Molly Crabapple (born Jennifer Caban[1], September 13, 1983) is an artist and writer living in New York. She is a contributing editor for VICE and has written for The New York Times, The Paris Review, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, CNN and Newsweek. Her published books include her illustrated memoir Drawing Blood (Harper Collins, 2015), Discordia (with Laurie Penny) on the Greek economic crisis, and the art books Devil in the Details and Week in Hell (2012). She regularly speaks to audiences around the world, at institutions such as The Museum of Modern Art, The London School of Economics, and Harvard and Columbia University. Her works are held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Barjeel Art Foundation and the New-York Historical Society.

Early LifeEdit

Molly Crabapple was born Jennifer Caban on September 13, 1983, in Far Rockaway, Queens in New York City to a Puerto Rican father and a Jewish mother, who was the daughter of a Belarusian immigrant.[2] Crabapple began drawing at the age of four with guidance from her mother, an illustrator who worked on toy product packaging.[3][4] At age 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".[5] Her school diagnosed her with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and she was expelled from the seventh grade.[5][6] In high school, Crabapple described herself as "gothy, dorky, and hated".[7] She never liked her given name so she started using the name Molly Crabapple after a boyfriend suggested it reflected her character.[8]

After graduating at the age of 17, she traveled to Europe. In Paris, she was welcomed by George Whitman, the proprietor of the English-language bookstore Shakespeare and Company.[8][9] After receiving a notebook as a gift she began drawing on a serious basis.[8]


Crabapple went on to work as a life model and a burlesque performer, and modeled for the Society of Illustrators.[8][10] At the age of 19, she was modeling for SuicideGirls,[11] and responding to ads in Craigslist for nude photographic modeling.[12] Working as a model allowed Crabapple to earn more money than a typical day job and to continue working on her illustrations.[12][13] She briefly attended the Fashion Institute of Technology,[14] but withdrew during her first year.[1][15] For four years she worked as the house artist for the Box, a New York City nightclub.[1] Crabapple described her time at the Box as her "artistic coming-of-age".[16]

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art SchoolEdit

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.

In 2005, she and illustrator A.V. Phibes founded Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, a burlesque life-drawing class.[18][19] 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. After an artist inquired about starting a Dr. Sketchy's in Melbourne, Australia, it began to spread around the world.[20] As of 2010, there were approximately 150 licensees using the Dr. Sketchy's name.[21]


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, as well as its prequel graphic novel, Scarlett Takes Manhattan, published by Fugu Press in 2009.[3][22][23][24] 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' Zuda imprint.[25][26][27][28] Crabapple also illustrated stories in two Marvel anthologies, Strange Tales (2009 series) and Girl Comics (2010 series).[29]

Occupy Wall StreetEdit

In September 2011, Crabapple was living in a studio near Zuccotti Park.[4] Occupy Wall Street protesters had begun to use the Park as a camp to stage their movement, artists began creating posters and Crabapple decided to contribute work and engage in the movement.[30][31] "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."[32] Artists and journalists who had come from all over the world to report on the protests were using Crabapple's apartment as an "impromptu salon" for the Occupy movement.[4][16][31] In their book Discordia, British journalist Laurie Penny remembered how "Occupy Wall Street had set up camp two streets away from Crabapple'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."[33] Crabapple recalled, "I started doing protest posters, and in doing these, I found my voice."[30] Journalist Matt Taibbi called Crabapple "Occupy's greatest artist",[34] noting the use of the "vampire squid" theme in her Occupy artwork, a visualization of a metaphor Taibbi himself had made in reference to Goldman Sachs in his 2009 Rolling Stone article, "The Great American Bubble Machine".[35][36] 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.[35]

On September 17, 2012, she was among a group of protesters 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.[37] 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.[38]

Art projectsEdit

In September 2011, Crabapple engaged in a week long performance art piece title "Week in Hell". She locked herself inside a hotel room, covered every inch of the walls with paper, and proceeded to spend the next five days filling every inch of the canvas with illustrations, using 200 fine-tip markers. The project was funded using Kickstarter, garnering 745 backers and over $25k in funds. In pitching the work she explained, "I'm interested in what happens when an artist leaves their studio, their cliches, and their comfort zone and draws beyond the limits of their endurance."[39] Every day of the endeavor was live-streamed to all backers, to make suggestions for illustrations, and were given different-sized sections of drawings, depending on the level of financial support they gave.[40] During the week she was continuously visited by friends and fellow artists. A book documenting the project was released by IDW Publishing in March 2012, titled Art of Molly Crabapple Volume 1: Week in Hell.

