My first collage!

collage by Suzanne Forbes photo by Suzanne Wegh Feb 14 2018We had a Women’s Art Lounge for Galentine’s Day.

collage detail Suzanne Forbes Feb 14 2018On February 14, a small group of female-identifying people gathered at Ludwig Berlin to make art out of a pile of magazines, glue and scissors.

With the help and support of Suzanne Wegh, I tried paper collage for the first time. What a startling process!

It was not at all like I thought it would be! It was confusing, and mysterious! I thought it would be challenging, but it was in fact quite a bit harder than it looks.

First of all, it never occurred to me that you could move the pieces of the picture around before you glued them down.

Until Suzanne explained that’s what she does! I was as startled as I was the first time someone showed me windows being minimized and moved around on a computer, in 1996. With my bricolage shadowbox projects, I glue each thing down as I go.

This idea of fluid composition broke my brain!

Then, it didn’t go the way I planned. I had some ideas, and a color scheme, and the first collage  I did was actually the complete opposite of them.

I saw this greyed out pastel flower paper and wound up choosing a palette of images and materials related to it, and then making this rococo chicken being ridden by a chicken princess.

I wanted to make a Baba Yaga! What the heck??

So I decided to just go with the process, even though for someone as afraid of artistic failure as me that was pretty scary. I’m learning things I never expected to about composition, pattern and color from my bricolage and mixed media work. I can see how those things could be put to work in making collage art, but I’m a long way from being able to do it.

photo by Suzanne Wegh from Galentines Collage night Feb 14 2018

photo by Suzanne Wegh from Galentines Collage night Feb 14 2018

I was really amazed at how the other women could make their collages look like something so easily. I mean, make them look like resolved images. The one below, which Suzanne made, is just beautiful. You can read about her experience of our collage adventure on her Patreon here.

Collage by Suzanne Wegh Feb 14 2018

Collage by Suzanne Wegh Feb 14 2018

The Medusa with butterflies at the top was actually the third I made, and the only one I felt sort of resolved into an actual picture. And that expresses my style, with its beetles and jewel colors! Why is Megan Markle’s head on fire? I have no idea! It just happened!collages by Suzanne Forbes Feb 14 2018

I don’t know if I’ll try collaging again right away; it was pretty disorienting for me. But I’m so glad and proud we created a safe space for me to try it.

Baron Anastis and the Erinyes and a new drawing buddy, Miz K!

Drawing of Suzanne Forbes by Kristen Haas Curtis and of Miz K by Suzanne Forbes Feb 1 2018

Drawing of Suzanne Forbes by Kristen Haas Curtis and of Miz K by Suzanne Forbes Feb 1 2018

The drawers, drawn! AKA, women cartoonists unite and rule!

Last weekend my friends were performing in my neighborhood, just a couple blocks from my home. At a cool place I didn’t know about, an art gallery/music venue called Art Stalker!Baron Anastis by Suzanne Forbes Feb 1 2018

We don’t get much punk rock here in the Far West, ya know, so it was a big deal!

It was my first chance to catch an official gig of Baron Anastis and the Erinyes. Friend and muse Rah Hell is the drummer, Berlin rocker Sparkle is on guitar and Baron Anastis, punk titan of West Berlin, is the frontman and songwriter.

Joe Dochtermann by Suzanne Forbes Feb 1 2018(You can see my drawings from when I went to a rehearsal at their Sekrit Mystery Rehearsal Space here. )

Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes Feb 1 2018To my delight, I also got to IRL meet Rah’s bestie, Switzerland-based American cartoonist Kristen Haas Curtis. Kristen is known as Miz K in the independent comics world, and she is a marvelous talent. I had been enjoying her warm and deft diary comics for a while, and was intrigued to see her at work in the wild.

Miz K and I settled down together to share a drawing table – she was doing Hourly Comics Day, which I didn’t even know was a thing!

It turns out it is, and damn, no way would I be able to do that. Would you look at this??

Hourly Comics by Kristen Haas Curtis AKA Miz K Feb 1 2018

Hourly Comics by Kristen Haas Curtis AKA Miz K Feb 1 2018

It was so nice to have a drawing buddy at a gig and the show was great. They played some of their terrific glampunk originals and some covers including a deliciously corroded cover of “Pure Morning” and a rollicking “Commando”. Everyone had a good time!

Afterwards we took a taxi since Rah and Miz K were transporting drums, and they dropped me off at my door like a fancy person. And then I read Kristen’s lovely comic done in collab with her daughter Bee, Princess Wolf and her Life of Darkness, which is really wonderful and if you have kids or like comics, check it out right here, I HIGHLY recommend it!

Follow Kristen on Instagram, see her previous hourly comics here, and follow Baron and the Erinyes here!

Thanks a million, million to my beloved Patrons on Patreon, who make it possible for me to show up and document events like this!

The Modern Muse of Fine Art and a collab with Suspicious Package Print House!

