Category Archives: Berlin

A special portrait of a Bay Area legend, Kitten on the Keys!

SuzXSuz Suzanne Ramsey by Suzanne Forbes April 27 2017What a treat to host the lovely Suzanne Ramsey as a visiting artist in our salon.

I have known Suzanne tangentially for years through my beloved friend-Patron-muse Monique Motil. Monique makes exquisite costuming and custom clothing for both of us. But in the busy Bay Area club/performance/burlesque scene, I never got to spend more than a few brief minutes with Suzanne.

Monique Motil dolls by Suzanne RamseyRecently I’d started following Suzanne on my new Instagram account, and totally loving her amazing photos of Bay Area life, vintage postcards, and recently her stay in Paris.

So I reached out and suggested she come to Berlin, and she did!

Here in Berlin, where I am always in the kitchen/craftroom working, there is time to really talk with visiting friends. Suzanne and I got to talk and visit, even though I was unfortunately sick while she was here. She is so talented, beautiful and kind, and knows everyone.

She took care of me and went to the Apoteke to get me medicine. She took lovely pictures of our house. And on her last night, when she came in around 1am after a dinner with some of her many friends who live in Berlin, I drew the portrait above. We both felt it truly captures her.

Suzanne Ramsey with Miss NatashaHere is Suzanne meeting up with Miss Natasha (see my last post for our recent adventures!), who has been a fan of hers for years! They had their first IRL meet at Frau Behrens Torten, an absolutely delightful cake shop near our house.

Ah, what could be better than sharing Berlin with loved ones?

A night at the KitKat!

At the KitKat garderobe by Suzanne Forbes April 23 2017I finally made it to KitKat after two years in Berlin.

I was lucky to be escorted by the lovely Miss Natasha Enquist, who knows everyone in Berlin. So there was a long line at the entrance when we arrived at 1am, but we just whisked past it and in the door.

I felt completely at home immediately.

Pup in a swing at KitKat by Suzanne Forbes April 23 2017 The vibe at KitKat is so relaxed, so all-ages and all-genders and all-bodies, and there is such a mix of attire.

There was everything from people in latex fashion to tourists who have stripped down to their underwear to meet the dress code.

I had certainly hoped to see more high fetish fashion, especially given that Berlin Fetish Weekend is just a week away, but then again KitKat is so chill it’s hard to imagine anyone laboring over their look.

This pup is apparently a regular and artists always draw him, I was told by a friendly woman my own age!

I was so inspired by this beautiful rope suspension tableau by Alex Dermatis of 6mmjute.

He had suspended a lovely young woman who was deep in peaceful subspace and was caring for her meticulously, tipping water into her mouth, constantly checking pressure points on the rope, checking in with her and spraying her with water from a bottle.

A rope suspension at KitKat by Alex Dermatis Drawn by Suzanne Forbes April 23 2017The rope patterns were very beautiful.

I asked his permission to draw- which I would never have done at a club in the US, but things are different here- and I was so glad he said yes. While I drew I immediately felt that sense of connection and certainty and skill; I knew it would be a good drawing.

Dancing on the Bar at the KitKat 4am by Suzanne Forbes April 23 2017People stopped to watch, to look over my shoulder and yell “Schön!” over the music.

Lots of people do urban sketching, a few people draw in clubs, and a few people draw at sex clubs, but absolutely no-one does it like me.

Although KitKit isn’t really a sex club, either. There were a few people having various sext acts here and there, but it was 99% Berlin dance club, with really excellent Berlin dance music. This guy dancing on the bar was at least my age, but clearly healthy and energetic.

The sex club part seemed to be mostly about people being some variety of naked or fetish, and physically very casual. I got kissed on the cheek by various strangers, and women would stand next to me and fan me with their fans (a necessary Berlin club accessory, since there’s no fucking air conditioning anywhere).

Nobody hassled me or bothered me in any way, and most people were happy to switch to English to chat. Which is different than much of my life in Germany, since we live in the West!

I had a very nice time at KitKat and hope to visit again when my hubs is feeling well enough. Thanks Miss N.!

Drawing women in Berlin.

Charite lady by Suzanne Forbes April 4 2017I love seeing women out and about in Berlin.

