María drawing me while I draw María.

Maria at Graffiti by Suzanne Forbes Oct 23 2016On Sunday one of my former students from ESDIP and now friends came to the West to meet up for a coffee.

She was in town for the weekend. María is an incredibly talented young artist who is now studying art full-time back home in Madrid. You can see her work by following her on twitter and tumblr, as well as her YouTube channel. We had a wonderful visit, talking about art and drawing. I got to see the things she’s working on, her Inktober drawings and her latest projects. She has recently won prizes in several illustration contests in Spain (which I predicted each time!).

She made this lovely drawing of me, which I will add to my framed collection of portraits of me by other artists. Drawing of Suzanne Forbes by Maiku-no-Koe Oct 23 2016

meandmaria-by-sabine-sept-6-2016Here’s a nice picture of us earlier this year! In case you can’t tell, I am living my best life ever here in Berlin. Thanks to my Patreon Patrons, I can draw and teach and live, and it’s a life of meaning and purpose.

My next class at ESDIP Berlin is another round of “Drawings Hands LIke a Boss“, Tuesdays November 15, 22 and 29, 7:30pm to 9:30pm. You can sign up online!

San Francisco Skater Girls in Berlin.

San Francisco Skater Girls in Berlin October 18 2016 Suzanne Forbes On my way home from teaching at ESDIP Berlin I saw these badass skater girls.

I sat across from them on the U1 and politely asked if I could draw them, as I’ve learned to in Germany. But they were American, and it was totally fine with them! Turned out they were from the Bay Area, specifically all San Francisco born and raised.

“From inside the 7×7”, they told me, just as I always make it clear that I was born on Manhattan island.

I had just a few stops to draw them, so I finished a lot of the detail later. However, it is totally accurate that the stickers on their boards were all dogged out from grinding copings. I don’t think these vital, modern young women were riding fat old-school Kryptonics wheels; that’s just what skateboard wheels look like, to me. I loved that they had big wide decks.

My best friend in high school was a skater girl, in 1981, and she rode what she called a “rolling stage”.

I showed this to Daria while we were having some lovely cake in my kiez and she said she liked the right-hand girls much better, with their casual sketchy hands. She said the hands of the left-most girl were overworked. Too much information.

“You’re so strong in technical skills, in understanding the structure of the hand, you get caught up showing too much.”

San Francisco Skater Girls in Berlin October 18 2016 Suzanne Forbes She was right, of course. The most interesting and powerful thing about the whole scene to me was the way the girl on the left cupped her hands over the nose of her board, like it was the pommel of a saddle.

And by drawing every detail of her fingers, instead of leaving some space open, I’d made her hands pedantic and overdrawn.

I had lost the shock of her dark nails against her pale skin by adding too much black line detail.

If I were drawing this for reproduction, I would have changed it, as I did when Daria suggested I give the Three Ages of Woman more space around them. Instead, I restored some of the drama and focus I’d intended by making the left-hand girl’s shirt black. Interestingly, Daria didn’t make the same criticism about space with this drawing- I think she understood that the fact the girls fill the frame is meant to create a sense of intimacy and immediacy.

I wanted to show I was occupying the same space, briefly, as these fearless young women.

Self portrait drawing of the artist in Berlin, nearly fifty.

I drew this picture of my reflection on the U-Bahn when I was going to gallery openings last weekend.

Suzanne Forbes self portrait October 14 2016

A number of my Patrons have asked for a self-portrait; here you are, my darlings!

Vernissage Night in Berlin!

Saturday night I went to two gallery openings. Laetitia Duveau at first IRL CuratedbyGIRLS show Oct 8 2016 by Suzanne Forbes

First up was the inaugural IRL exhibit of Berlin sensation Laetitia Duveau’s feminist art platform “Curated by GIRLS“.

The show, called “Freer in Berlin“, was beautiful; I really loved the photographs by Laurence Philomene especially. I made this drawing of Ms. Duveau in glimpses through the packed crowd. Also, in an amazing piece of Berlin magic, a friend from the Bay who I hadn’t seen for years spotted me drawing; he couldn’t believe the synchronicity. I was like hey, Berlin is ALL synchronicity.

Then I went to the Gig Poster Screen Print show at ESDIP Berlin, where I teach.Rob Hanna screenprinting at ESDIP Berlin Oct 8 2016 by Suzanne Forbes

It was a really nice party, with live screen printing, music, the official Lujan Bar and a vegan chili pop-up by Chicas Sin Carne. The work was simply amazing.  Fantastic work by Brookesia Studio, Noise Armada, The 13th Sign, and Print’s Not Dead. I drew Rob Hanna printing.

I wanted to buy fucking everything, the prints were so amazing, but as a poor artist I controlled myself and bought only this Noise Armada piece of Trump getting it in the head with a machete. Husband finds it too horrifying to hang in the house, I am bummed.Noise Armada Brujeria print

Drawing my husband by candlelight.

We went to a birthday party at a really lovely club, only to find that we had missed the party by one night.D by Suzanne Forbes September-30-2016 However, there was piano music and candlelight, and I made this pretty drawing of the hubbin, so it was a net win.

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

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!