A gentle hum from the soul vocals of trip-hop band Morcheeba’s front lady Skye Edwards soothed the atmosphere in the private living room where a score of mostly young adults squatted on couches, chairs and cushions.
An occasional brow was drawn, bottom lip chewed upon, and nose scratched in concentration.
Each occupant, when not gazing at a sketchpad in their lap, was transfixed on a female model who posed in the centre of the room. Balancing on her left leg, she stretched her right leg out in the air behind her, making a straight line from her back to right toe.
Each party member sketched their own interpretation of her image in bated silence, the stroke and dash of their pencil lines quickly picking up pace.
“Time!” called a voice from behind a home-style bar-cum-DJ area at the back of the room.
Pencils dropped and a quiet flutter of banter and beer slurps echoed over the mellow music. The model relaxed her pose, shook out her muscles and glided into the next position.
“Two minutes, and your time starts now!” the voice called again.
Banter and beer receded. Sketching resumed.
This is Drink and Draw, a gaming initiative that kicked off in Phnom Penh last August by a bored bar-hopping expatriate, EJ Callahan.
“I was really just looking for some organised fun and I couldn’t find any,” she said during a refreshment break at the most recent Drink and Draw session.
“All we did was go to a bar or club to drink and that’s it.”
She and her boyfriend open their home – a spacious, neatly clad apartment atop a bustling Khmer restaurant – to the public once a month to host a session.
But each session draws in more sketchers than the last, according to Callahan.
“It’s becoming really popular. We first started with about six friends, now we have to set a cut off limit of 20 people,” she said, crediting her success to word-of-mouth.
“We are looking at places to hire to give us room to expand. We’re not doing this to make money; it’s just something we want to have fun with. We’re starting to get fancy with our models,” she said, adding that she would draw the line at nudes.
“Cambodia isn’t ready for naked models.”
The first few Drink and Draw sessions were modeled by friends for a laugh. Sessions started to get more creative when Callahan invited a kick boxer to pose. The most recent model was freelance Pilates and yoga instructor Kate Liana.
Each pose is timed, starting with a number of one minute rounds, two minute and leading to the climatic and strenuous, five-minute monster.
Liana worked up a shiny gleen of sweat from holding her complicated positions.
“It’s really hard to hold some of these poses,” she said. “But it’s a nice group of people. It’s fun and relaxed, so I feel comfortable doing it.”
Participant Sandrine Bannwarth, 26, from France, reveled in the aftermath of her first-ever session. “It’s surprisingly social. Drinking beer and wine while drawing? What more could you ask for?” she said.
“This was the first time I have drawn a live person. It’s good to have a go trying to draw her different positions and angles, and no one is judgmental of your work.”
Fellow drawer Meg Muirhead, 25, from the US, agreed, saying, “It’s a relaxed, interactive scene. You don’t even have to draw if you don’t want too, you can just drink and watch.”
Callahan hoped to expand Drink and Draw to at least two sessions a month. She also wanted to see more locals among her expatriate guests.
Drink and Draw is held one Saturday a month from 5-7pm. The date is announced by email and on Facebook. For more info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 012 347 229. Cost: US$5