Author Archives: Suzanne Forbes

About Suzanne Forbes

Suzanne Forbes is a traditionally trained figurative artist, writer and bricoleur. She is an expat New Yorker living and thriving in Berlin with her third husband and their two cats. In previous lives she was a courtroom artist for CBS and CNN, a penciller for DC Comics on Star Trek, and a live-drawing chronicler of Bay Area alternative culture.

More Unterwegs for July: U-Bahn affection.

Explaining the U Bahn by Suzanne Forbes July 30 2017Explaining the U Bahn by Suzanne Forbes July 30 2017These British tourists had been discussing the Berlin transit system.

The husband was very grateful to his wife for explaining the finer points of stamping your ticket. She was like, sure honey, don’t worry, you’ll be fine.

My little Unterwegs drawings are becoming detailed mixed-media and pastel paintings, to my astonishment!

More unterwegs:

July

June

May bonus round

May round one

April

March 2

March

January

December

November

Big Gay Rainbow T-Rex Dinosaur Witch for Pride Month!

Queer dinowitch embroidery by Suzanne Forbes July 2017Pride month is July rather than June in Europe.

So I made this super gay rainbow dinosaur who is a powerful magic witch to celebrate!

Queer dinowitch embroidery by Suzanne Forbes July 2017

She is embroidered on glitter galaxy mesh, which is overlaid on rainbow glitter vinyl.

rainbowdinosaurShe is quite detailed, and I couldn’t see anything I drew on the galaxy mesh.

So I had this embroideryhack idea.

I put the paper with the sketch for her right in the embroidery hoop, under the mesh, and used a tiny short needle to stitch the outline on. The little needle skids across the surface of the paper and comes back up thru the net easily!

You can see the original sketch above. Once I had a nice outline with my beloved Rico metallic embroidery thread, which behaves so much better than other metallic embroidery thread, I removed the paper. Then I could embroider as usual.

I am loving stitch art on net or mesh for its control and precision, and it is so easy on the hand/wrist.

I talk more about that and the techniques I’m using here and here.

Queer dinowitch embroidery by Suzanne Forbes July 2017 teethLook at her terrifying teeth!

I don’t know if this kind of symbolist magic art has power in these dark times. I don’t know if I can do anything to help queer people of the world in the places where things are bad or getting worse. But I believe my intent, my love and hope for a better future, were stitched into this mighty gay dinosaur witch. I believe she is strong and fierce. And embroidery feels like a tactile, tender medium for this kind of art spell. I’m thinking about it a lot.

Here are a couple articles on how modern embroidery is operating in the art world that I like.

Drawing Donut Heart for Pride Month!

donut heart at gay and lesbian festival july 15 berlin by Suzanne ForbesI went to draw Donut Heart performing again!

suz in pink dress july 2017 by Dan SchickThis time at the Lesbian and Trans* stage at the Berlin Lesbian and Gay Festival. The festival is one part of the Berlin Pride Month activities, which culminate the following weekend in Christopher Street Day.

There were a lot of stages, so I wasn’t sure how to find the Lesbian and Trans stage – until suddenly I walked into a crowd where I felt completely at home. Everyone had tattoos and brightly colored hair and they welcomed me with warm smiles.

I dressed up fancy! Photo by Dan Schick from when we went to see Spider-Man Homecoming earlier that afternoon – a charming must-see!

This is by far the most complicated color drawing I’ve done since college and my days as a courtroom artist.

I wanted to capture the details and vividness of the scene as much as possible. (DJ Chroma wasn’t actually performing at the same time as Donut Heart of course, I just added her cause she is so great looking!)

donut heart berlin july 15 detail by Suzanne Forbes

Detail before adding pastels on top of marker, pencil, colored pencil and ink.

I keep pushing the limits with the mixed media experiments on Canson kraft paper and it keeps going mostly ok.

Portrait of Tess and Colin Jan 2017 by Suzanne Forbes photo by Colin Fahrion

Portrait of Tess and Colin Jan 2017 by Suzanne Forbes photo by Colin Fahrion

I’m very confident with color when I’m using opaque paints, as in this portrait commission of loved ones from January.

But with additive transparent media like watercolor and markers I feel wobbly. There’s a pass at watercolor painting Ian so bad only my Patreon Patrons got to see the whole thing.

You can see the first drawing I did at the Lesben-Schwule Fest here; it has some colors added.

I grabbed a few Sharpies from my deskside drawer and spotted in a bit of pink and green.

I used color in my courtroom drawings of course, and those were on beige and buff illustration board.

Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum for WCCO-TV, 1992

Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum for WCCO-TV, 1992

 I think the midtone beige of the kraft paper helps to mediate my limited color skills.

Suzanne Forbes drawing Donut Heart July 15 2017 by Dara

Suzanne Forbes drawing Donut Heart July 15 2017 by Dara

Alfred Ladylike was wearing her silver dress from Loving the Alien, and the additive/subtractive nature of pastels worked pretty well for it. Not as much success capturing Rah Hell‘s gold sequin fedora!

I’m using two shades of grey and two shades of umber in regular pastels, white conte crayon, a black oil pastel and alcohol based DeSerres markers in shades of warm and cold grey, and a red-brown Caran d’Ache colored pencil.

Me and Dara, former Donut Heart bassist, by Dara!

All this goes over the PITT brush pens and .05 HB mechanical pencils I normally use, on Canson kraft paper. It has some tooth and a texture, like a cotton paper.

Most significantly maybe I am using the clear-ish “blender” shade of the DeSerres markers OVER the pastels. I run it over the black oil pastel and the solvent in it dissolves some of the pastel base, creating a wash.

I also use a blender marker or 10% grey over the chalk pastels, to help blend and incorporate. For this Donut Heart drawing I bought a pack of colored markers at the Euro-Store for one euro, and added those in.

It was scary experimenting like this, and it took me ten days to finish the drawing once I started adding color. I was nervous about making an ugly, muddy mess or a primary-colored cartoon. I’m pleased with the result though, and now I have colored markers….’cause-

I needed all the colors for the full rainbow of the Pride flag! donut heart drawing by Suzanne Forbes July 15 2017

Drawing my Cyborg Husband!

Physical therapy in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes July 17 2017 My husband got a cyborg upgrade.

Here he is doing physical therapy with the wonderful PT we found in our neighborhood. Health care in Germany is amazing and great and wonderful and we are so very glad we live here.

I make my drawing students at @esdipberlin work hard on foreshortening because you never know when you’ll need to draw some drastically foreshortened body!

Dan at the eiscafe by Suzanne Forbes July 22 2017And here he is eating ice cream or “eis” as we call it here in Germany.

I am starting to feel like maybe…I might want to use some watercolors or even colored pencils on these Kraft paper drawings? Even though that’s crazy talk!

Live Drawing at “Loving the Alien”, Monster Ronson’s Berlin.

Shlomi Wagner as Anastasia at Loving the Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017

Shlomi Wagner as Anastasia at Loving the Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017

I finally went to Monster Ronson’s!

Iggy swan song at Loving The Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017

Iggy’s swan song at Loving The Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017

After a year and a half of passing it whenever I went to and fro from teaching at ESDIPBerlin!

Loving the Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017I went with Suzanne Wegh, to see “Loving The Alien”, a musical that several folks I know are involved in. Delighted surprise when a woman I know was also manning the door!

Iggy and Mandy by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017We were kindly seated in the front row, so I could draw.

It was a great show with really terrific songs, a cracking band and fabulous dancers.

Spaceman at Loving the Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017Lots of homage not just to Bowie but to other icons of glam like my beloved T. Rex.

Afterwards I went backstage and finished my drawings while the performers changed, just like Degas or Toulouse-Lautrec, except gayer and with more glitter!

Further info with performer name links as I get them sorted, the drawings are licensed Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivs and can be downloaded here.

Big new portrait, coming along sweet!

Rah second sitting med by Suzanne Forbes July 19 2017Pretty damn pleased with myself and my amazing rockstar model @rah_fookinhell after our second sitting.

Rah second sitting by Suzanne Forbes July 19 2017You can see the first sitting here!

I love the small portraits I’ve done this year, every one of them. However this is the first large personal project I’ve done since moving to Berlin and it is thrilling.

Having a big canvas and a model who really fits my aesthetic is like a deep dive into the source of my strength.

I’ve struggled to find muses like my amazing Bay Area loved ones here. That I was able to find such great working chemistry with such gorgeous and powerful people seems like a miracle to me now. That so many made time to work with me, some of them over and over, was such a gift.

Nearly all my paintings these last two years in Berlin have been of Bay Area folks who were visiting!

In Germany, even in Berlin, it’s not as easy to ask a total stranger or acquaintance to just come to my house and sit still for hours.

Rah second sitting longshot by Suzanne Forbes July 19 2017I feel absolutely blessed to have met Rah, who has a true feel for the work and also keeps the same hours I do!

