Beadwork in Progress- Halloween crazy quilt mantel scarf and leaf corset.

Halloween spider bead embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2016When we got back from the US last week I yanked the box marked “Halloween Craft Projects” off the shelf and tore into it.

Halloween spider bead embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2016I was basically crazed from exposure to American craft store Halloween displays.

The first thing I wanted to work on was beading this mass-market Halloween mantel scarf or banner that I bought at PierOne during an after-Halloween sale for my usual 75-90% off.

This is what I call an “Uplift” project, after the science fiction novels by David Brin.

I have never beaded anything as fast in my life as I did this project.

I love taking commercially made items that I bought for almost nothing and investing hours of meticulous labor in making them more beautiful.

Halloween spider bead embroidery by Suzanne Forbes 2016It’s obviously fraught to buy mass-produced items in the first place; I always think of the person who made them.

I wonder how my buying these items at the end of their retail life, when they have basically become junk in the eyes of the retailer, impacts the commercial production cycle in other countries of Halloween crap for American consumers.

Halloween spider beadwork and beaded leaves by Suzanne Forbes 2016I don’t know the answer, but I do feel a connection when I do this, like my labor and the mystery factory worker’s labor is of equal value.

As if by adding hours of my highly trained privileged-artist love-labor to their object of work, I’m giving it more space in the world. A better chance of lasting.

As you can see I’ve also been working very slowly on the beaded leaf corset project.

I made the perhaps injudicious decision to individually bead some of the velvet leaves. And hand apply glass hotfix rhinestones to them. Heaven only knows how far I’ll go down that rabbithole.

I have an Instagram now, where you can see the delightful loot haul of green beads and crystals I recently obtained for the leaf corset!

September bricolage roundup- frames and framing!

creepy Halloween bug frames by Suzanne Forbes 2016Lots of frames!

postcard-back-editedI am always catching up on framing. I wanted to frame two of the lovely drawings of me by students from the ESDIP Summer Illustration Program, as well as more creepy dollar store lenticulars I brought from the US for Halloween decor.

And I finally found a copper frame that was just right for this postcard from beloved friend-muse-Patron Audrey Penven‘s 2011 show.

Floating frames are perfect for postcards because you can look at the back as well. blue frames

For the student’s drawings I bought frames that were blue to start with, since they would be going in the salon.

(I have a gallery of portraits of me drawn by other artists, because I really believe in portraiture for life documentation. “I’m not just the President, I’m also a client!”.)

I wanted the frames to be a little more special and integrate with the mostly silver and gold existing frames, so I silver-leafed them.

To give the glossy frame a little more tooth on its surface, I scuff-sanded it with a nail file.silver-leafingsilver-fingertipsThen I quickly glazed the frames with some clear polyurethane craft varnish (I was out of my other clear glazing mediums) and stuck bits of silver leaf all over them.

My VERY unorthodox method is to then tap and rub the leaf on the still-sticky frame, picking up bits of leaf with my tacky fingertips and tearing the pieces already attached.

Once I had a nice pattern of distressed leafing, I mixed up a little acrylic paint and used a sponge brush and my fingertips to roughly add some variegated color that partially obscured the leaf.

I found the blue plastic adhesive-backed curleques, made for scrapbooking, when I pulled out the leaf package, so I threw them on there too. More rococo!adding-curliques

safety-third-editedOnce I was done with the painting and the frames were dry, I gave them a thin coat of translucent pearly-gold craft acrylic.

Please note that as is the tradition of my people, I completely disregarded the safety instructions on the back of the large frame. Safety Third!

I’m pleased with the results and happy to have my students’ work hanging in the gallery. Viviane is impressed with my efforts as well, apparently.leafed-frames-edited

Meanwhile, I was also working on the Halloween projects.creepy Halloween bug frames by Suzanne Forbes 2016bug frame in progress by Suzanne Forbes

salt-and-watercolor-mat
rhinestone flourishesFor the frames, I used the last of the laser-cut wood frames I bought at Michael’s a couple years ago. 