This city feels so safe, so lively and manageable for a woman on her own, and women of all ages go everywhere all day and night. This woman in a waiting room was so pretty.

Dining alone by Suzanne Forbes March 15 2017This woman eating dinner by herself with a book, as I love to do, was extremely content.

It was like the opposite of a Hopper moment. She was self-assured, self-sufficient, full of purpose and certainty about her place in the world.

Working at night by Suzanne Forbes March 1 2017This woman was working on a chilly night in Schoneberg, in her Han Solo pants.

She shook her head firmly at a guy who spoke to her and he walked away. Rates are non-negotiable, jerk!

Charite Tennesee Waterfall by Suzanne Forbes April 4 2017This woman has what is called a “Tennessee Waterfall”. I learned that on The Walking Dead.

Which I always swear I’m gonna stop watching after the current season. But, Carol and Maggie and Michonne!

Hacker waffles!

Ursula in the library by Suzanne Forbes April 12 2017Our friends came all the way from Friedrichshain to make us waffles!

On a Sunday afternoon friends of ours who the hub knew back in SF came over with an enormous waffle iron. Ursula set up a new laptop and chatted geek talk with the hub while Ben made a yeast-raised batter. The waffles were amazing, ethereally light yet toothsome. We had them mit erdbeeren, himbeeren and schlagsahne. As you do.

Ben told me some crazy stories about hacker camp Iron Chef contests!

He chilled out after waffle-making, while Ursula checked hub’s German-learning progress. You can see her showing him some pronunciation tips when we first arrived here.

Ben resting after making us waffles by Suzanne Forbes April 12 2017

I am so glad to know awesome women in tech like Ursula here in Berlin. There’s plenty of tech jobs for women here, in case you didn’t know!

A long day at Charité Hospital, drawing everybody!

Charite waiting room by Suzanne Forbes April 4 2017We spent about five hours at Charité, Berlin’s huge teaching hospital, last week.

Dan At Charite April 4 2017 by Suzanne ForbesMy hub has to have major surgery. We had waited almost four months for the appointment to see this particular surgeon’s group, because we trust our orthopedist and his recommendation.

I couldn’t sleep at all the night before, and so I was pretty wasted when we got there.

Of course, the email had said the group would be in the “new building” after February 2, so first we went to the info desk at the shiny new skyscraper.

Where they laughed and sent us down the street to the ancient Winchester Mystery House-esque “old buildings”. Go through the cafe, they said.

Of course the new offices weren’t ready yet! Of course they hadn’t moved! Construction and renovation in Germany is…extremely, extremely slow.

Remember that new airport? Ha ha ha!!

Charite older guy by Suzanne Forbes April 4 2017I had allowed extra time for this possibility, so we arrived at the registration window precisely on time and gave them our info.

We were directed to the waiting room. All German offices have waiting rooms, often multiple, numbered waiting rooms.

Every other doctor’s or dentist’s office we’ve been to has been extremely nice, fancy and dressy. Like my Fifth Avenue ob-gyn when I was a teen.

But this warteraum was old and grubby and governmental looking.

So we just went into Ausländerbehörde mode and figured it would take as long as it took.

Charite lady and kid by Suzanne Forbes April 4 2017Then we waited. And waited.  When the dozen people who were there before us had all been seen, and they were starting to call people who had arrived after us, we investigated.

Turns out we had been forgotten! “We broke the system!”, hub said. They were very apologetic and in moments sent us in to see the surgeon.

And the surgeon was very nice and very on top of things and we were promptly sent along to Radiology for new x-rays and given a stack of paperwork and returned to the surgeon and in what seemed like no time at all, given a choice of dates for surgery.

The need for this surgery and future ones is one of the critical reasons we moved here; we’ve been talking about it, planning for it, most of the time we’ve been together.

Charite guy and gal by Suzanne Forbes April 4 2017To suddenly, finally, have it scheduled, with eight days of hospital care and three weeks of inpatient rehab and an entire year of pt offered, and six weeks of paid work leave guaranteed, with absolutely nothing to pay, seems like another Berlin miracle.

