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A casual pop-up for creatives : Social Sketch

Recently, Rachel Frankel, Bay Area artist and illustrator, had time to sit down and chat with local artists Courtney Cerruti and Michael McConnell about one of their latest projects, Social Sketch.

Social Sketch began organically as a casual get together of like-minded creatives, and now takes the form of a pop-up where the Bay Area’s artistically-inclined can casually meet, draw, chat and just generally hang out.

The Interview:

How did Social Sketch begin?

: Mike and I started painting together and posting the work on Instagram under the hashtag #ccrabbit. People were overwhelmingly supportive and then started asking if they could join in. At the time, Mike was between studios and we were painting at his kitchen table most nights, so we decided to find a location (El Rio was the first one) and open it up to everyone and #socialsketch was born! We’ve been at it now for over a year and we have chapters popping up all over the country.

What is community to you?

MIKE: To me, community represents the places we go to feel known and seen. For me, this often means my studio with my studiomates, hanging out with friends and the little shop, Fayes, that I own in the Mission. Community is supporting each other and making connections in ways that can benefit the greater good of us as individuals and society as a whole. I think that artists and makers have a large part in making societal observations which are often overlooked.

What are some of the coolest things you’ve seen happen as a result of these Social Sketch events?

MIKE: Social Sketch has been pretty amazing all the way around. Seeing so many chapters pop up in other cities is so cool and flattering. I think the prevalence of collaborations made at these events is probably the coolest thing. Seeing someone take one person’s doodle and transform the whole idea is much like conversing without talking. I think that’s pretty special.

: The energy at Social Sketch is always electric and happy. We encourage artists to collaborate by having half created work on the tables already. People often sit with others they don’t know but wind up talking and drawing all night. I’ve seen first dates happen at Social Sketch and new friendships form. I’ve met some amazing artists and people come back again and again. I love that the energy fostered at Social Sketch then spills into new friendships and projects outside of our meetups.

Are you both social people? Introverts? Do you have any tips for other artist/designer introverts looking to get out of their comfort zone and find their “people?”

: I can be outgoing and charming sometimes but also quiet too. Instagram makes the act of engagement way easier. It might be a false perception, but I feel like people are so open to dialogue through that channel. Even artists who I love and admire but don’t know personally appear to be accessible, and in most cases, every time I’ve reached out, good things have happened. I met Mike that way. More recently, I stumbled across the work of painter, Mario A. Robinson and we started talking on Instagram. Within a few days we had planned to meet up while he was here in California teaching at a painting conference. I drove down to L.A. and we spent a day touring museums. It was amazing.

MIKE: I run a coffee shop. I’ve worked there for 16 years and am very comfortable there. I know most the customers by name and I think that gives the impression that I’m very social. But I am actually painfully shy and very introverted. I’m the guy at the bar or art opening who looks a little tortured and is often mistaken for an asshole. Courtney by nature is definitely more extroverted and I’m always amazed how easy social interaction seems to be for her. As for suggestions for other introverts, just show up and participate in things that interest you. Even if you talk to one person, you never know what will happen. Also just reach out to people you find interesting. I have lots of Instagram “friends” that I have never actually met in person.

Do you think working amongst a group inspires more introverted artists to be more outgoing and make friendships/connections?

: I think any collaborative efforts are helpful to anyone who is shy about making art, or anyone who has a hard time committing to an artistic practice. You don’t have to jump into a group setting to be creative, but sometimes just scheduling a drawing night or a museum date with a buddy can be so helpful in holding yourself accountable to try something creative.

MIKE: I think that working around other artists in an informal bar setting makes things a little less stressful. There is an ease to it and you can interact as much or little as you want. I also think that it’s all really supportive. People are not competing at art, but rather embracing the nature of being a creative type. There are some times that people feel like they can’t draw but they are creative in other ways.

Do you have any goals for Social Sketch (or any other community-related events) in the coming year?

MIKE: We would like Social Sketch to have a book or a larger format for archiving all that has happened over the past year and a half. I would also love Social Sketch to get sponsorship. I mean, athletes get endorsements! Why shouldn’t artists?

: I’ve really enjoyed seeing Social Sketch grow locally and nationally in the past year. I’d like to find a more permanent setting for us in 2016 where people can rely on a set place and time.

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