Molly Crabapple

Molly Crabapple

Molly Crabapple
Born Jennifer Caban
(1983-09-13) September 13, 1983
Far Rockaway, Queens, New York
Nationality American
Alma mater Fashion Institute of Technology
Known for Fine art, illustration, writing
Notable work(s) Shell Game (2013), Week in Hell (2012)
Movement Pop surrealism

Molly Crabapple (born September 13, 1983) is an American artist, writer and entrepreneur. Born in Far Rockaway, New York, Crabapple briefly attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, and worked as a life model and burlesque performer to support her art. She began developing her style as the house artist at the Box, a New York City nightclub. In 2005, she created Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art School, an alternative drawing salon that meets in bars and clubs around the world, and published a companion book for the school.

She co-wrote and illustrated the graphic novel Scarlett Takes Manhattan (2009) and worked on two Marvel anthologies as an illustrator. During the Occupy Wall Street protests, Crabapple lived near Zuccotti Park and helped produce art for the Occupy movement. A sample of her Occupy work was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. She has successfully crowdfunded one short stop motion animated film, I Have Your Heart (2012), and two art exhibitions, Week in Hell (2012) and Shell Game (2013). Crabapple is currently a columnist for Vice magazine.


  • Early life 1
  • Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School 2
  • Comic illustrations 3
  • Occupy Wall Street 4
  • Art projects 5
  • Other work 6
  • Style and influence 7
  • Publications 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early life

Molly Crabapple was born Jennifer Caban[1] in Far Rockaway, New York, on September 13, 1983.[Note 1] Her mother was Jewish and worked as an artist while her father was Puerto Rican and an academic.[2][3] Crabapple began drawing at the age of four with guidance from her mother, an illustrator who worked on toy product packaging.[4][5] At the age of 12, Crabapple remembers herself as a "snotty goth moppet in a pair of Doc Martens, who blared Hole on her Walkman, drew headless cheerleaders, and read the Marquis de Sade in class".[6] Her school diagnosed her with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and she was expelled from the seventh grade.[6][7]

In high school, Crabapple described herself as "gothy, dorky, and hated".[3] After graduating at the age of 17, she traveled to Europe. In Paris, she was welcomed by Shakespeare and Company.[8][9] After receiving a notebook as a gift she began drawing on a serious basis.[9] She never liked her given name so she started using the name "Molly Crabapple" after a boyfriend suggested it reflected her character.[9] She learned Arabic and traveled to Turkey and Turkish Kurdistan. Near the Syrian border, she was imprisoned for a short period after she was found drawing in her notebook inside a mosque.[10] Her impressions of the artistry and culture of the Ottoman Empire in the Near East would come to influence her style and work.[10][11]

She went on to work as a life model and a burlesque performer, and modeled for the Society of Illustrators.[1][9] At the age of 19, she was modeling for SuicideGirls,[12] and responding to ads in Craigslist for nude photographic modeling.[13] Working as a model allowed Crabapple to earn more money than a typical day job and to continue working on her illustrations.[13][14] She attended the Fashion Institute of Technology where she met fellow artist John Leavitt,[15] but Crabapple dropped out during her first year.[10][11] For four years she worked as the house artist for the Box, a New York City nightclub.[10] Crabapple described her time at the Box as her "artistic coming-of-age".[16]

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School

Dr. Sketchy's at Avant Garden bar in Houston, Texas, 2010

After working as an artist's model, Crabapple became disenchanted with the structure of a formal sketch class.[17] She believed that life drawing courses were sufficient for teaching students about anatomy, but the models were treated more like objects rather than like people and the sexual aspects of their modeling were ignored. "I feel that the sexual component is essential. I feel it is much more objectifying to be a table than a beautiful naked girl," she told Interview magazine.[14]

In 2005, she and illustrator A. V. Phibes founded Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art School, a burlesque life-drawing class, in a Brooklyn dive bar.[18][19] Crabapple also co-authored a companion book for the class, The Official Dr. Sketchy's Rainy Day Colouring Book.[20] In a typical sketching session, artists will drink alcohol, sketch burlesque models, and play art games in a bar or venue like an art museum. Crabapple will often travel around the world visiting different Dr. Sketchy's.[1]