We used to live near Charité the summer we first moved here, and there was a student center across the street from our apartment.

At term’s end there were International med students having trolley races in the street at four am, singing “Eye of the Tiger” in the universal key of beer.

We have very fond feelings about Charité, and we are hopeful that the shiny new building will actually be done by the time of the operation. But if it is not I will be making drawings from some still perfectly serviceable hundred year old waiting room on June 20, Goddess willing.

Unterwegs Nr. 5 – March bonus round!

Nice daddy by Suzanne Forbes March 23 2017

I have been making so many drawings it’s hard to keep up.

These two sweet daddies were encountered on different day trips to meet Daria someplace. I hope I conveyed their amazing love and tenderness. The one above was letting his daughter go boldly ahead, not constraining her. I had to redraw a lot very quickly to convey that his arm was extended, just barely keeping a delicate hold on her hood, not pulling her back towards himself.

clean chocolate baby March 17 2017 Suzanne ForbesThis dad had kinda greasy hipster hair but his child was immaculate, even though it was eating some kind of chocolate-covered biscuit.

I have never seen a child eat chocolate so neatly, and I have never seen a dad so thrilled to be riding the subway with his baby.

Unterweg March 11 2017 by Suzanne Forbes

 

And here is an unterweg drawing I like just because it’s so loose and fast!

You can see loads more unterwegs drawings if you like.

March

January

December

November

Glücklich, glücklich in Berlin!

Life drawings of Oskar by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2017 censored for InstagramYesterday was our two-year anniversary of moving to Berlin!

Life drawing 5 min 1 by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2017To celebrate I went to the monthly life drawing session at ESDIP Berlin, where I teach drawing.

There was an excellent life model named Oskar, one of the most perfectly still and classically muscular models I have ever drawn. There is no greater gift to a figurative artist than a good model.

I hadn’t been to a life drawing session with a nude model since I left college, so twenty-five years. My work, this whole journey as an artist, is made possible by my Patrons on Patreon. That’s how I do stuff like this.

I told Sarah, “I haven’t drawn a naked person who wasn’t fucking since 1992!”

“You can’t say that and not explain it”, she said. Simple; I like clothing and costumery and fashion and performative identity signifiers so I draw and paint people in outfits.

Which means that when I draw a naked person, it’s at a sex party or other sex-positive event like a benefit or fundraiser. You can see loads of those (NSFW!) here, however many are adult-filtered so you’ll need to be logged in to flickr with safeties off to see the really, truly dirty ones.Life drawing 5 min 2 by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2017

I can’t believe I waited almost two years to go to the life drawing session! It was so great. The model was on a high platform with excellent lighting, and classical drapery. There was music and a bar and snacks (vegan of course), and a big crowd of serious artists.

We started with five minute poses. I love a short pose!

Oskar reclining 10 min by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2017Oskar seated 10 min by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2017I used my new china marker for the five minute poses.

Then I switched to my new Canson Mi Teintes 50% cotton pad and pastels in basic grey and terracotta tones (from Modulor!) for the ten minutes and longer poses.

I had a Koh-i-noor graphite stick as well and used it some, though I had grabbed a 2b which is a little hard for me.

I draw so fast and so hard that I tend to tear up the paper with anything harder than a hb lead. Or on a stronger, toothier rag paper, to spray shattering lead everywhere!

Wow, I’m so rusty at life drawing! I haven’t drawn a person who was actually holding still for so long!

Oskar seated 35 min by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2017Goddam pastels are so hard to control!

I hadn’t used them in decades. I hadn’t used a paper with any tooth for decades either. My drawings were still excellent, of course- when you’re talking about short pose life drawing, I’m the Slayer and you’re playing on my turf. But not as amazing as I expected! At the end I did this drawing in my traditional didactic pencil and ink style, and laid in some midtones with my grey-scale markers when I got home.Life drawing of Oskar 25 by Suzanne Forbes at ESDIP Berlin March 24 2017

That’s it, Drink & Draw Berlin and Dr Sketchy Berlin– Imma start coming in and throwing down.

People can draw like motherfuckers here, so there will be some seriously worthy competition. The drawings at ESDIP last night were excellent – a garden of wildflowers, said my student Chiara. Chiara and I did an art trade, I got this lovely drawing!

