I was on a boozy rant about bicarbonate soda being a useful alternative to shampoo when Gen interrupted me with a proposition. “Do you want to do finger painting tonight?”. I assumed she wasn’t just being alty about asking to borrow nail polish. “There is an event on at the Red Rattler in Marrickville tonight called Arts n’ Crass. Facebook invite says there will finger painting. Just the tips.” I’m not one to turn down free paint or the opportunity for a my-life-is-interesting selfie (see below), so Gen, myself and my less than enthusiastic boyfriend boarded the 436 bus to the ‘burbs.
The Red Rattler is a tidy joint tucked away behind an old petrol station just off Sydenham Road. ‘The Rat’, as it is affectionately known, has become somewhat of a hub for all sorts of creative pursuits and has supported local talent and initiative for many years. It is a not for profit organisation and is powered by a team of volunteers who staff, manage and run the venue. There is a depth of history to the place that is immediately felt when you step inside – it is charming, quaint and a little bit raunchy with deep red curtains draped across every wall.
A cheery, dreadlocked man greeted us at the door and showed us to the bar where we picked up a bottle of red and a box of crayons. The finger painting table was full when we arrived so instead we headed to the front where a group were getting comfy on the lounges. Not long after we had taken our first sips, another volunteer informed us that the life drawing was about to begin and offered us some paper and boards to lean against.
I have always expected life drawing to be a confronting experience. It is not so much the nudity that bothered me – we are all in the nip at one time or another – but rather, I assumed there would be lots of rules and silence and head tilting to get the right angle and other turgid rituals that would make me a lot more uncomfortable than if I were the one on stage having my bits doodled. The Rat, as i have been since been told, is not one for swank. The venue rose from the depths of exclusion and now serves as a place to be accepted regardless of who you are or what artistic conventions you are ignorant of.
Whatever faux-pas I made in the life drawing sessions were happily ignored by the ratrons. I even got some helpful feedback when i commented a little too loudly that my hands were looking a little like decapitated moles – the trick, it turns out, is to not think of hands. You don’t say…… actually, though, because who can draw hands without thinking of hands? Especially now you are talking about hands all I can think about is mole-shaped hands. Don’t think of penguins! see.
The point is – whether you are an artist or a gal who just wants to put finger paint on her boyfriend’s face and take a photo for facebook, there is a place for you at The Rat. And you can rest assured that place will be comfortable, warm and never too far from a good glass of wine.
ellen a.k.a this muppet