According to Paul Croughton of The Sunday Times, "Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art School marries the ribald stylings of the burlesque movement with a further-education art class - assuming that the teacher is drunk, dressed like Noël Coward, and insisting that everyone draws with their "wrong" hand."[21] When Crabapple founded the movement in a New York bar, most bar owners did not believe that the concept would work. After an artist inquired about starting a Dr. Sketchy's in Melbourne, Australia, it began to spread around the world.[22] As of 2010, there were approximately 150 licensees using the Dr. Sketchy's name.[21]

Comic illustrations

Crabapple has contributed her illustrations to a number of comics, often with writer John Leavitt. They worked on Backstage (2008), a webcomic at Act-i-vate that tells the story of how fire eater Scarlett O'Herring was murdered. Scarlett Takes Manhattan (2009), a graphic novel published by Fugu Press, is a prequel to Backstage, and shows how Scarlett rose from being a poor girl to become the best fire eater in New York.[4][23][24][25] Crabapple also illustrated two Marvel anthologies, Strange Tales vol. 2 and Girl Comics vol. 2.[26]

Crabapple in 2009 at the ACT-I-VATE panel at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival with Dean Haspiel (left) and Nathan Schreiber (background).

Puppet Makers (2011), a steampunk web comic that depicts an alternate history of the industrial revolution and the court of Versailles, was released for digital download by DC Comics.[27][28] Crabapple wanted to approach the steampunk genre differently, as she felt "it largely doesn't acknowledge the fucked up things technology can do to a society." In Puppet Makers, Crabapple and Leavitt discuss "the horrifying things machines could do to a country that's not ready for them."[29][30]

Occupy Wall Street

In September 2011, Crabapple was living in a studio near Zuccotti Park.[5] Up to this point, she did not create political art, but when Occupy Wall Street protesters used the park as a camp to stage their movement, artists began creating posters and Crabapple decided that the time had come for her to take sides.[31][32] "Before Occupy I felt like using my art for activist causes was exploitive of activist causes," she told the Village Voice. "I think what Occupy let me do was it allowed me to instead of just donating money to politics or just going to marches, it allowed me to engage my art in politics."[33]

The BBC reported that artists were using Crabapple's apartment as an "impromptu salon" for the Occupy movement.[32][16][5] [Note 2] "I started doing protest posters," Crabapple recalled. "And in doing these, I found my voice."[31] Author Matt Taibbi called Crabapple "Occupy's greatest artist",[35] noting the use of the "vampire squid" theme in her Occupy artwork.[36] Crabapple, a fan of Taibbi's writing, had read his 2009 Rolling Stone article, "The Great American Bubble Machine".[37] In the article, Taibbi referred to Goldman Sachs as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."[38] When Crabapple used Taibbi's metaphor as a stencil depicting a vampire squid and released it for anyone to use, it went viral throughout the Occupy movement.[37]

On September 17, 2012, she was among a group of protestors arrested during a rally to mark the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. She wrote about her experience in a CNN opinion piece.[39] In 2013, the Museum of Modern Art acquired "Poster for the May Day General Strike, 2012" for their Occuprint Portfolio. The poster is a collaborative work by Crabapple, John Leavitt, and Melissa Dowell. The poster, which shows a woman holding a match, plays off the words "to strike" as a homage to the London matchgirls strike of 1888.[40]

Art projects

In 2010, Crabapple collaborated with Canadian singer USD on Kickstarter from over 400 backers in April 2011.[41] In June of the same year, Crabapple raised $25,805 USD from 745 backers on Kickstarter for her "Week in Hell" installation project. Crabapple rented a bare room for five days and covered it from floor to ceiling with blank paper. Using 200 fine tip markers, she covered the paper with her illustrations over the course of one work week. Financial backers were entitled to a live-stream of the work in process, to make suggestions for illustrations, and were given different-sized sections of drawings, depending on the level of financial support they gave.[42][43]

Crabapple drawing at the 2011 Stumptown Comics Fest
In 2012, Crabapple raised $30,000 USD on Kickstarter for The Shell Game, a project involving the creation of ten paintings about the Great Recession. She met her goal in two days and finally raised $64,799. An exhibition was held at Smart Clothes Gallery in NYC, in April 2013. The show ultimately sold out.[44][45] Uzoamaka Maduka of The American Reader noted that the paintings were reminiscent of political cartoons during the Gilded Age and the Tammany Hall period of American history, which discussed similar subjects like "greed, corruption, and structural treason...around the American ideal, and how that ideal is both undone and constructed by these forces."[46]

