First unterwegs of the new year – January 2018 travel drawings!

Woman singing in the U Bahn by Suzanne Forbes Jan 17 2018As usual, I’ve seen all kinds of interesting things riding the Berlin transit system.

This woman was singing Tracy Chapman’s “Give me one reason” on a cold night, pretty late. Her voice rose up in the station, and she laughed as she got a little feedback howl.

Guys on weed mission U5 by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2018These two guys, one Russian and one British, were speaking English and having the loudest, most public discussion about buying drugs I’ve ever heard.

Brit: “Her message – ‘love gettin fucked with you'”

Russian: “And yours?”

Brit: “Gonna go get weed.”

Russian: “Aw that’s the sweetest thing to text to a girl!”

They had a long discussion where the Brit explained she had offered to get the weed, but he said he’d do it his own self, because “Gotta show I’m a provider”, which the Russian guy followed with this whole story of how when they had kids, there would be a little miniature boy who felt the same need to take care of supply maintenance, and then they rambled into how to split two bags for €15 three ways, which is not a math problem they were really up for. To be honest, I don’t know that they needed much more weed.

The German girl with the skateboard was laughing at them.

Little guy on the U8 by Suzanne Forbes Jan 12 2018This little guy sitting on his mom’s feet is named Miguel.

Little guy on the U8 by Suzanne Forbes detail Jan 12 2018I know that because he said to his mom, who was eating fries out of a deep-fried flour bowl (something I’d never seen before as a fry vehicle), “I NEVER get to do what I want!!”.

She replied, “Actually, Miguel -” and she enumerated some recent times when he’d gotten to do exactly what he wanted.

She said it in a very chill way, like she was just explaining something reasonable to a reasonable person.

And he kinda huffed, like, “Fair enough”, and settled back against her legs.

Small dog with large head on U5 by Suzanne Forbes Jan 17 2018This small dog had a really big, hairy head.

The little girl next to him was blown away by it. As her mom was herding her off the train, she was staring at me and I flipped my sketchbook around and showed her the drawing, and then she was even more astonished!

You can see previous unterwegs here:

December 2017

November 2017

September 2017

July bonus round

July

June

May bonus round

May round one

April

March 2

March

January

December

November

Just some history hoarders sitting around the library.

Emmanuel Goldstein and Kyle by Suzanne Forbes Jan 14 2018My hub’s old friends Emmanuel Goldstein and Kyle came over on a Sunday afternoon.

Emmanuel Goldstein and Kyle detail by Suzanne Forbes Jan 14 2018They were in Berlin for a few days post CCC.

We had a great New Yorker talk, ranging from the things lost from the East Village to how it impacts your life to be a collector and archivist of your community’s history.

Folks from this particular community have a hollow leg for Club Mate.

I asked if they wanted one and Emmanuel said, “Well we just had one – sure, why not!”.

Good thing we keep a case on the balcony around CCC season, also known as the Hacker High Holidays in our house!

Finished mixed media pastel portrait of Shakrah!

Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes Jan 11 2018I committed to the pastel learning journey!

When we had our first sitting for a planned pastel portrait, I knew I needed colors to depict Shakrah Yves. A 1920s jazz singer and former professional costumier, she has an absolute treasury of gorgeous outfits she has created, with matching accessories.Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes Jan 11 2018 detail

Iris Perez by Suzanne Forbes Jan 2018There was no way I could do justice to her emerald sparkles with the nervous forays I’d made into pastel color thus far.

You can see the results of our first sitting, in sepia and umber colors accented with black and white, here.

I got two sets of new pastels, oil and chalk, and some mixing stumps, as a birthday gift. I took a trial run at adding color by enriching the portrait of Iris Perez, left, before her partner took it back to the Bay Area for her.

When Shakrah arrived for our second sitting, I was ready. SO many colors!

