Pencils and watercolors are their weapons. Collaborative drawing is their initiation.
“So you meet up on the side of a street, like a gang?” asked Richmond resident Gail Morrison, recalling her initial astonishment when she was invited to participate in a weekly drawing collaboration.
Yes it was, in fact, a gang of some sort. “The Gang of Five” is a group of men who meet once a week, usually on Thursday, since 1974 to draw anything they please, with whatever drawing supplies are available. The current members, John Gaccione, Robin LaFever, David Moore, Malcolm Lubliner and David Kelso, enjoy creating art, but also each other’s company. Mason Fong, an original member, moved to Texas more than 20 years ago and was replaced by Malcolm Lubliner in 1995. They have always been five.
The gang starts their evening with a meet-up in Point Richmond. Their exact location: a small park across the street from the only Starbucks in the area. They scout for dinner from one of the local restaurants and head back to eat at LaFever’s back patio, which oversees the bay. On other occasions, they may head to another member’s studio.
After dinner, the real action begins. The gang goes upstairs to LaFever’s studio, where they sit around an incandescent-lit table. They bring out the supplies and begin—some choose regular paper, others choose card stock already prepared to become a postcard. The sessions are not timed, but after a while on a piece, members pass each one on to another, who adds more characters, a background, color and even text, in the case of the comic books they have made.
At the end of the night, the handful of pieces they have worked on are pinned to the wall and members decide which to finish and which to leave for another day. Finished postcards are usually mailed out for the birthdays of friends and relatives. Few, if any, of the pieces in the studio and archive are the product of only one member.
Some of the gang has a background in print making, but none are professional artists. “You don’t need to be an artist,” LaFever said, “but you need to try.”
Others are invited to attend and contribute, as long as they are open to having others draw over their art—Morrison is one of the 40 guest artists who have dropped in occasionally. The gang launched a website earlier this month showcasing some of the work they collaborated on over the four decades.
All members are well into their seventies and some into their eighties.
“We plan to keep this going until our nineties,” Moore said, smiling.