Muse of Fine Arts silkscreen posters Suzanne Forbes x Suspicious Package Dec 2017Wow, look at these cool screen prints!

ESDIP Berlin, where I teach drawing, has an in-house print studio. It’s run by Suspicious Package, who teach printing to our Fine Arts students and give standalone screen printing courses. Screen printing, a beautiful way to make unique printed images, is really popular here in Berlin. The work being done is gorgeous. The poster print show called Flatstock has a big European event in Hamburg.

Rob Hanna of Suspicious Package asked if I’d be interested in doing an art collab with them for our Fall Fine Arts semester.

Study for Muse of Fine Arts by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2017 1I said sure! We talked about the idea of a “Modern-Mucha” style image, with elements that represented the different Fine Arts disciplines we teach. But punk as fuck, like Berlin itself.

I honestly hate most of those saccharine “Mucha-esque” designs on deviant-art that turn pop culture icons into Mucha posters. They almost* universally lack the shocking fleshy immediacy of Mucha’s women, which was his great strength and their source of power.

Almost nobody today has the draughtsmanship skills to give women’s bodies the physical presence and grace Mucha did. I certainly don’t.

But I did the best I could to capture the confrontational nature of my favorite Muchas, their determined physicality and returning of the artist’s gaze.

Study for Muse of Fine Arts by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2017 3I came up with these studies for the artwork. I wanted to convey the feel of Berlin’s art scene, still pretty gritty and rough around the edges.

The art scene here embraces urban art like nowhere else I’ve ever lived, with support (and specialty supply shops!) for graffiti artists and stencil artists.

So I included some classic Krylon cans, and of course the cinder blocks and broken glass and empty bottles that are still common in lots of places.

Plus take-out noodles! I wish those had made it into the final.Study for Muse of Fine Arts by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2017 2

I love to draw a punk girl! I decided she would be a Modern Muse Of Fine Arts.

Mucha did a series called The Arts, with a representation each for Dance, Poetry, Painting and Music. They were sold as a limited edition of prints, because he produced work across a spectrum of availability: unique paintings, work created for fine art prints and works made for commercial reproduction.

These famous exhibition posters were made for the Salon des Cents, a huge public print show and sale.

Mucha was a master of design, but the humanity and specific natural beauty of his models was the power behind the arabesques.

This less well known exhibition poster, sometimes called “Muse of the Arts”, has been one of my favorites since I was a teenager. I love the rack of prints!

I think of it whenever I go to an art event like Berlin Graphic Days at Urban Spree and see posters in the same kinds of racks, over a hundred years later.

There’s a beautiful through line from early 20th Century art print culture to modern East Berlin screen printing shops where artists are pulling unique pieces by hand.

I sent my finished drawing to Rob Hanna, who did the graphic design and created the text elements to turn it into a poster.

Then the students made it into prints! It was the first time printing for all of them and I am so excited at what they made. I framed one!

Suzanne Forbes x Suspicious Package ESDIP Berlin FIne Arts poster Dec 2017Follow Suspicious Package and other amazing print shops Brookesia Studio and Noise Armada Design on Instagram.

*The one exception to my “Modern Mucha” hate: superb Game of Thrones posters by a woman artist, Elin Jonnson. Fucking crushed I didn’t order a set of these before she got the C&D.

Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin “Broken Baroque”!

Viva Lamore at Dr Sketchys by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2018I was super excited for this session of Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin!

There’s nothing I love like too much, and Broken Baroque is such a gorgeous theme. As always, LalaVox and Le Pustra did it up right. Above is the marvelous Viva Lamore as Mistress Overdone. She looked both beautiful and deliciously wicked! She is such an amazing performer, and her gestures are incredibly expressive. I brought my new pastels and drew with them!

LalaVox at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2018I always try and draw hostess LalaVox, as she brings her A game to her look every time. Like this ship-in-head!

Isn’t the sacque-back gown a perfect style for her?

Evilyn Frantic at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes 1 minute drawing Jan 28 2018I had been wanting to draw Evilyn Frantic for a long time, since I saw her in the street last year, introduced myself and told her I wanted to draw her picture.

This one-minute sketch was my first chance, more to follow as I clean up and finish up the pastel mess I made!

dr sketchys victorian spiritualism by maren michaelis-303

LalaVox and Suzanne Forbes at Dr Sketchys Berlin Victorian Spiritualism by Maren Michaelis.

Bonus stuff: here is a picture of me and LalaVox by photographer Maren Michaelis from the last Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin, “Victorian Spiritualism“. The setting of Ballhaus Berlin is so exquisite.

Also bonus: here is a drawing of Viva Lamore jumping out of a Campbell’s soup can, from the Sunday Slips New Year’s Extravaganza! She is wearing a hand print bra and panty set from the Bettie Page line by Playful Promises, the queer, trans, gender-fluid-, sex-worker-, body positivity- and diversity-embracing lingerie company. They’re donating a percentage of sales to fight ovarian cancer til Feb. 15th. They don’t sponsor me, they’re just great!