I rarely set up my paint palette with more than fifteen, and here I had at least 70. I added color to the drawing with chalk pastels first, as they are easier to remove, layer over and blend without muddiness. The chalk pastel also behaved well with the white gel pen highlights from the previous sitting. The gel pen ink seemed to act as a resist, sealing the surface of the paper. That meant I didn’t lose the highlights.

I’m using Canson Mi Teintes, which is gelatin-sized and has some kinda crazy microscopic hyper-surface-area (mechanical resistance) to attract and hold pigments.*

Then I put oil pastel over the chalk, because I am punk as fuck.

Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes Jan 11 2018 detail cuI was careful because past experiences with oil pastels had taught me that things get muddy fast. You can lose color purity quickly with oil pastels, and wind up with tints you can’t shake.

While chalk pastel is close to painting in the sense that it has limited additive/subtractive properties, oil pastel is less flexible.

You can scrape it back down, but the surface will be permanently stained.

When you apply oil pastel over chalk pastel, the chalk slides like graphite dust under the stick.

It takes some focus to control the resulting mix, but it gives a rich color, including the deep darks I want from a picture. I don’t think I have the patience or discipline to become the kind of chalk pastel user who can get true dark values from chalks. Same way I don’t have the spoons left to properly learn watercolor. I love mixing media, though, and I feel like there are tremendous possibilities. Particularly in terms of the speed that is always of primary importance to me.

Of course I’m concerned about the archival properties of the works, particularly when using markers as solvents for oil pastels.

Star Trek the Original Series artwork by Suzanne Forbes AKA Rachel Ketchum AKA Rachel Forbes Seese

the effects of paste-up, non-acid-free tape and Letratone adhesive on some of my original Star Trek comic artwork.

The data that exists on the preservation of mixed media is not much more than a century old.

Gel pens are only a few decades old, and my hundreds of drawings made for Frank Wu are on printer paper and use correction tape, which isn’t intended for art material use at all.

Artists have the responsibility to be educated about the archival and lightfastness properties of their materials to the extent that the information exists.

As an artist who always intended to be a commercial artist creating work for reproduction, I’m willing to see some of my work deteriorate.

That the reproduction, or the digital record, is the true version of the work and the actual physical art is ancillary. And of course, when I sell these mixed media works, it’s crucial to be transparent about the fact that they may get Pollacky in a few decades. In the age of the digital record, collectors understand this much more easily. Time is a medium too.

So I am gonna keep experimenting!

With the layers of media and their varying specularities, this portrait is hard to photograph except in raking light. You can see a video of it on my Instagram!Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes Jan 11 2018 angle

*reading about the properties of Mi-Teintes reminded me of learning about pasta-making at The Pasta Shop in Berkeley when I worked there in 1997. We had a superb employee education program, and during one lecture we learned that the best Italian dry pasta is still extruded from antique bronze dies, which create a microscopic pitting on the surface of the pasta. This sponge-like texture grips sauce far better than pasta extruded from steel dies.

All knowledge is worth having!

New Year’s Eve with Sunday Slips and Donut Heart!

Liliana Velasquez and friends at Sunday Slips by Suzanne Forbes Dec 31 2017We went to the Sunday Slips Extravaganza at Lagari for New Year’s.

That’s right, we finally went out on New Year’s Eve, our third year in Berlin. What can I say, we like our house and we like staying home!

This year though, lots of our friends were performing/going to Lagari so we got on the M29 bus and went to Neukölln.

It was so wonderful to ride on the upper deck of my beloved M29 along the river of stars that is the Ku’Damm at New Years.

Cedric Till at Sunday Slips by Suzanne Forbes Dec 31 2017

Cedric Till at Sunday Slips by Suzanne Forbes Dec 31 2017

I felt ridiculously, absurdly fortunate to be riding the bus to friends with my husband in a city that was not just safe, but sparkling.

Well, exploding, really, but I like the noise and fireworks of Silvester! We arrived at Lagari around ten, just as the open mic session was ending.

