Originally Published: June 27, 2006 4 a.m.
PRESCOTT As icebreaker lines go, Brian Lemcke's is unique.
Walking up to a woman at Coyote Joes bar Friday night, Lemcke got straight to the point. "Can I draw you?" he asked.
Prescott resident Terri Christensen, sitting at the bar with a group of friends, was immediately open to sitting for a quick sketch.
As he laughed and joked with Christensen, Lemcke drew quick strokes on his sketchpad. Within five minutes or so, he handed over a full-page sketch of Christensen's face.
"I love it," she said, smiling, as her friends looked on.
Lemcke returned to his table a man on a mission. "That was classic right there," he said of his exchange with Christensen. "I have repeated that over and over again."
He's not exaggerating. About five months ago, Lemcke set a goal for himself: To draw the faces of 1,000 people along Prescott's famed Whiskey Row.
Early Friday night, he was feeling the promise of success. As he finished the drawing of Christensen, Lemcke made a quick notation on the back of his sketchpad number 982.
Before the night ended, Lemcke reached his 1,000-sketch goal drawing the faces of two couples sitting on the balcony of the Whiskey Row's Jersey Lilly Saloon at midnight.
While Lemcke readily admits that his sketching mission was partly about finding a unique way to meet women, it was more than that.
Ever since his father, William Lemcke, died in March 2002, Brian said he has experienced melancholy as the date approached.
"Every spring since my father died, I came up with a ritual to honor him," he said.
After working as a bartender for years, and occasionally sketching people from behind the bar, Lemcke said the idea to take his art to another level was a natural.
Even as it helped him get through a tough patch in his life, the sketching also allowed Lemcke to give something back to the people he met along the way. He emphasizes that he gives all of his sketches away and never accepts payment.
Lemcke started the mission in February of this year, and has been out on Whiskey Row five or six nights a week ever since, becoming a fixture in the bars that line the historic street.
The completion of his goal may have come at just the right time. Lemcke said he recently visited a local bar, only to find that he already had drawn almost everyone inside.
While his subjects are mostly women, Lemcke said he draws plenty of men as well. "I'll draw anybody, really," he said. And although bars are his main locations, he also ventures out on the courthouse plaza at times, and into local restaurants.
As an untrained artist, Lemcke said the constant sketching was difficult at first. "I learned a lot of things how to draw eyes and noses."
He also honed his ability to approach strangers and strike up a conversation. "It was tough to crack the ice at first, but I've done it over and over again, and it's become a lot easier," Lemcke said. As he completed his final sketches, Lemcke said he felt a combination of relief and accomplishment. But he has no regrets about the time he poured into his project.
"I feel calm and relaxed, and I feel like I made friends," he said. "It has lifted me; it is the best ritual I've ever some up with."
And he maintains that his father would have approved. "My father loved beautiful women," Lemcke said. "He would have loved this."
Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org