Viva Lamore jumping out of a Campbells Soup Can by Suzanne Forbes Dec 31 2017

Thanks so very much to my Patrons on Patreon whose financial support makes it possible for me to go to events like this. You are the best.

Previous Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin posts herehereherehere and here.

The Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin Instagram!

 

January unterwegs bonus round: chunky knits!

Berliners on the U Bahn by Suzanne Forbes Jan 16 2018Sometimes people in Europe just look really European.

These two just slayed me. What you can’t see is that her amazing vintage 80s coat was a rich deep marigold yellow and her chunky knit scarf was a darker mustard. She was coolly wearing the hell out of her whole look.

Phone frowner on U Bahn by Suzanne Forbes Jan 20 2018Phone frowner.

People often look so displeased when they are looking at their phones. Since I don’t have a phone, I’m free to look around and observe this!

U Bahn music by Suzanne Forbes Jan 26 2018Butt bump!

Guy with spotted horse seen from bus Suzanne Forbes Jan 26 2018The interesting thing about this kinda heavily-worn older guy and the techno-looking younger guy is that I don’t know that they knew each other.

The older guy was playing and they just started dancing together. This isn’t the prettiest drawing, it’s kinda clunky, but I found it half-finished in a sketchbook this weekend and decided to finish it cause I like the women in the background.

And I really like the fact that I drew a guy doing an actual double take!

I also found this drawing made very quickly from the upper deck of the M29 bus and finished it roughly.

It’s a good example of how elements can be added to a documentary drawing responsibly. You couldn’t see the typical European notice column with its posters in the same shot as the guy, but it wasn’t far away, and adding it helps to sell the setting of the sketch really quickly.

You can see previous unterwegs here:

January 2018 round 1

December 2017

November 2017

September 2017

July bonus round

July

June

May bonus round

May round one

April

March 2

March

January

December

November

 

Armored corset body for flying with PTSD.

Armored corset body for flying with PTSD by Suzanne Forbes Jan 20 2018I made these marker drawings on a plane on Saturday.

I have C-PTSD and the last couple of years have been intense. The last time I flew and was strapped in next to a strange man, I had a terrible panic attack and very nearly clawed my way out over him to escape. I only stayed onboard because my beloved brother-in-law and sister-in-law  were counting on me to make their wedding cake! And I take cake very seriously. I could have forgiven myself for not making their wedding, but not for failing to make their wedding cake.

Over the weekend I went to Brussels to help a woman friend redecorate her flat after a breakup.

It was the first time I have traveled in Europe since we moved here three years ago; last December I had to miss a friend’s wedding in Luxembourg because I simply couldn’t handle flying. I was so scared of this flight I asked my husband to come to the airport and help me get on the plane! Which he did VERY graciously and kindly.

Armored corset body for flying with PTSD by Suzanne Forbes Jan 20 2018 in useI’m not afraid of the actual flying part at all; if I’m seated with women in my row I am as relaxed as a slightly claustrophobic person can be in a crowded, small metal tube.

I had checked in early to get an exit row seat, so I would have lots of room on one side at least. But when a strange man sat down next to me and his arms and thighs touched mine, I felt like I was gonna die. (Weirdly, this doesn’t happen much on public transit, where I can get away easily.)

Again, someone I loved was counting on me, so bailing out was non-negotiable. This time, when I started flipping out, I had my sketchbook handy so I quickly made these drawings of an armored corset body* for flying with PTSD. I imagine the spines to be made of vulcanized rubber, permissible for travel. The shoulder, arm and thigh pads are also rubber, so you don’t feel the flesh of the person next to you, and the mesh “NO” skirt snaps off for using the loo. I chose Mother Nature’s warning colors!

The stewards looked over my shoulder at my drawing and moved the man next to me to another row, murmuring, “more space”. My spell worked!!

The flight was relatively empty, and so it could have just been fat bias – as a US 14/UK 18 I fully and completely occupy even larger European plane seats. My friend Suzanne said stewards are sensitive to people who are a panic risk. I think they saw something in my eyes or my drawings and felt it was best for me to have the row to myself.

Gradually I calmed down and the feeling that my vagina was full of spiders receded.

Do other people get that? Like a creepy echoey crawling awareness of the vulnerability of your genitals, when you’re triggered? I feel like if they do, this could be a popular garment. Until, inch by inch, we make a better world.

*a corset body is the specific name for a true corset that includes a built-in crotch covering of the same sturdy materials. It’s a term used pretty much only in the serious corset community. What Americans call “teddies” or “bodysuits” are called just plain “bodies” in the UK/Europe, and “corset body” seems to be derivative of that.

A good C-PTSD resource.

RAINN’s resources for trauma survivors.

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!