Other work

In 2012 Crabapple was one of several artists commissioned by CNN to illustrate the theme of power for a digital art gallery pertaining to the 2012 Presidential election, as well as the fundamental forces that drive debates over controversial issues such as money, health race and gender. Crabapple created the illustration "Big Fish Eat Little Fish Eat Big Fish" for the gallery.[47]

Style and influence

Crabapple uses a crosshatch style of illustration based on Arthur L. Guptill's art technique found in Rendering in Pen and Ink (1976), originally published as Drawing with Pen and Ink (1928).[48] Her style is influenced by Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525–1569), English illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (1872–1898), French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901), Russian-American artist Zoetica Ebb, American artist Travis Louie, American photographer Clayton Cubitt, and American illustrator Fred Harper.[49]

Der Spiegel called her approach to writing unique, saying she had created a new role, that of the political journalist and artist (die politische Journalistenkünstlerin).[50]


  • Art of Molly Crabapple Volume 2: Devil in the Details (2012)
  • Art of Molly Crabapple Volume 1: Week in Hell (2012)
  • Scarlett Takes Manhattan (2009)
  • Dr. Sketchy's Official Rainy Day Colouring Book (2006)


  1. ^ According to her Facebook post.
  2. ^ In Discordia (2012), British journalist Laurie Penny remembered how "Occupy Wall Street had set up camp two streets away from Molly's apartment in Manhattan and we'd just spent a sleepless week documenting arrests. Molly perched at her desk churning out protest posters and handing them to activists to copy and wheat-paste all over the financial district...After three days, the word went out that there was an apartment near the protest camp where you could find hot drinks, basic medical attention and a place to charge your gadgets and file copy. The flat became a temporary sanctuary for stray activists and journalists"[34]