I had painted them black in Oakland, so I just needed to add some black bugs and some of these pre-formed glass rhinestone motifs.

I find these “rhinestone flourishes” useful for Extreme Crafting situations, where you have multiple projects going and need to bust out some finished projects tonight.

creepy Halloween bug frame by Suzanne Forbes 2016creepy Halloween bug frames by Suzanne Forbes 2016I cut the designs up and move them around as needed, and supplement with actual glass hotfix rhinestones from my stash to finish the details.

I also take a brush and quickly paint black over the most obvious areas of the vinyl adhesive strip that the crystal “flourish” is on.

The greenish bugs had white undersides, so I dry-brushed them with black at the same time to help them integrate into the frame.

I painted the whole green bug frame with multiple coats of Plaid FolkArt “Extreme Glitter” (hey, that’s what it’s called) transparent acrylic glaze with glitter.

creepy Halloween bug frames by Suzanne Forbes 2016I’m not generally a fan of the “craft” acrylic paints that come in bottles for anything, but I make an exception for sheer glitter, metallic or pearl glazes.

They go on very smoothly, they’re buildable and the tough, rubbery finish stands up to household use. If I could paint my hair with them, I would.

Next month’s bricolage roundup will be all Halloween, all the time- I’m working on half a dozen other Halloween projects besides the beaded mantel scarf I’ll post tomorrow.

 

Painting, or not painting, Ian in Berlin.

I am very new to using watercolors.

unfinished-failed-watercolor-do-not-share-editedThat means I sometimes makes mistakes, and with a watercolor you can quickly reach a point of no return.

One of our friends from the Bay Area, a very handsome and dashing fellow, was in town. I was super excited to paint him, as I’d never had a chance in Oakland.

He came over, dressed in a sharp suit, and I gave him some wine (we still have tons left from the housewarming) and set to work. He posed extremely well, with great brio, but I couldn’t get a light source that worked. And once I started painting, the situation devolved.

I can draw myself or paint myself out of just about any corner in an additive-subtractive medium; my knowledge of anatomy, structure and values is sufficient to recover from most wrong directions. But with watercolor, you can’t go very far down the wrong road. unfinished-failed-watercolor-do-not-share-edited-1

An old friend of mine, a master watercolor painter, once said, “I’ve never won an argument with a watercolor.”

I tried everything I could think of to resolve the portrait, including opaque white to recover lost lights, but it was a no-go. Eventually I called it and we started over. I asked my model to change his pose, I changed the light source, and I switched to drawing, only lightly tinted at the end with watercolor. I captured his Leyendecker profile this time.Ian September 24 2016 by Suzanne Forbes

So I was able to produce a decent likeness that had a good sense of the sitter, but only by divergent means. I scanned the horrific failure, excerpted here, but only my Patrons get to see it 🙂

My very best wedding drawings yet!

drawing by Suzanne Forbes Sept 17 2016We went to America for a family wedding, and I made wedding drawings.

drawing by Suzanne Forbes Sept 17 2016

drawing by Suzanne Forbes Sept 17 2016Which is always a joy!

As my health and well-being has increased here in Berlin, so have my drawing skills. These are some of the best, most warmly human likenesses I’ve achieved.

I’m so grateful to continue recovering my health and to be able to make work at events like this one. A wedding is as high-pressure an event as my old work as a courtroom artist was- you only get one shot!

I do have a rough sketch of the bride and groom I’m planning to finish up later 🙂

Lou and Peter Berryman by Suzanne ForbesThese folks performing are Madison, Wisconsin folk artists Lou and Peter Berryman, who actually wrote a song for the bride and groom; it was delightful!

Here are some of my previous wedding drawings and a post-wedding couple portrait.

If you’d like to support my work as an artist and art teacher you can visit my Patreon page!

 

Mother, Maiden, Crone- the Ages of Woman at a Berlin bus stop.

mother-maiden-crone by Suzanne Forbes Sept 12 2016This is one of those lovely Berlin scenes I just got a quick look at.

