramento’s small but growing art scene, Pompsicle occupies a niche of its own. “There are a good number of very awesome artistic communities that have sprung up in Sacramento since Ben started Pompsicle,” said Cicak, “but there’s something about gathering around a model dressed as a ninja assassin, a steampunk vampire hunter, or drunk housewife that really sets the pencil on a mission across that paper.”

Sketch by Avery King

Cicak is interested in using this character/cosplay aspect of Pompsicle to connect with other local subcultures. “I want Pompsicle to represent the Weird in Sacramento,” said Cicak. “There’s lots of odd and fun stuff that goes on in this city; we have Comic Cons and Horror Festivals and Pirates and Tweed Rides and Steampunks and Cosplayers, we have a huge variety of artists creating all sorts of things in all sorts of media across this city, and I want Pompsicle to be able to connect some of those things, to expose people to things they might not have known about…I really, truly, want Pompsicle to be a breeding ground for creativity and networking for artists and models of every type."

A Mad Men themed Pompsicle at Bows

Cicak now hosts Pompsicle events at Bows and Arrows every few weeks, and he’s been happy with the turnout. “I definitely feel Pompsicle is successful, and becoming more so,” he said. “I feel that if everyone, the artists and models, are enjoying the event, then I’ve done my job. You can learn so much from other artists, and figure drawing events like Pompsicle are interesting in that you’re all drawing from the same source material. It provides a good basis to examine your own art and look at others’, and learn that way. But at the end of the day, I just hope people are coming out and having fun.”

Pompsicle’s three-hour figure drawing sessions cost $10 to attend. Visit the Pompsicle Sacramento Facebook page to learn about upcoming events.

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