My date’s stats:
Age: Started blogging in September 2008.
Likes: Beef, noodle soup, word bubbles, young love.
Little Known Fact: Ms. Folkman is a vociferous reader of dime-store romance novels. She likes them for the happy endings.
Favorite Cheap Date: Free Student Recitals at the Curtis Institute
Claire Folkman is a self-described mid-twenties art hipster who writes an autobiographical comic about a mid-twenties art hipster named Claire Folkman. But that is by no means all. She is also a conceptual artist, a memoir comic web-blogger, and a most charming date. She has an art show coming up May 6-July 7, 2011 at the DCCA in Wilmington (accessible by SEPTA!) featuring her captivating video work that transforms life’s absurdities into one profound comic strip (or transforms life’s profundities into one absurd comic strip). Meanwhile her blog contains wry and insightful comics, reflections on art school classes and critiques, and musings on everything from the best drawing markers to babysitting to Lady Gaga. It is updated (usually) on Wednesdays, and definitely worth following.
As for our date, when Claire told me she would take me to the Philly Comix Jam – a monthly gathering of comic enthusiasts that meet at Manny Brown’s on South Street to draw together – well, I was nervous. I mean, this seemed about as intimidating as being brought to a party by a first date to meet twenty or so of their best friends. But as it turned out, I was silly to worry. Everyone at the Comix Jam welcomed me with open arms and assured me that I needed no more drawing skills than a third grader to participate and have a good time. And it turns out they were totally right.
How cheap we talkin’: The Comix Jam is FREE, and Corona and Dos Equix are $2.50 until midnight.
Why this will impress your date: Not all comics are about Superheroes. Memoir comics are about feelings, too. Plus, no one is going to stop you if you just want to sit and draw hearts around your date’s name all night long.
Score Extra Points: By stopping for a bite first at nearby Tattooed Mom’s. $1 beef or bean tacos plus half-off all draft beer every Tuesday until 10pm!
The Inside Game: Don’t forget, it’s BYOP. (That’s Bring Your Own Pens/Pencils).
Next Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2011! Otherwise, mark your calendar for every third Tuesday at 8pm. Click here for more info.
Manny Brown’s is tecnhically a sports bar, but it has a decent beer selection and its smooth, pounded-copper table tops are good for drawing. The ”jammers” (I just coined that) commandeer the large back room, where unobtrusive televisions sit mute under exposed wood beams.
The night we were there, I counted almost 20 people clustered around tables in fours and sixes, sketching and drinking and talking. Here’s how it works: The hosts (currently Brettzo and Dretime) provide the paper, which is pre-divided into six equally sized frames. If it’s blank, you start the strip. Draw anything. Whatever comes to mind. It’s like providing the first sentence of a visual story that gets continued by the next person when you pass it on. When you’re finished with your frame, you trade with someone else who is finished and each pick up where the other left off. You don’t have to draw the same thing, or in the same style, but most people do make some effort at continuity of theme. At the end of every jam, the hosts collect the night’s work and post a selection on the website.
For serious sketchers, attending the Comix Jam is a way of improving your craft, learning new techniques, working with new characters and new story lines. And some pretty impressive artists attend, to be sure. Kristyn Fayewicz, Greg Labold, Steve Teare, Art Baxter, and Kelly Phillips are just a few of the talented regulars. But for me, it felt like being a kid again just being able to doodle and indulge my imagination’s every whim. Except this time with access to alcohol…
And certainly by the end of the night, there was more drinking than drawing going on. As a date, the set-up felt both intimate and social. I sat directly across from Claire and we were able to draw and talk at the same time. She gave me shading tips and encouragement, and periodically Brettzo or some other friendly face would come by to see how I was doing. And by the end of the night (they usually wrap up at 11pm), I didn’t want to leave.
As we were wrapping up, I remembered something Claire had told me earlier. She was explaining that because of the collaborative way the Comix Jam is set up, you have to react. It forces you to be in places you don’t normally go in your own work. And that makes you grow. I think the same could be said of my collaboration with Claire on this date. I might have felt shy about showing up to this without a seasoned pro on my arm, but now I would recommend this as a cheap date to anyone. Well, at least anyone with the drawing skills of third grader.