Luckily, I had my mini sketchbook with me AND two of the women got on the bus with me, enabling me to get more details of their clothes. It was a Sunday afternoon in the West. The conked-out girl in the leather jacket was obviously walk-of-faming it back from a club night (in Berlin you wear sensible shoes to the club, not heels. I had to wake her up and tell her the bus was arriving, which she appreciated!).

I worked on the drawing over a couple of days and when I showed it to Daria she said it needed more space, the ladies needed to breathe.

She was absolutely right, of course. She also suggested I push the characters a little more- make the older German lady even more grouchy and vigilant, make the Muslim lady more clearly heading home to her family. So I photocopied it onto an A4 sheet and finished the details at the expanded size.sketches-wip-by-suzanne-forbes-sept-2016

I added a grocery bag beside the “Mother” lady, with a baguette to represent grain and Demeter.

I enhanced the frown of the “Crone”, who was really quite pissed off about the bus running late. And I added more leaves, to represent the cycle of life and Persephone.

sketches-wip-by-suzanne-forbes-sept-2016-When I copy an ink drawing I often take advantage of the opportunity to make any corrections with white-out tape, as you can see here. I redrew the Crone’s right hand so her fingers popped more against the black of the Maiden’s jacket.

I also used the white-out tape to eliminate the edges from the copying; the white line is where the drawing originally ended.

Sure, I could use Photoshop, but this is way faster than trying to launch any kind of photo-editing program on my poor little Chromebook!

Watercolor painting with Daria in Schöneberg!

Daria at Cafe Bilderbuch Sept 2 2016 Suzanne ForbesI love Schöneberg.

It’s our neighbor neighborhood, just to the East and a quick bus or subway ride. Blixa Bargeld, Marlene Dietrich and Helmut Newton were all born there. Bowie, Iggy Pop, Klaus Kinski and Christopher Isherwood lived there. It’s old-fashioned and not uptight, with lots of amazing food and lots of relaxed mature bears.

Daria decided the Cafe BilderBuch, or Storybook Cafe, is the perfect meetup place for us because it’s halfway between her place in Neukölln and our place in Wilmersdorf. We met there for the second time yesterday. I love to walk from the M29 stop at Nollendorfplatz, through the ancestral queer neighborhood and down towards the new hip specialty food joints.

Daria made this beautiful watercolor.Daria Rhein watercolor at Cafe Bilderbuch Sept 2016

We went to Jones Ice Cream first, because Jones Ice Cream is beyond belief incredibly delicious.

The ice cream is American style, with big, soft chewy American cookies also available. This time I had lemon ice cream with blueberry jam and lemon-mint sorbet. The day before I had cucumber and tonic and pink grapefruit/Earl Grey. All are amazing, although the cucumber and tonic is some particularly next level business.

Daria Rhein watercolor at Cafe Bilderbuch Sept 2016 cu Daria, who actually studied watercolor in art school, is going to teach me some techniques soon so I can make real watercolors. Meanwhile I made a kind of illustration/drawing hybrid of her 🙂

Here’s another pic of her Bilderbuch picture. You can see more of her work at her site and now secret works at her brand-new Patreon!

Horribella Mark V, a hideous Gothic-Rococo Dolly!

Horrible dolly sunlight shot Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016I had absolutely no intention of making another Horribella at 8pm last night.

Horrible dolly miniature corset laces Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016I particularly had no intention of using a single strand of embroidery floss to make tiny corset laces and tying tiny bunny loops with it, because I hate tying the tiny bunny loops. I went out the door for a night walk, and wandered a few blocks to the main shopping plaza.

I “accidentally” stopped in at TKMaxx to check out the Halloween stuff. There wasn’t much Halloween stuff (they get a little because they share inventory with the US TJ Maxx stores) but I saw this display cloche- with the base already painted blue.

Horrible dolly by Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016I had an instant vision of a Gothic Rococo Horribella.