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 by the end of the campaign had raised $64,799. An exhibition was held at Smart Clothes Gallery in New York City in April 2013. The show ultimately sold out.[41][42] 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."[43] She regards drawing as “exposure, confrontation, or reckoning. Every line a weapon.”[44]

Illustrated journalismEdit

Starting in 2013, Crabapple began to make trips to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to make sketches recording hearings of Guantanamo military commissions.[45] Her drawings accompanied by written accounts were first published in Vice magazine under the title "It Don't Gitmo Better Than This".[46] Further articles and illustrations were released by Vice and The Paris Review.[47]

Scenes from the Syrian War is a collection of illustrated articles, originally serialized in Vanity Fair, made in collaboration with an anonymous source within Syria. Using photos sent via cell phone, Crabapple recreated rare glimpses of daily life in ISIS-occupied Syria, notably the Daesh-controlled cities Raqqa,[48] Mosul,[49] and Aleppo.[50]


In December 2015, Harper Collins published Crabapple's illustrated memoir, Drawing Blood. The book covers her life from a rebellious childhood in Far Rockaway, Queens, to her current illustrated journalism projects. Each chapter focuses on a period of her life, notably, her time as a model, her tenure as house artist for The Box night club, and her involvement with the Occupy movement and other post-financial crisis protests.

Drawing Blood was well received in the press, garnering attention and praise from many major news outlets. The New York Times said of it: "The book reads like a notebook of New York, a cultural history of a certain set. Filtered through her eyes, we see 9/11, the aftermath of the crash, Occupy Wall Street, Hurricane Sandy and onward... [Crabapple is] a new model for this century’s young woman".[51]


In 2010, Crabapple collaborated with Canadian singer Kim Boekbinder and filmmaker Jim Batt on the crowdsourced, stop motion animated film, I Have Your Heart (2012). The film is based on Boekbinder's song, "The Organ Donor's March". They raised $17,000 USD on Kickstarter from over 400 backers in April 2011.[52] Crabapple also collaborated with Boekbinder and Batt to create a series of five videos on political topics in 2015 for the media website Fusion. The videos are composed in a unique combination of live-drawing and animation with voice-over by Crabapple. Each one delves deeply in to a controversial or under-reported issue and provides facts and commentary on the matter.[53]

Also in 2015, Crabapple, Boekbinder, and Batt collaborated with the Equal Justice Initiative to create the video "Slavery to Mass Incarceration". Crabapple illustrates the animations, paired with Executive Director Bryan Stevenson's narration, which depict the history between mass enslavement and modern-day mass incarceration.[54]

In 2017, Crabapple collaborated with the ACLU, Laverne Cox, Zackary Drucker, and Boekbinder, in making a video about transgender history and resistance.[55]

Other workEdit

Crabapple learned Arabic and traveled to Turkey and Turkish Kurdistan.[44] Near the Syrian border, she was detained by police for a short period.[1][56] Her impressions of the artistry and culture of the Ottoman Empire in the Near East would come to influence her style and work.[1][15]

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.[57] Also in 2012, she appeared in Joëlle Oosterlinck's documentary Sex in the Comix as the presenter.[58]

Style and influenceEdit

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).[59] 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.[60]

Der Spiegel called her approach to writing unique, saying she had created a new role, that of the political journalist-artist ("die politische Journalistenkünstlerin"),[61] and in October 2016 Time magazine named her one of its Next Generation Leaders, "sketching from the front lines of conflicts in the U.S. and around the world," noting that "Her work is a perfect slow-media commentary on our current fast-media climate."[62]


  • Act-I-Vate Primer (2009), story: "Slow News Day, A Backstage Story", written by John Leavitt
  • Art of Molly Crabapple, Volume 1: Week in Hell (IDW, 2012)
  • Art of Molly Crabapple, Volume 2: Devil in the Details (IDW, 2012)
  • Dr. Sketchy's Official Rainy Day Colouring Book (2006)
  • Drawing Blood (HarperCollins, 2015)
  • Girl Comics #3 (Marvel, 2010), story: "Blindspot", written by Ann Nocenti
  • Graphic Classics, Volume 18: Louisa May Alcott (Eureka, 2009), story: "The Rival Prima Donnas", adaptation written by Rod Lott
  • Occupy Comics #3 (2013), illustrations
  • Puppet Makers #1-3 (DC/Zuda, 2011), written by John Leavitt
  • Scarlett Takes Manhattan (Fugu Press, 2009)
  • Smut Peddler vol. 2 (Iron Circus, 2014), limited edition cover
  • Strange Tales #1 (Marvel, 2009), untitled She-Hulk story, written by John Leavitt
  • Tome, Volume 1: Vampirism (2013), interview by Latoya Peterson