Drawing by Chiara Malasavi March 24 2017

Drawing by Chiara Malasavi March 24 2017

Rafa was there and as usual drawing like a motherfucker. His brush-pen mark-making is so beautiful and vital.

There was a guy named Florian who did the most spectacular drawing of the long reclining pose with the most incredible foreshortening and a magnificent foot. Someone did some sepia studies of Oskar’s face that were far better likenesses than any I produced. I kept holding them up and yelling “Who is this amazing artist?” but they refused to take credit and the drawings disappeared from the table while I was chatting with a young woman so I never got to find out.

People, sign your drawings! Date them! Share them! Your work matters!

From ESDIP Berlin Instagram Life drawing January 2017

From ESDIP Berlin Instagram Life drawing January 2017

Bad-ass Berlin artist people, I want to know ya!

Hello, how nice to see you here,
it seems you to go well
I think you’re happy in Berlin
your great dream for many years
seems finally to be true
a part of me that wishes you good luck
and a part of me takes this opportunity to wish you here back

yes it is nice if you write me,
whom thou meet and what thou hast driven
in this city do you know from
my’, who longs as home?
A part of me is very happy for you
and a part thinks: Berlin was nothing for me

too large, too small, too close to far
the one is, the other remains
that I do envy,’ but somehow lied
but it is great that you have hit the jackpot

you say that you are now in the middle of it
because everything andre makes no sense
because here the wide world
and so begins the true life sounds
a part of me wonders what the whole search is
and a part of hopes that you are satisfied

too large, too small, too close to far
the one is, the other remains
a part of me wish you best luck
and a part I wish you back here

too large, too small, too close to far
the one is, the other remains
a part of me wish you a lot of happiness is
a part of me takes this opportunity to wish you back
to you envy was somehow lied
but it is great that you have hit the jackpot

hello, how nice to see you here,
it seems you to go well
I think you’re happy in Berlin

My first burlesque drawings in Berlin!

Immodesty Blaize at Vaudeville Variety Wintergarten Berlin March 19 2017 by Suzanne Forbes

We’ve been here almost two years, but it took me until now to get to a burlesque show and draw!

Sheila Wolf at Vaudeville Variety Wintergarten Berlin March 19 2017 by Suzanne ForbesLuckily I got to start at an exceptionally fine one, as Queer’lesque producer Sheila Wolf, above, invited me to draw Vaudeville Variety at the Wintergarten.

Gloria Viagra at Vaudeville Variety Wintergarten Berlin March 19 2017 by Suzanne ForbesBerlin’s legendary Wintergarten is a classic cabaret supper club, with velvet seats and a starry sky ceiling.

It is beautiful, luxurious and comfortable, a fitting tribute to the original Wintergarten which was destroyed by bombs in 1944. I had a table to put my stuff on and wasser mit gas and everything!

I was seated next to Gloria Viagra, shown here; Gloria was the afterparty DJ and is a very well-known Berlin performer. We had a delightful chat!

The show was wonderful. I couldn’t draw everybody, but I did get in a lot of drawings.

Tom Harlow and Dave the Bear at Vaudeville Variety Wintergarten Berlin March 19 2017 by Suzanne ForbesThe ravishing, award-winning boylesque babe Tom Harlow (legs for days!!!) danced to the Tom Jones and Jools Holland version of “St. James Infirmary Blues”. I drew Dave The Bear, stripping to “Video Phone”.

I was mesmerized by the sublime “Opium and Bondage” performance of Marlene Von Steenvag, where she actually ties herself into a rope harness at the end while dancing.Marlene Von Steenvag at Vaudeville Variety March 19 2017 by Suzanne Forbes

Immodesty Blaize with Gloria Viagra and Sheila WolfAnd I made two drawings of the amazing, the breathtaking Immodesty Blaize!

I’d never even dreamt I’d get to see her perform live. Let me tell you, the only thing more amazing than Immodesty Blaize in a corset is Immodesty out of a corset!

I stopped drawing after the second one and just watched her move. Here‘s Immodesty and Gloria, with Sheila in the background!