Horrible dolly hero shot Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016The last one lives in the library, because she matches the colors in there; I suddenly wanted one for the salon!  I bought the cloche and a foot massager for the hubbin and hurried home.

Then I spent the next ten hours working nonstop like a fiend on the new dolly.

Even though I’ve been teaching, drawing, painting, embroidering and writing all month. I was so excited I never even took off my bra when I got home. Normally my front door is an Instant Bra Removal Field.

Making these dollies demands a kind of flow state where I grab things and glue things and melt things without stopping to think.

If I stop to think, I remember I have virtually no training in mixed media or sculpture and never intended to make this kind of art. So I don’t stop.

During the year of packing for the move, I had episodes where I managed my stress by meticulously, dementedly organizing every scrap of craft supplies I own. It was not an efficient use of my time, but it kept me sane. I had a vision of using all this stuff, in Berlin.

dollmaking worktable Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016Horrible dolly back with miniature corset Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016That meant when my workshop was finished, all I had to do was pop all the neatly bagged/sorted/labelled supplies into the drawers, and I now know where everything is.

My workshop is a decent imitation of the greatest art & crafts workshop I know, that of my friend Monique Motil.Horrible doll wings Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016

I’m busting through projects and finally, finally using things I have had for years. Decades.

I used four different scraps of wired pink French ribbon on this dolly, and two of them dated back to the craft projects for my first marriage.

These scraps of ribbon have moved from St. Paul to Hartford to DC to Arlington to Alameda to Albany to Berkeley to North Berkeley to Albany to Oakland to Berlin. They have been in storage three times. I’ve had fifteen apartments, dozens of jobs, and three husbands.

Horrible dolly salon Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016

You know what’s fantastic about getting older, being happy and feeling safe?

Horrible dolly in salon Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016You can finally say, if not now, when? If not me, who? There will never be a better project to use any of these things on than the one in front of me right now.

Every piece of ribbon from a present I carefully saved, every pair of feet I cut off a plastic monster or pair of wings I cut off a plastic bug- all of this stuff is going in the hopper. I used a satin-covered button from a silk nightshirt I owned in 1992 to make the base of this Horribella’s hat. It took four tries, four little pieces of embroidered stag beetle ribbon used up, to get it to look right.

Don’t care! It’s my weird stuff and my weird lifelong decorator crab shell of crap, I’m gonna use it all!

Horrible dolly Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016I used eleven different ribbons/trims, four adhesives, epoxy clay, primer, spray paint, plastic toys, nail flocking powder and parts of three plastic bugs to make her, and I think she is the best Horribella yet. She is truly a Horrible Dolly. I am going to make all the horrible things.dolly feetz Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016

dolly spider Suzanne Forbes Sept 2016I didn’t just make a new Horribella last night.

I also started a hideous Spider Lady with monster feet. She is going to be truly dreadful. I have lots of tutorials to study on my dollmaking Pinboard!

Look for continued unpleasant doll developments this September.

As always, when I make a doll I am deeply indebted to the incredible inspiration of Monique, creator of the incomparably creepy and beautiful Sartorial Creatures.

WIP: beaded green velvet leaf pagan Mayday corset!

This corset is one of those projects I’ve been planning for years.beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016

beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016I brought all the raw materials for it to Berlin in the shipping container. It took a decade to collect all the velvet leaves, beads and leaf-shaped lace.

I have no idea what I’ll do with it when it’s done. Who cares, it’s the making of it that’s the incredible joy.

Maybe we’ll have a Midsummer dinner party and I’ll wear it, maybe I’ll get a red wig and go to some comic thing as Victorian Gothic Poison Ivy.

.beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016 This is my third heavily beaded/embroidered corset project, and I’ve learned a few things. Such as to do the heavy beading on a sheer fabric on a hoop first, to save wear and tear on my hand/wrist and reduce the amount of crappy random stitchery on the back. (You can see the previous two corsets here. The blue mermaid one is the same corset model as this one.)

I learned this from the generous and amazing website of Games of Thrones textile artist Michele Carragher. She creates the incredible, breathtaking detail of the costumes for GoT and other productions.