She is very young, as was my Never-Muse when I began painting her, and it is really fun to be painting a fiery young person again. I was able to work for four hours straight in the second sitting, which is a big deal.

The Great Recession, my last bout of severe depression and treatment, and my devastating second divorce seemed to have broken my strength as an artist.

I haven’t been able to paint for more than a couple hours for years. Let alone for for two or even three four-hour sittings in a day as I did in 2005, when I first went back to working as an artist and committed to portraiture. I finished dozens of paintings a year, along with hundreds of drawings, the first four years.

But in 2009 things were sputtering to a halt and in 2010 I was working for another startup. My two 2010 paintings, the couple 2011 and 2012 paintings, one 2014 painting and four 2015 paintings were done in multiple short sittings. I just didn’t have the stamina.

Now I am recovering, at last. Yesterday I taught gesture drawing class AND drew at an event for four hours. I know it’s my Patrons and the freedom they give me that’s making this possible.

I am so very grateful to my #Patrons who support me on @patreon and make it possible for me to do this work.

Pride is Love. Pride is War. Pride is Warriors.

Wonder Woman at Berlin Lesbian and Gay Festival by Suzanne Forbes July 15 2017Pride is Warrior Princesses and Warrior Queens.

I went to see Donut Heart perform at the Lesbian and Trans* stage at the Berlin Lesbian and Gay Festival last weekend. The festival is one part of the Berlin Pride Month activities, which culminate next weekend in Christopher Street Day. It was a warm and wonderful crowd, a lovely joyful vibe.

I had a great time and was so glad I fought my fear of crowds and went!

Painting a new large portrait at last!

rah wip cu July 2017 Suzanne ForbesI am so excited and happy to be working on this portrait of amazing Berlin rockstar Rah Hell.

rah wip cu July 2017 Suzanne ForbesI met Rah IRL for the first time when she came to my art show at Tremuschi Ink.

Then I drew her performing in Donut Heart for their video release party and at Uke Boogie. We were talking about a plan to make a painting but had not sorted the details.

rah wip July 2017 Suzanne ForbesWhen I went to see Donut Heart again at the Lesbian and Trans stage at the Berlin Lesbian and Gay Festival last weekend, Rah was wearing the perfect outfit.

You all know how I like style and how a great outfit truly inspires me! I was like, would you please wear this awesome outfit to be painted and she said yes! She is wearing a sequined fedora, you will be able to see it better as I work on the details. We’re working again tomorrow, so there will be an update with the progress of this piece soon 🙂

yay I love painting portraits I love my life I love my Patreon Patrons who make it all possible so much!!

July unterwegs Nr. 1 – Love on the U-Bahn

love bugs by Suzanne Forbes July 6 2017I had to draw these two!

These beautiful mid-life German lovebugs were clearly tourists from a smaller town, consulting directions and reassuring each other.

tween by Suzanne Forbes June 20 2017 This poised tween was reading a paper book and wearing 80s style jeans.

Ah, the cycle of life.

You can see the drawings before adding mixed media on my Instagram, and previous unterweg drawings here:

June

May bonus round

May round one

April

March 2

March

January

December

November

Women make amazing tattoo art in Berlin.

Daria tattooing by Suzanne Forbes June 29 2017I drew Daria tattooing at Tremuschi Ink, the studio where she creates her works.

I swung for the fences with this one, and I kinda missed. To try and apply my new techniques of mixed media coloring to such a complex, detailed drawing – with such deep space!- was perhaps an act of hubris. I barely have a grasp of this new approach, and definitely don’t feel skilful in handling pastels.

And I absolutely loved the drawing in its original state. But I felt I had to see if I could make it even better. I’m not sure I did.

Daria tattooing by Suzanne Forbes June 2017 line versionLuckily, in a moment of foresight, I photocopied the original line drawing.

Drawings by Suzanne Forbes Berlin June 2017The scan is dark, because the photocopy picked up the midtone of the kraft paper, and I hadn’t finished drawing Daria’s tattoo machine. Someone with better digital editing skills than me can sort out the values, prolly.

I was quite scared to add the mixed media (pastel, oil pastel and markers) to the line drawing, and it took me almost a month to get down to it.

Rightly so; it turned out to be a bit beyond me to fully reconcile the values so the drawing reads well.

I kinda feel like I destroyed something I really liked, and that’s good. You gotta kill your darlings in the art biz.

After all, I can always make another drawing of Daria making a tattoo. And I want to go back to Tremuschi and draw Vivi tattooing too, when she gets back from her tattoo cons of Europe tour! I might do a whole series of drawings of women tattoo artists of Berlin!