  1. ^ a b c Wright, Jennifer (2010). "A Graphic Artist: Whimsical illustrator Molly Crabapple thinks outside The Box". Cityist. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  2. ^ Mondschein, Ken (January 16, 2007). Hide the Salome. Jewcy. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Freydkis, Josh (July 10, 2010). Molly Crabapple In Conversation With Josh Freydkis. Saatchi Art Magazine. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Rosen, Adam (June 21, 2009). Making a Show of It. Gelf magazine. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Newton, Maud (April 13, 2013). How Occupy Changed Contemporary Art. The New Republic. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Crabapple, Molly (2012). "Rebels and Muses (or why I draw what I draw)". Art of Molly Crabapple Volume 2: Devil in the Details. Idea & Design Works. ISBN 1613772734.
  7. ^ Crabapple, Molly (Februar 6, 2013). Shooter Boys and At-Risk Girls. Vice. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  8. ^ Crabapple, Molly (December 16, 2011). RIP George Whitman. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d Bussel, Rachel Kramer (December 22, 2005). Molly Crabapple, Artist, Model, Burlesque Performer. Gothamist. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d Kino, Carol (October 2, 2009). A World Drawn From Wild Tastes. The New York Times. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Mokoena, Tshepo (March 20, 2011). Molly Crabapple. Don't Panic. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  12. ^ Reynolds, Brandon (February 28, 2007). Moulin Rouge in the Face. Style Weekly. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  13. ^ a b Crabapple, Molly (October 24, 2012). The World of a Professional Naked Girl. Vice. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  14. ^ a b Honigman, Ana Finel (May 19, 2009). Apple of Your Eye. Interview magazine. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  15. ^ Profile: Jennifer Caban and John Leavitt, Illustration Alums Fashion Institute of Technology. State University of New York. Retrieved June 14, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Filipovic, Jill (August 15, 2013). "Q&A: Occupy’s ‘Greatest Artist’ Writes Her Memoirs". New York Magazine. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  17. ^ Iaccarino, Clara (April 7, 2007). Burlesque girls put sketchers on a learning curve. The Sydney Morning Herald. ISSN 0312-6315
  18. ^ Hampton, Justin (January 4, 2007). Another model of art class. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  19. ^ Smith, Mark (February 19, 2007). Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art School.Time Out London. Archived from the original.
  20. ^ Crabapple, Molly; John Leavitt (2006). Dr. Sketchy's Official Rainy Day Colouring Book. Sepulculture Books. ISBN 0978953401.
  21. ^ a b Croughton, Paul (July 18, 2010). This will get them interested in art. The Sunday Times, pp. 10-11. (subscription required)
  22. ^ Chalupa, Andrea (May 21, 2014). Molly Crabapple's DIY Empire: A How To. Huffington Post. Style. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  23. ^ Crabapple, Molly; Leavett, John; Howard Des Chenes (May 20, 2008). Backstage. Act-i-vate. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  24. ^ Bissette, Elizabeth (Fall 2009). Molly Crabapple. Fine Art Magazine, pp. 60-61. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  25. ^ O'Shea, Tim (August 24, 2009). Talking Comics with Tim: Molly Crabapple. Robot 6. Comic Book Resources. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  26. ^ Collins, Sean T. (August 13, 2009). Strange Tales Spotlight: Molly Crabapple Q&A. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  27. ^ Newitz, Annalee (May 10, 2010). In "Puppet Makers," The Aristocrats of Versailles Are Cyborg Courtesans. io9. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  28. ^ VanderMeer, Jeff; S. J. Chambers (2012). The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature. Abrams. ISBN 9781613121665. pp. 84-85.
  29. ^ Chamberlain, Henry (May 13, 2010). Interview: Molly Crabapple - Illustrator Extraordinaire. Geekweek. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  30. ^ Hofacker, Brian (2007?) DF Interview: Molly Crabapple. Dynamic Forces. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  31. ^ a b Honigman, Ana Finel (July 2012). Interview with Molly Crabapple. ArtSlant. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  32. ^ a b Mason, Paul (April 30, 2012). Does Occupy signal the death of contemporary art? BBC News. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  33. ^ Zuckerman, Esther (March 11, 2012). Molly Crabapple On 'Shell Game,' Her Surreal Take On the Financial Crisis. Village Voice. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
  34. ^ Penny, Laurie; Molly Crabapple (2012). Discordia: Six Nights in Crisis Athens. Random House. ISBN 9781448156849.
  35. ^ Kassel, Matthew (October 16, 2013). At Home With Molly Crabapple. New York Observer. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  36. ^ Taibbi, Matt (April 12, 2013). "Molly Crabapple, Occupy's Greatest Artist, Opens Show This Weekend". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  37. ^ a b Gerrard, David Burr (April 3, 2014). A Conversation With Matt Taibbi and Molly Crabapple. The Awl. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  38. ^ Roose, Kevin (December 13, 2011). The Long Life of the Vampire Squid. The New York Times. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  39. ^ Crabapple, Molly (September 23, 2012). "My arrest at Occupy Wall Street". CNN. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  40. ^ Holpuch, Amanda (October 10, 2013). New York's Moma acquires Occupy Wall Street art prints. The Guardian. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  41. ^ Cavna, Michael (February 14, 2013). Artmaking, A Love Story. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 17, 2014. (subscription required)
  42. ^ Delany, Ella (June 12, 2013). Crowdfunding turns to large-scale outlets. International Herald Tribune. Retrieved June 13, 2014. (subscription required)
  43. ^ Crabapple, Molly. "Molly Crabapple's Week in Hell". Kickstarter. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  44. ^ Galperina, Marina (March 9, 2012). "Molly Crabapple's Kickstarter Made $48,000+ in Three Days". Animal New York. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  45. ^ Crabapple, Molly "Shell Game: An Art Show About the Financial Meltdown". Kickstarter. Retrieved October 25, 2013.
  46. ^ Maduka Uzoamaka (April 2013). In Conversation: Interview with Artist Molly Crabapple. The American Reader. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  47. ^ Goldberg, Steve; Schier, Aimee (August 23, 2012). "'Power': A digital election art gallery". CNN. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  48. ^ Kiniry, Laura (June/July 2009). Art & Artifice. Inked, p. 36.
  49. ^ D'Isa, Francesco (November 25, 2009). Erotic Burlesque Art: An Interview with Molly Crabapple Scene 360. Archived from the original.
  50. ^ Von Rohr, Mathieu (April 7, 2014). Politik? Yeah! Der Spiegel, (15): 152-153. Retrieved June 17, 2014.

Further reading

  • Salavetz, Judith; Spencer Drate (2010). Creating Comics! 47 Master Artists Reveal the Techniques and Inspiration Behind Their Comic Genius. Rockport Publishers. ISBN 9781610601672. pp. 40-41.

External links

  • Official website
  • Molly Crabapple at the Comic Book DB
  • Molly Crabapple at the Grand Comics Database
  • Dr. Sketchy's Official Site