Further readingEdit

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

External linksEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Kino, Carole. "A World Drawn From Wild Tastes", The New York Times. Published 02 Oct 2009.
  2. Zax, Talya. "Molly Crabapple Explains How You Can Be an Artist and an Activist", Forward Magazine. Published 16 Apr 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rosen, Adam. Making a Show of It, Gelf Magazine. Published 21 Jun 2009. Retrieved 17 Jun 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Newton, Maud. "How Occupy Changed Contemporary Art", The New Republic. Published 13 Apr 2013. Retrieved 17 Jun 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Crabapple, Molly. "Rebels and Muses (or why I draw what I draw)", Art of Molly Crabapple, Volume 2: Devil in the Details. IDW Publishing, 2012.
  6. Crabapple, Molly. "Shooter Boys and At-Risk Girls", Vice. Published 06 Feb 2013. Retrieved 12 Jun 2014.
  7. Freydkis, Josh. "Molly Crabapple In Conversation With Josh Freydkis", Saatchi Art Magazine. Published 10 Jul 2010. Retrieved 14 Jun 2014.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Bussel, Rachel Kramer. "Molly Crabapple, Artist, Model, Burlesque Performer", Gothamist. Published 22 Dec 2005. Retrieved 12 Jun 2014.
  9. Crabapple, Molly. "RIP George Whitman", Published 16 Dec 2011. Retrieved 17 Jun 2014.
  10. Wright, Jennifer. "A Graphic Artist: Whimsical illustrator Molly Crabapple thinks outside The Box", Cityist. Published 2010. Retrieved 14 Jun 2014.
  11. Reynolds, Brandon. "Moulin Rouge in the Face", Style Weekly. Published 28 Feb 2007. Retrieved 13 Jun 2014.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Crabapple, Molly. "The World of a Professional Naked Girl", Vice. Published 24 Oct 2012. Retrieved 16 Jun 2014.
  13. Honigman, Ana Finel. "Apple of Your Eye", Interview Magazine. Published 19 May 2009. Retrieved 17 Jun 2014.
  14. "Profile: Jennifer Caban and John Leavitt, Illustration Alums", Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York. Retrieved 14 Jun 2014.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Mokoena, Tshepo. "Molly Crabapple", Don't Panic. Published 20 Mar 2011. Retrieved 12 Jun 2014.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Filipovic, Jill. "Q&A: Occupy’s ‘Greatest Artist’ Writes Her Memoirs", New York Magazine. Published 15 Aug 2013. Retrieved 11 Jun 2014.
  17. Iaccarino, Clara. "Burlesque girls put sketchers on a learning curve", The Sydney Morning Herald. (ISSN 0312-6315) Published 7 Apr 2007.
  18. Hampton, Justin. "Another model of art class", Los Angeles Times. Published 04 Jan 2007. Retrieved 16 Jun 2014.
  19. Smith, Mark (February 19, 2007). Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art School.Time Out London. Archived from the original.
  20. Chalupa, Andrea. "Molly Crabapple's DIY Empire: A How To", The Huffington Post. Published 21 May 2014. Retrieved 15 Jun 2014.
  21. Croughton, Paul. "This will get them interested in art", The Sunday Times (subscription required). Published 18 Jul 2010, p.10-11.
  22. Crabapple, Molly; Leavett, John; Howard Des Chenes (May 20, 2008). Backstage. Act-i-vate. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  23. Bissette, Elizabeth (Fall 2009). Molly Crabapple. Fine Art Magazine, pp. 60-61. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  24. O'Shea, Tim (August 24, 2009). Talking Comics with Tim: Molly Crabapple. Robot 6. Comic Book Resources. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  25. Newitz, Annalee (May 10, 2010). In "Puppet Makers," The Aristocrats of Versailles Are Cyborg Courtesans. io9. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  26. VanderMeer, Jeff and S. J. Chambers. The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature. Abrams, 2012. p.84-85. (ISBN 9781613121665)
