Meet Your Monster: The Rust Belt Monster Collective Wants to Drink and Draw with You
Tim Switalski likes to tell people the Rust Belt Monster Collective came together to defend Earth from forces of evil. His cohorts may just say it was a matter of chemistry, six artists who got to know each other the old-fashioned way: meeting in the backs of bars and the Beachland Ballroom to reconstruct elaborately costumed, traveling burlesque pin-up models onto paper at monthly Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School gatherings.
Partly well-intentioned snark, mostly playful, all-around merry pranksters, the contributions of Ben, Craig, Randolph, Tim, Erin, and James to Cleveland art long precedes their Monster Collective moniker. They observed their weekly Sunday Art Club, some assembled for the Dr. Sketchy-led Pencil Riots through Ohio City, where their battle cries are sketchpads, ink pens and girls in pretty dresses posing with misplaced martini glasses on the table tops of the ABC Tavern.
Knowing the six Cleveland artists that make up the Rust Belt Monster Collective is a delightful feeling of claustrophobia, the kind that surrounds you throughout the city with comic books, libation-fueled doodles, and superheroes.
Finally, in June, they began hosting a monthly event of their own, Cleveland’s chapter of the Drink and Draw Social Club. Quite simply, the Monster Collective makes art that loves you back, they make art everywhere they can and now they want you to make art with them. “I know that personally it’s hard to meet other artists. The Drink and Draw Social Club is really based around that,” says Ben Hale, “just trying to give artists an opportunity to meet and share ideas. You finally have people you can ask questions and you find yourself feeding off of each other’s enthusiasm. That’s what we have at the RBMC, and that’s what we want to give other artists.”
Six months ago, the Monster Collective was only a blog between a few friends who wanted to experiment and stay in practice, hosting weekly themed challenges on display for anyone who had the desire to see classically trained artists bring to life cowboy wizard spacemen, tributes to Where the Wild Things Are hero Maurice Sedak, and reimagined Social Distortion album covers (Quips a post from May: “Booze, dames and guns. My kinda place.”). Soon after, they were jamming, as they call their live painting gigs, along to bohemian circus acrobats and legendary electronic DJs at this year’s IngenuityFest-hosted bash Bal Ingenieux. Then they were creating the artwork for the annual Drawn and Quartered event. Then jamming at BAYarts Festival. The non-stop momentum and energy the Monsters have always brought to Cleveland, both before and after joining forces, was solidified by the 40-plus attendees to their first Drink and Draw Social Club at the Tremont Tap House.
“For me, the most exciting thing about everything we’ve done is that other people are excited about it,” explains Erin Schechtman on the future of the Monster Collective. “I love that we’re presenting art to Cleveland in different ways than what people are used to.” The crew’s predictably madcap dream plans also include “jet packs, meeting Bill Murray, and busting ghosts in a RV ‘borrowed’ from the US Army.” If that falls through, they hope to host an all-Monster art show coinciding with a book release, do a live tour of the Rust Belt, and work with notorious Akron experimental noise-music connoisseurs Rubber City Noise. Also in the works is Sci-Fi Fair, a project for this year’s IngenuityFest that matches up student scientists with technical professionals and artists to turn the students’ wildest ideas into reality.
“Whatever projects we end up doing in the future,” Erin says, “I hope that we can keep coming out to the crowds and showing them new ways to make art. Maybe they’ll go back home and make some of their own.”
Expect a full night of usual hijinks at this month’s Drink and Draw Social Club on July 26, when the Monster Collective has complete control of the entire upstairs of Tremont’s Lava Lounge -from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. “I hope this is a small part to building the community,” says Randolph Crider. “We’re such a comic book town and that needs to be celebrated.”
If you could be any cartoon character, who would you be? Mighty Mouse. I’m already singing the theme song every time I enter a room, sporting event, or Target parking lot. It would probably make more sense if I were actually him.
“We kind of underestimated the appeal of both drinking and drawing at the first event and the tables filled quickly. Next thing you know, there are artists scattered throughout the bar. They were easy to find though. You can identify artists by the pencil residue on their wrist from resting on the sketchpad and by their overly obscure t-shirts.”
If you could be any super hero, who would it be? My first thought went to Batman because cause I love Batman but at the heart of his character anyone could do it given enough drive and resources. Seeing as how I have neither the drive nor the resources to be Batman just yet I think I would have to go with DC’s Captain Marvel. Wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury seems pretty good. All the power of Superman and if you have seen the 1970’s TV series a sweet Winnebago!
“The Drink and Draw Social Club is an opportunity for Cleveland area artists to come out, meet each other and play draw like they did when they were kids.”
If you could be any super hero, who would it be? Silver Surfer. You get to fly around space, hang out with Galactus, and not wear any pants. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.
“What’s been the most exciting for me has been seeing how we’re all creeping into each other’s work. If you look at my posts from the beginning to today, you can see where I’m picking up techniques from the other members, and vice versa. While we don’t get as much time to jam as we’d like, there’s no doubt we’re all influencing each other.”
If you could be any super hero, who would it be? Silver Hellboy. He drinks beer, smokes cigars, eats pancakes and punches monsters for a living… yeah I could do that.
“Craig and Ben asked me if I wanted to draw cool stuff with them and I said, “I like to draw cool stuff, yes, lets draw cool stuff together.” The Drink and Draw Social Club is cool for the bars too, because a bunch of thirsty artists descending upon them can improve the night’s bottom line, and it encourages people to try new bars that they may never have tried otherwise.”
If you could be any super hero, who would it be? I think this decision changes on a daily basis, but right now, I would like to be the Flash! There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Oh, and telepathy would be nice. And flight. Is there a superhero that is a flying telepathic Flash? I would like to be that, please.
“I think artist brains run a little crazier than those of normal people. We have different concerns and obsessions that sometimes can be difficult to understand if you haven’t lived through it yourself. That’s why I like to call the Drink and Draw Social Club “Artist Group Therapy”! I think it’s a much more accurate title. It’s a chance to talk all these art issues out. Oh, and also there’s drawing.”
If you could be any super hero, who would it be? I don’t know that he’s considered to be a superhero, but I’ve always thought it would be cool to be John Constantine. The chance to muck around with the powers that be… in heaven and hell… kind of thumb your nose at them. Plus I would get to wear a trench coat and have a British accent. ( And as far as Mr. Crider and the Silver Surfer goes…you have no idea how hard it is to get him to keep his clothes on during live /draw.)
“This group has taught me the only way to artistic growth is through learning.
And most of what I’ve learned is by talking with other artists and working alongside the 5 talented gentlemen and lady I work with. Artists or creative people can be a bit reclusive by nature. The Drink and Draw Social Club is casual and it’s a chance for all those fragments to meet. Just show up with a sketch pad and pen… charcoal and bar napkin… whatever works. As many differences that we may share, there is that one common bond among us, and that’s the need to create.”