Immodesty Blaize at Vaudeville Variety by Suzanne Forbes March 19 2017

Immodesty Blaize at Vaudeville Variety by Suzanne Forbes March 19 2017

These drawings are licensed Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0; you are welcome to share them or print them out as long as you give credit to Suzanne Forbes, artist.

You can find full-size downloadable versions here on my flickr. Burlesque album (NSFW!)

As always, the support of my precious Patrons on Patreon makes it possible for me to do this work documenting the community and share it with you all. You can help for as little as a buck a month!

Update: here’s one of the beautiful pictures Gloria took of me. Look how fucking happy I am in Berlin. You can see the rest here, on Gloria’s pinup fashion feed!

Photo of Suzanne Forbes by Gloria Viagra

Photo of Suzanne Forbes by Gloria Viagra, March 19 2017 at Vaudeville Variety

Another perfect Berlin day.

The graceful violinist by Suzanne Forbes March 17 2017On Friday I was feeling a little shaky. So I went rambling around Friedrichshain in the just-a-bit-raw weather with Daria, and felt immeasurably better.

pink musician March 17 2017 Suzanne ForbesOn the train I was working on the drawing of the violinist I started last week, (when we went to Dussman Cafe, pics soon), and then:

this guy with a pink accordozylophone thing got on!

Ninja drawing by Daria Rhein photo by Daria Rhein

Ninja drawing by Daria Rhein, photo by Daria Rhein

As I drew the guy I could hear Daria’s voice in my head saying “Don’t overwork it!”, just as I hear the voices of my teachers and mentors advising me at so many moments.

To be guided by the wisdom of artist friends is the best thing in the world.

We got china markers when we went to Modulor, because I hadn’t one for decades; here’s Daria’s first china marker drawing! I used a mix of greyscale marker and china marker on the musician drawings.

There is nothing, absolutely, nothing, like living and working around true peers for an artist.

Yesterday we went first to look at a possible flat for her and the adorable auburn-haired English lad. It was a really gorgeous perfectly reno’d altbau, in the absurdly desirable neighborhood around Boxy, about 700 sq. ft., rent about $750. Yes, you should still move to Berlin. Changes in the law meant to control rising rents appear to have worked, and you can still get an incredible place for what seems like nothing.

Then we went to Daria‘s tattoo studio Tremuschi Ink!

It is the coolest place ever in the world, absolutely not kidding.

Photo: Steffen Diemer, Model: Lexy Hell, Corset: Redcat 7. Hairpiece: icing

Photo: Steffen Diemer, Model: Lexy Hell, Corset: Redcat 7.

It is open in the front half to the incredibly charming handmade burlesque fashion design shop Redcat7, where a pink-haired gal manned the counter. One of the tattoo artists was working on sketches for a throw-up style tat; in the back Sammy, the designer and owner of Redcat7, was getting ready to be tattooed by Vivien.

They have benches and a tattoo bed and rests of every kind, to tattoo any part of you comfortably, and a big lightbox for composing designs, and a screened private area.

The walls are covered with framed art and there is a tag wall too.

After we rifled through all the pretties at Redcat, we walked to Aunt Benny.

Coexist Berlin Instagram shotIt was a long walk, through all the charms of Friedrichshain, past the coolest shops and dive bars and eis cafes and music shops and print shops where people were making beautiful real screen prints like people do in Berlin.

We had to go in to Coexist Berlin, a totally amazing punk pastelgoth alternative fashion shop for local and European designers.

I told the lovely pastel-haired designer of Indyanna who was working that it was like a perfect flashback to Betsey Johnson’s first store in Soho, Manic Panic and Trash & Vaudeville in the 80s.

Patches at Coexist BerlinIndyanna designs included a biker jacket lined with blue leopard and appliqued with blue glitter flames I badly coveted.

Ragged Priest dress

Ragged Priest dress

I bought an insane Tyvek paper jumpsuit in Patricia Field in 1980 and it was just the kind of thing Coexist would sell. Daria wanted this mesh flame dress by The Ragged Priest for her next tattoo convention– comfy but rad!

