Joe's Pub Archival Artist Michael Arthur

[Over the next several months leading up to the celebration of our 15th Anniversary in October, Joe’s Pub will be highlighting drawings from archival artist Michael Arthur who has captured the likes Amy Winehouse, Pete Townshend, Alicia Keys, Carly Simon and many more on our stage. Read about Michael’s story, and stay tuned for details on how you might earn the opportunity to work with Joe’s Pub as an archival artist by submitting your artwork via Tumblr.]

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(credit: Bernie DeChant)

For the last six or seven years, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of being the Archival Artist at Joe’s Pub—a phrase and position I came up with along with John Seroff, a former head of marketing at the Pub who initially invited me in to the Joe’s Pub family. “Archival Artist” means that I get to sit in on the sound-checks and performances of the wondrous and eclectic artist-list that performs at the Pub and capture pen and ink portraits of the ephemeral live event. I use no pencils and no rough drafts and—for the most part—I don’t tear out failed attempts and start again; each drawing is a live reaction to the moment.

And that’s exactly the sort of unique perspective the Pub was looking for when I joined them.

A brief explanation of how I came to the Pub might be in order here. A little over twelve years ago, I moved to New York City and very soon after began getting opportunities to draw the intimate moments of rehearsals and performance (New York Times). I spent time in the rehearsal studios of American Ballet Theatre, The Martha Graham Dance Company and several Broadway shows, but it was really my work with a small theater company called Drama Department that brought me to Joe’s Pub.

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(credit: Kimberlee Hewitt)

At the time, I was drawing the rehearsals of The Cartels, a serial-mock-soap-opera written by Drama Department’s Artistic Director, Douglas Carter Beane (Xanadu, The Nance, Cinderella) at  the old Comix comedy club. The cast included Kristen Schaal and Leslie Kritzer, both of whom had upcoming performances at the Pub. Schaal was the first person to invite me to draw her set at the Pub and—sadly—the drawing I created of that performance wasn’t very good. But—at the urging of the playwright Charles Busch—Leslie invited me to draw her recreation of Patti LuPone’s infamous cabaret set. I posted those drawings on a blog I had recently started and was quickly contacted by John Seroff who invited me to come to the Pub regularly and draw any time I wanted. I didn’t hesitate to say yes—It was sort of a dream come true.

His idea at the time was to create an archive of drawings and photographs that would chronicle the many performers and performances that appeared regularly at the Pub. Already working camera duty was the Pub’s photographer, Kevin Yatarola, but John’s idea was to expand the photographic record with my more impressionistic, on the spot, pen and ink reactions to the work. In the first month or so of my drawing at the Pub I got to sit in on the first sound-check by Amy Winehouse, the first ever live collaboration between Lou Reed and Pete Townshend, the debut Pub sets of Elizabeth and the Catapult, the Spring Standards and many other bands.

Over the years, the programming at the Pub has continued to inspire me while allowing me to check in on and chronicle the journeys of too many artists to count. I always look forward to checking out new work and new artists at the Pub and I’m excited to revisit so many of the old drawings and memories via Tumblr.

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(credit: Kimberlee Hewitt)

Follow Michael Arthur’s work via Tumblr at http://inklines.tumblr.com/.

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