If you have never looked at these works in detail I cannot encourage you strongly enough.

I love Michele Carragher’s work and the way she is so generous in sharing her process.

I love her story because although she has a degree from the London College of Fashion she also has had a somewhat meandering career and is suddenly achieving great success well into her professional life. I wonder if she has a helper like I do?beaded corset WIP Suzanne Forbes 2016 helper

An off-the-rack corset like this one from Orchard Corset has only a 10-12″ difference between waist and hips, so I have to modify it to add an additional four inches at the hips. That will be the next stage, after I finish seasoning it. I don’t usually bother to season corsets, because I’m lazy, I have a very corset-shaped body and I know exactly how to buy an OTR corset that fits me really well. (Don’t be like me! Season your corset!) In this case however I want to make sure changes in the shape happen before there’s additional decorative stitching, so as not to strain it. I started the beading first though, cause I needed its comforting, trancelike pleasure.

Although my daytime PTSD symptoms are much better now that the anniversary of Rob’s death and San Diego has passed, I’m still having sleep trouble. I have been kicking my husband awake fighting off nightmare assailants. I have to be very careful about how much I embroider since the tendonitis problems of 2013, but I’m clocking as much as I can.

I am so grateful I can work on this wonderful, soothing project. Hope you like it so far!

August Drawing Roundup!

Some drawings I’ve been finishing up.

Here’s one of my beloved friend-muse-patrons with her little guy Felix.chunskis summer 2016 by Suzanne Forbes

in the ubahn by Suzanne Forbes Aug 30 2016Here’s a girl I glimpsed on the subway platform and had to draw because something about the way she delicately picked a strand of hair out of her face reminded me of my friend Victoria’s daughter Dalia when she was younger.

drawing of Victoria Aronoff by Suzanne Forbes 1993Here’s a throwback- a drawing I did of Victoria in ’93 that she recently sent me.

drawing by Suzanne Forbes April 2015Here’s a guy I drew on the U-Bahn cause he looked like my boyfriend David when I lived in DC.

And here’s a note I left for my middle-aged German biker furniture movers, who don’t speak a word of English but can be relied on to go anywhere in Berlin and collect something I bought on eBay, then deliver it and gruffly mock me for “kaufen, kaufen!”. We would have no furniture without them.note to Bernd und Peter Suzanne Forbes 2016

Another watercolor portrait!

We’ve had a few undesirably hot days here in Berlin, and today was the hottest.

I bought a portable A/C from a Brit who was leaving town last year, because we don’t do well with heat. I set up the A/C in the library and painted the hubbin while he did whatever he does on Reddit.Dan McArdle by Suzanne Forbes Aug 28 2016 Berlin

This watercolor thing is getting to be FUN. Probably if I’m gonna keep doing it I should buy a better watercolor block than this one from the stationary store around the corner, and maybe some real watercolors. Maybe even a new Windsor & Newton Series 7 Sable, nobly though the one I bought when I was at Parsons thirty years ago has served.

Maybe I should actually take a class and learn HOW one does watercolors.

Dan McArdle by Suzanne Forbes Aug 28 2016 Berlin - close upI had one class where we had one watercolor assignment, in school. Unfortunately I didn’t think painting in colors was worth my time, then; it was just an useless tangent for a person who was going to be a comic book penciller and have a colorist to take care of such things.

So I did a sloppy job of the assignment, and showed up late and drunk to class, with my very drunk boyfriend Richie tagging along.

My teacher was furious. I felt at the time that he was furious about the banal quality of the green grass I’d painted. It seemed like he was just really disgusted that I’d painted such bad grass. But I know better now. I still think the grass really bothered him, but I bet it bothered him more that I had wasted a priceless opportunity to work and learn.

I forgive you for yelling at me, Parsons teacher whose name I’ve forgotten. I forgive you for being a medium I didn’t know how to use, watercolors. I forgive you for being drunk and sloppy when you were 20 years old, Suz.

Sometimes both life and art are long.