We arrived at Aunt Benny and met the lovely English girl Daria painted the last time she was there. I had mint lemonade since it was St. Patrick’s Day and we shared the really, really, really quite extremely good Carrot Ginger cake.

Everything looked gorgeously fresh and delicious. We sat in a secret alcove in the secret corner room that you get to by going to the WCs. We discussed getting a visa so I could go to visit Moscow with Daria later this year and see the magnificence of her home town.

Berlin, du bist so wunderbar!

An Ode to Creative Work by Behance from Behance on Vimeo.

Horrific insect Gothic Rococo mirror project for the Salon!

By Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo insect mirror 2017I made this hideous pastel nightmare of a rococo mirror over last weekend.

bug bricolage art and sculpture by Suzanne Forbes 2017I documented the process extensively for the folks who enjoy DIY how-ya-dos and the backstory to my bricolage projects!

First, I washed the lightweight plastic mirror frame I got at our local Woolworth’s for 2,99. Then I used a glue gun to attach a selection of plastic bugs, also thoroughly washed with hot water and soap.

Always wash plastic items well before attempting to paint!

There may be mold release still on them, there could be skin oils, cooking grease, anything. And any foreign substance will reduce primer adhesion.

A glue gun is really my favorite medium for attaching plastic bugs. It makes a nice solid bond to most plastics, which many adhesives of vaunted power cannot do. There is none of the risk of frosting your surfaces which cyanoacrylates like Super Glue and Zap present. Of course, I would never use only glue gun glue, because – it melts when it gets too hot! How hot?

Many glue stick glues will soften in a hot car, at least on the dash.

By Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo insect mirror 2017Plus, I wanted the bugs to look they were sculpted out of or onto the surface of the frame, like a bas relief. I added a bunch of plastic flowers left over from my various jewelry projects, and then I used my beloved epoxy clay, in my favored Apoxie Sculpt White (which is gray), to further secure and incorporate the bugs.

I did a rough pass with the clay, filling in gaps, and then hit the whole thing with primer. I was tormented about choosing spray primers here, because I had a good system going in the US but this is the Land of No Krylon.

It’s VERY hard to find a primer for plastic that will really bond to hard plastic items like bugs and action figures and allow you paint over it with acrylics, glue things to it and spray paint shiny finishes on it.

I’ve spent many hours reading action figure customizing sites, model car boards and model magazines, puzzling over primer and paint and plastic.

Here, I finally found and bought the Primer for Plastic by the ubiquitous (and excellent) German spraypaint company Dupli-Color. I also bought a can of Dupli-Color plain white primer. Good thing, because imagine my surprise at learning the primer was CLEAR! I shouldn’t have been surprised, because the cap was clear. Oh well.

Reading some full-size car detailing sites, I gathered it is a chemical scuff or so-called chemical sander, a surfacing agent that creates “tooth” for the paint to adhere to. People raved about the performance, but noted it’s hard to see if you’re getting good coverage with a clear primer. And since I wanted a white base, I needed to spray the whole mirror white next. Then I added color!Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo Insect frame 2017 collage WIP

The last picture is after the second color pass, with initial detail cleanup and color unification by means of dry brushing, washes and scumbling.

By Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo insect mirror 2017Here’s a detail shot of the frame after the pearl pass, made with a sheer pearl finish acrylic from the craft company Plaid’s FolkArt line. After the pearl coat, I added black glitter in clear acrylic varnish, “Extreme Glitter“. I used the pearl on the highlights and the black glitter on the midtone transitions into dark areas, but not the dark areas themselves.

I like these crafts paints for final coatings because they have a tough finish and will go on over most surfaces.

By Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo insect mirror 2017The last thing I added was a scattering of Swarovski crystals and iridescent crystal eyes.

By Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo insect mirror 2017I’m really happy with how the whole thing came out!

This piece is a hilarious mix of my BFA in Fine Arts/Painting, and thousands of hours studying action figure customizing and model making techniques.

I made an earlier version of this, a round bug mirror in blue and green shades, but I finished it right before we left for Germany.

I was terrified about leaving it in a hot storage locker in San Leandro for months, because there were so many coats of primer and different solvents involved in making it- not all of which might be fully off-gassed!

So I gave it to my friend Molly, instead.  And now I have my own.