  27. Chamberlain, Henry (May 13, 2010). "Interview: Molly Crabapple - Illustrator Extraordinaire". Geekweek. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  28. Hofacker, Brian (2007?) "DF Interview: Molly Crabapple". Dynamic Forces. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  29. Collins, Sean T. (August 13, 2009). "Strange Tales Spotlight: Molly Crabapple Q&A". Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Honigman, Ana Finel. "Interview with Molly Crabapple", ArtSlant. Published Jul 2012. Retrieved 15 Jun 2014.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Mason, Paul. "Does Occupy signal the death of contemporary art?", BBC News. Published 30 Apr 2012. Retrieved 11 Jun 2014.
  32. Zuckerman, Esther. "Molly Crabapple On 'Shell Game,' Her Surreal Take On the Financial Crisis", The Village Voice. Published 11 Mar 2012. Retrieved 18 Jun 2014.
  33. Penny, Laurie and Molly Crabapple. Discordia: Six Nights in Crisis Athens. Random House, 2012. (ISBN 9781448156849)
  34. Taibbi, Matt. "Molly Crabapple, Occupy's Greatest Artist, Opens Show This Weekend", Rolling Stone. Published 12 Apr 2013. Retrieved 15 Jun 2014.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Gerrard, David Burr. "A Conversation With Matt Taibbi and Molly Crabapple", The Awl. Published 03 Apr 2014. Retrieved 16 Jun 2014.
  36. Roose, Kevin. "The Long Life of the Vampire Squid", The New York Times. Published 13 Dec 2011. Retrieved 16 Jun 2014.
  37. Crabapple, Molly (September 23, 2012). "My arrest at Occupy Wall Street". CNN. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  38. Holpuch, Amanda (October 10, 2013). New York's Moma acquires Occupy Wall Street art prints. The Guardian. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  39. "Molly Crabapple's Week in Hell", Kickstarter. Retrieved 24 Aug 2016.
  40. Delany, Ella. "Crowdfunding turns to large-scale outlets". International Herald Tribune. (subscription required) Published 12 Jun 2013. Retrieved 13 Jun 2014.
  41. Galperina, Marina. "Molly Crabapple's Kickstarter Made $48,000+ in Three Days", Animal New York. Published 09 Mar 2012. Retrieved 17 Jun 2014.
  42. "Shell Game: An Art Show About the Financial Meltdown". Kickstarter. Retrieved 25 Oct 2013.
  43. Maduka Uzoamaka (April 2013). "In Conversation: Interview with Artist Molly Crabapple". The American Reader. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  44. 44.0 44.1 Dean, Michelle. "Molly Crabapple: 'We’re just trying to use our art to consume the world'", The Guardian. Published 01 Dec 2015.
  45. Thompson, Catherine. "Guantanamo Bay Through The Eyes Of Artist Molly Crabapple", Talking Points Memo. Published 15 Aug 2013. Retrieved 14 Mar 2015.
  46. Crabapple, Molly. "It Don’t Gitmo Better Than This", Vice. Published 07 Jul 2013.
  47. Crabapple, Molly. "Drawing Gitmo", The Paris Review. Published 21 Jun 2013.
  48. Crabapple, Molly. "Scenes from Daily Life in the De Facto Capital of ISIS". Vanity Fair. Published 06 Oct 2014.
  49. Crabapple, Molly. "Scenes from Daily Life Inside ISIS-Controlled Mosul", Vanity Fair. Published 05 Feb 2015.
  50. Crabapple, Molly. "Scenes From Inside Aleppo: How Life Has Been Transformed by Rebel Rule", Vanity Fair. Published 20 Jul 2015.
  51. Olin, Deb. "Molly Crabapple’s ‘Drawing Blood’", The New York Times. (ISSN 0362-4331) Published 04 Dec 2015. Retrieved 29 Aug 2016.
  52. Cavna, Michael. "Artmaking, A Love Story". The Washington Post. (subscription required). Published 14 Feb 2013. Retrieved 17 Jun 2014.
  53. "Molly Crabapple", Fusion. Retrieved 29 Sept 2016.
  54. "Slavery to Mass Incarceration", Equal Justice Initiative. Retrieved 29 Sept 2016.
  55. Strangio, Chase. "Laverne Cox Will Show You the Long, Intense Fight for Transgender Rights", Time. Published 10 Aug 2017.
  56. Lamb, Brian. "Q&A with Molly Crabapple", C-SPAN. Aired 02 Jul 2015.
  57. Goldberg, Steve and Aimee Schier. "'Power': A digital election art gallery", CNN. Published 23 Aug 2012. Retrieved 17 Jun 2014.
  58. "Sex in the Comics (2012)", Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 13 Sept 2017.
  59. Kiniry, Laura. "Art & Artifice", Inked (June/July 2009) p. 36.
  60. D'Isa, Francesco. "Erotic Burlesque Art: An Interview with Molly Crabapple" (, Scene 360. Published 25 Nov 2009.
  61. Von Rohr, Mathieu. "Politik? Yeah!", Der Spiegel. (15): 152-153. Published 07 Apr 2014. Retrieved 17 Jun 2014.
  62. Alter, Charlotte. "The Journalist Drawing the World", Time. Published 06 Oct 2016.
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