The host of the event, Liliana Velásquez, is someone I drew previously at Folsom Europe. You can see her dancing with friends in the top drawing. As well as hosting the Sunday Slips, the weekly clubhouse of Freudian Slip Club, she is part of the Fetish Comedy group.

Her partner Wynton Kelly Stevenson is an amazing one-man band.

Wynton Kelly Stevenson by Suzanne Forbes Dec 31 2017

Wynton Kelly Stevenson by Suzanne Forbes Dec 31 2017

We were blown away by his sounds, created with harmonica, beatbox and Loopstation. And his sound is super danceable. Hubbin got up and danced a bit along with the folks of all ages who enjoy the chill Lagari scene!

Women dancing at Lagari by Suzanne Forbes Dec 31 2017Here you can see Alfred Ladylike serenely conserving her energies for…

Alfred Ladylike by Suzanne Forbes Dec 31 2017…the rocked to fuck show by Alfred Ladylike and Rah Hell of Donut Heart!

They were joined at the end by Liliana, who just learned to play the bass!

Alfred Ladylike and Rah Hell of Donut Heart by Suzanne Forbes Dec 31 2017

At one point Rah had to stand up and drum because her drum was trying to escape the pounding she was giving it. Wynton had to lie on it to hold it in place. Berlin is punk as fuck.

There were other performances like burlesque queen Viva Lamore coming out of a handmade giant Campbell’s Soup Can, and we received handmade banana hats in our goody bag. We had such a lovely time.

Berlin art and music fam, we love you!

A wedding gift couples portrait on the third day of the new year.

A and C wedding portrait painted by Suzanne Forbes Jan 3 2018Our friend A. comes to Germany for a certain hacker event every year, eleven years running.

Every year he says he’s not coming to Berlin for New Year’s Eve afterwards, and every year I hear his voice in the hallway at our Hacker Open House on New Year’s Day.A and C wedding portrait by Suzanne Forbes Jan 3 2018

This year he brought his bride to be.

And for the second year running, a box of still warm cinnamon rolls from Zeit für Brot nearby. I like both of these and wish both to become tradition!

A and C WIP by Suzanne Forbes Jan 3 2018I told them that of course we had to paint a wedding portrait, and we could do it in four hours or less.

They promptly agreed and spent the day on January 3 hitting Berlin goth shops for appropriate attire.

A and C wedding portrait A detail by Suzanne Forbes Jan 3 2018A and C wedding portrait A detail by Suzanne Forbes Jan 3 2018(Not everyone chooses the route of D & E, who wore their underwear for their New Year’s wedding portrait!)

A and C wedding portrait C detail by Suzanne Forbes Jan 3 2018I loved having a little time to get to know C., who is an amazing gift to the Bay Area community.

I am so happy for these two and the adventures that lie ahead of them as a family. The portrait was started and finished in three hours, all in, plus an additional hour for talking and planning beforehand. Making it my first Four Hour Portrait of a couple in many years!

The reason I can spontaneously make a work like this is that I am a Patreon-powered artist.

My amazing Patrons on Patreon, a subscription platform for supporting artists, contribute money every month to make it possible for me to make art. As a disabled person, I wouldn’t be able to be a working artist without Patreon. You can help, for as little as a dollar a month!

Click here to join the team who makes my work happen.

Work in Progress: a second sitting for Q and Companion.

q and p Jan 2 2018 by Suzanne ForbesFinally got a chance to have another sitting with our friend Quinn and her companion.

CU WIP Q and P by Suzanne Forbes Jan 02 2018Who I refer to as P. or PASR, which is a private joke between two women nearly of an age. We are both much alike and extremely different, she and I.

We’ve had uncannily similar traumas, and we each have our own ways of surviving them. She is completely an LA girl, and I am a New Yorker for life, but we are both robust survivors, absurdly resilient and determinedly creative.

