Sktchy App Creator Jordan Melnick on Defining "Artist" and Tonight's Launch Party

A few years ago, Beached Miami created Sketchy Miami, an egalitarian art project with a lofty mission.

"The goal of Sketchy Miami is to create a portrait of every person in Miami," the site explains. Considering there are over 2 million people in Miami-Dade, the project still has a ways to go. But that's not stopping Beached Miami founder Jordan Melnick from expanding the project's concept on a global scale.

"[Sketchy Miami] was a project designed to connect the Miami arts community with the general public," Melnick explains. "We didn't know what would come of it. It was one of a bunch of projects we were working on at the time. It had this really big reaction, from both artists and people who wanted to interact with art."

Sketchy Miami's interaction was pretty simple: the general public was encouraged to submit a picture online or attend one of the many events held around that time to serve as inspiration for a sketch. The subject got a one-of-a-kind portrait, while the artist might have forged a connection with a future buyer. So if that simple interaction worked for Miami, why wouldn't it work on a larger scale?

In early August, Sktchy, the app, was quietly launched. It allows anyone from any corner of the world to upload their own image and serve as inspiration for a portrait -- or on the flip side, inspire artists, both professional and amateur, to draw a portrait.

"Sketchy Miami may have inspired this app, but they are not the same thing," Melnick clarifies. "The connection is that concept sparked here and people took to it in a way that we thought it may have global appeal. The concept of the app is slightly different. It's open to everybody and doesn't make this distinction between artist and the general public. It approaches everyone as an artist or at least as someone who has untapped creativity."

Using the app, it's easy to see that just uploading your photo and letting other people draw you is sort of missing the point. Even if you don't think your drawing skills are up to par, the community is so welcoming and for the most part polite that you'll quickly gain the motivation to keep drawing.

But let's be clear about one thing: Sktchy doesn't actually feature any drawing tools -- this isn't Draw Something. Artists draw portraits in real life, so to speak, and then upload them to the app. This allows for a wide variety of drawings that vary from the simple pencil and paper to watercolor creations.

"We use the word artist and portrait, but those are very loaded words and stuffy. An 'artist' is like someone who has this magical creative power, and they create their work in a studio alone and then present it to the world. I'm not saying that that definition of artist doesn't exist, but Sktchy is all about expanding that definition. To us, an artist somebody who gets inspired, takes that inspiration and creates something, and shares it with the world. By that that definition, everybody can qualify. Everyone has creativity and may not be tapping into it.

"And with portrait, people associate it with royalty and the wealthy. It has that history as sort of being a testament to that person's wealth or power. But we define it as a drawing of somebody's face."

Since the app's launch in August, over 5,000 users -- climbing by the hundreds every day, according to Melnick -- from all parts of the world have joined. The app also has gotten featured as a new and noteworthy social network in the App Store.

Tonight, the Sktchy crew is finally giving the app a proper welcome to the world with a party at LAB Miami. The event, which starts at 8 p.m., will feature free drinks by Estrella Damm, music by Klangbox.FM, and bites by Ms. Cheezious. Artists will also be on had to do live portraits including Erin Chainani, Brian Butler, Stephannie Figueroa, Eli Blanco, and Christina Fernandez -- all Miami-based Sktchy app users.

And you can always welcome the Sktchy app the proper way, by downloading it for free via the App Store.

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