I posed them in the library instead of the salon because the palette suits her Autumn coloring best; this sitting was extra special because her extraordinary child was with us. Ignoring us, like any reasonable teen would!

The day before we painted I said to her, you were one of the reasons I gave my guy a shot.

I figured any guy who had a woman friend like you had to be a guy worth checking out.

“Remember what I said when you got married?” she said, and we laughed. Knowing remarkable people over a lifetime is the first greatest treasure of life. Watching their remarkable children grow up is the second greatest.

Detail WIP Q and P by Suzanne Forbes Jan 02 2018

A New York subway station under a dollhouse in Berlin.

Peter Parker Rogues Gallery in customized action figure subway Suzanne Forbes Dec 2017Earlier this year I discovered that action figure photography is a thing.

Like, a huge thing. There are all these groups on Instagram of guys – it’s only guys, as far as I can tell – taking serious photos of their 6″ (dollhouse) scale action figures. As the toy photography culture has grown, props for it have also become a thing. And a company called Extreme-Sets (which tells you a lot about the dudebro culture of the toy photo groups) has emerged, creating pop-up cardboard sets for your action figure photo shoots.

When they came out with a subway station that had a NYC subway map and a subway car that looked like a classic NY car, I knew I had to have them.

Look at this, you can practically hear Electro saying “Ayy, whaddaya whaddaya?”

But shipping was ruinously expensive. Lucky for me, some friend-muse-patrons were coming to Berlin for Thanksgiving!

Once I opened my new sets, I set about kitbashing them. Kitbashing is a term from the model car world, I believe, that I learned after it found its way into dollhouse culture.

My dollhouse, for example, is a radical kitbash of a standard dollhouse kit.

I trimmed down some elements of the Extreme-Sets station and changed their proportions so it would feel truer to an 80s’-era station.

I customized my station by cutting the panels apart and melding them back together in new forms. That way I could feature the subway map and have the parts of the panels I liked best clearly displayed.

I added a poster for the original Terminator movie. It’s 1984 in my subway station.

I mounted the panels on the deconstructed interior of the IKEA door modules on the bottom center cubbies of my dollhouse, using carpet tape. I spackled the grooves where the panels met and colored the spackle to match.

Customized memorial subway station panels Suzanne Forbes dec 2017Then I tagged the station and the train car with the tags of my 80s graffiti writer boyfriends and people I knew back in the day, and my own tag, with my crew, Acid Writers. I posted what I was working on Instagram, with the hashtag “AcidWriters”. It showed up as an official hashtag, so I browsed through the images, and saw people I recognized.

That’s when I found out another one of my boyfriends from the 80s was dead.

We had a high-risk lifestyle. I don’t know why I had expected he’d be alive. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about what he was doing in many years. There’s so much grief and loss from those days; I don’t borrow trouble. Matt was drinking hard by the time he was twelve.

Making art, and my dollhouse in particular, is a way of processing grief and turning it into tribute.

My dollhouse is a safe house for my memories and stories, a home for all the things that matter. How much I loved Peter Parker and the New Mutants when I was seventeen. The refuge that fantasy books provided, starting with the Narnia books when I was eight. The impossible, inconsolable grief of the death of my best friend and love of my young life at nineteen. The New York we roamed and loved, and the way Berlin recalls it.

Berlin is a recursive, palimpsest city, drilled down deep into the underworld, like New York.It seems completely right to build a tunnel to the past under my dollhouse here, a secret shrine with coded messages.

Stories are the immortality of love, and telling my stories are my tribute to the dead.

 

Last assless chaps of the year!

Dancer at DILF party Club Gretchen Dec 29 2017 by Suzanne ForbesMiss Natasha Enquist was performing at the DILF/Testosterone party at Club Gretchen last night.

I arrived at the club, which is a beautiful venue in old military stables, to find it full of great-looking classic leather daddies in Tom of FInland gear.

Last assless chaps of the year at Club Gretchen Dec 29 2017 by Suzanne ForbesI was a little nervous at first with so many NYC policemen uniforms- anyone who was arrested as often as I was by the NYPD would be!

It was dark and I kept it loose, using mostly broad-tip markers. The club manager came over and gave me a tea towel to put my markers on, so I wouldn’t mark up the white lucite bar – not that I would have!

Miss Natasha Enquist performing at Club Gretchen Dec 29 2017 by Suzanne ForbesMiss Natasha came onstage looking like if Rolls-Royce made hood ornaments for Star Destroyers.

Miss Natasha Enquist performing at Club Gretchen Dec 29 2017 by Suzanne ForbesAs a portraitist, it’s so important to draw the same person over and over. It’s critical to understanding what makes each face, body and library of gestures unique.

You can see I didn’t really get her face right in this picture, or I drew her head too large, but her body is completely right.

The specific is the key to the deep spiritual magic of touching the universal humanity in each of us. And practise and observation is the sacred work of portraitists. I have so enjoyed drawing Miss Natasha this year!

I would have liked to draw some of the DILFs in more detail, but they were all too busy dancing!

I’ll have to wait til the next Cigar Lounge!

MNE dancing at Club Gretchen Dec 29 2017 by Suzanne Forbes

Working with a new muse, Shakrah Yves!

WIP Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes Dec 27 2017There is nothing more thrilling than finding another woman I’m excited to make pictures of!

I met Shakrah at a Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin earlier this year, and immediately did my weird thing of being like “Hi total stranger, can I paint your picture?”.WIP Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes Dec 27 2017

She moved here from San Francisco a couple years ago, and has also lived in New York and Amsterdam.

She is a woman of many talents, including singing 20s and 30s jazz. She has an absolute treasury of gorgeous outfits she has created.

As you all know, an outfit treasury and the costume styling cognizance that goes with is very precious to me in a model!

You can see her singing in one of her marvelous outfits below, and hear her band The Cat’s Meow on bandcamp here.

When Shakrah arrived with her incredible emerald outfit for a planned pastel portrait, I knew I had to commit to the pastels.

Her outfit creation deserves full color. I already had a set of colored pastels in my Amazon cart and had added a bunch of pan pastels to my German Amazon art supplies wishlist. But I had been hesitating.

My childhood dislike of “dust sticks”, my concern that pastels would be…pastel, rather than the dramatic jewel tones and Manet-level darks I like, my fear of working with color and my concerns about my ability to manage color…

all those factors kept me using just black, grey, dark red and umber all year. Here’s what’s left of the sticks I bought early this year! So I’m gonna get some colored pastels and Shakrah and I will reconvene next week.

My US Amazon art supplies wish list is here, I think all the sellers ship to Germany! My 51st birthday is January 8 🙂

*why do you mostly paint women, Suz?

Men are too easy – women’s faces are much harder to capture.

Women’s stories and identities are most important to me in terms of the kind of creative legacy I want to leave.

I value making new woman friends enormously and painting a portrait of a woman I meet who I admire is a great way to get to know new people.

Men are somewhat less likely to have the kind of carefully crafted, creative performative identity (and attire to support it) that interests me.

Happy, happy holidays from your artist friend in Berlin!

Tired elf Miss Natasha Enquist drawn by Suzanne Forbes Dec 24 2017Here is Miss Natasha Enquist resting peacefully in the cozy corner at Ludwig.

This was the last pose of our Women’s Art Lounge, and we all loved it so much we asked her to hold it for an extra twenty minutes. You can see three other woman artists interpreting it in the first post about the Art Lounge.

And for good measure, here are two more elf drawings.

Miss Natasha Enquist elf butt Dec 22 2017 by Suzanne ForbesMiss Natasha Enquist with lights Dec 22 2017 by Suzanne ForbesI wish all of you reading this the happiest holidays, at this beautiful inward-looking time, the turning of the year.