Category Archives: Berlin

Finishing my big new portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux!

Portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux before bifurcation by Suzanne Forbes Oct 17 2017

Portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux before bifurcation by Suzanne Forbes, Oct 17 2017

I finished my biggest painting in like twelve years!

At 30″ by 80″ (76cm by 204cm), these conjoined canvases form a fine large surface. I could have gone the traditional route, setting my sitters deep within the pictorial space with plenty of air around them. But I wanted something more demanding of my abilities and more interrogative of the viewer, a compressed space with an exploded perspective that tips the viewer into the painting’s world.

Portrait Sadie Lune cu by Suzanne Forbes Oct 17 2017Into the dangerous, powerful air breathed by artists Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux.

Portrait of Sadie Lune by Suzanne Forbes Oct 18 2017I set up the perspective of the picture with the idea that Sadie and Jo should take up as much space in it as possible.

At some point in the 90s I read a quote from Roseanne Barr, where she advised young actresses to “take up as much space as you possibly can.”

I think this is a great idea for women, to just occupy space with our presence and authority and strength and certainty, and in Sadie’s case, coiled professional menace.

I had done a painting that utilized an exploded perspective in 2005, the portrait of Khris Brown that is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever done (below right).

I approached the portrait I did of Rah Hell this summer the same way, opening and flattening the pictorial space to force the viewer to acknowledge her carelessly confident drummer’s body (below left). Our Art Nouveau herringbone wood floors work even better for distorting the perspective than the floors in my Berkeley Craftsman did.Portraits by Suzanne Forbes 2005 and 2017

To get the exaggerated foreshortening of my model’s forms, I simply alternate between sitting and standing with the easel very close to the model.

Then I make decisions about scale and positioning, as described in the previous post, and position one foot to break the frame, my signature! This is a straightforward way of suggesting that the power of the woman in the portrait can’t be contained by the picture plane. And it also references my career in comics and my love for comic panel design.

You can see here how close I was to the model chair.After the third sitting Sadie and Jo WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017

During the long third sitting, Sadie and Jo and I talked about art and sex and power.

Sadie and I reminisced about the wonderful Oughts’-era climate for sex-positive kinky art in San Francisco. We talked about the many performances and shows we did for Madison Young’s queer art gallery Femina Potens and the events, like Sadie’s birthday party, at the Center For Sex and Culture. For a while the background of the painting looked like the Leather Pride Flag!After the third sitting Sadie and Jo WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017

Jo, who is a photographer, told us an amazing story of when she met Nan Goldin.

The whole process of making the painting has been nourishing and strengthening, a collaborative meeting of minds and talents. Sadie and Jo both brought their A game to the work, serving tremendous presence and face and great physical stamina.

Portrait of Sadie and Jo detail by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017After the final sitting I dug in and sorted out the background and details. As much as I liked the Leather Pride colors, I wanted to paint the realistic space of my salon, to ground the figures in a real world and place the viewer in it with them.

I adjusted the perspective of the floor over and over, to give the immanence I wanted to Sadie and Jo.

And I repainted Jo’s hands like a million times, so they would only be substantial artist’s hands, not disorientingly large! I had fun painting the Autumn goddess head-dresses of leaves and rosehips Jo and Sadie wore to Folsom Europe for a performance this year.

I very carefully composed the shadows at Sadie’s feet to guide the eye to the vicious tip of her singletail, which actually is the dark blue and black colors I painted it.

I gave Jo a branch to hold because I was like, “Needs moar witch!” Once the details were done, it was time to separate the two canvases for transport to Ludwig, where they will be shown. I didn’t know what would happen once they were separated; the painting looked finished and resolved with them conjoined but….

With the canvases separated, the blue background wall panel behind Jo (left side) became a dead space!Portrait of Jo Pollux by Suzanne Forbes before and after Oct 18 2017I had to activate it visually with shadows.

Which was good, really, as it made the unused pink velvet boudoir chair more significant. I like to include pink velvet furniture, like my sadly lost dusty rose velvet model’s armchair, in my paintings. Not only is pink velvet a great visual reference to pussy, it references a powerful moment in my experience as an artist.

In 1993 I went to Philadelphia with my first husband. We went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where we saw the Cornells, Duchamp’s Étant donnés and the Degas known as both “Interior” and “The Rape”. I can’t begin to describe the impact that group of works had on me, but I can tell you the most important thing I carried away: that women need to make paintings of women.

Jo Pollux detail by Suzanne Forbes Oct 18 2017For decades I have been both inspired by the great male painters and furious that men have made most of the great paintings of women.

My spiritual master as an artist, John Singer Sargent, was not sexually involved with women. He made pictures of them as beings. Numinous, sensual, prickly, elegant, fearless beings. I am hoping in the next few years to really move into my abilities as a painter, and to begin painting women with all the strength I see in them.

It really helps to make big paintings, when you want to depict strength and grace, and I hope this diptych is a step towards that.

This work was made possible by the generosity of my Patrons on Patreon, who contribute monthly support to enable me to make art. I am so, so grateful.

You can help for as little as a buck a month!

In Berlin and wanna see it in person and hear me and Sadie talk about art, gender, portraiture as service and more? Come to Ludwig this Sunday, Oct 22, at 8pm for an artist’s talk and vernissage!

Sadie and Jo are both brand-new on Patreon, you can help them make feminist art!

 

 

The men of Folsom Europe!

Lovers at Folsom Europe by Suzanne Forbes Oct 13 2017FInally had a minute to finish the last of the drawings I made at Folsom Europe. I really enjoyed my time there.

It was a very comfortable and relaxed scene. On my way in I saw what I thought for a moment was security frisking backpacks. Then I realized it was just a group of uniform fetish players looking for their beer or gear or something!

Rope bondage at Folsom Europe by Suzanne Forbes Oct 13 2017

Folsom Europe really shines with Tom of Finland archetypes.

Because I was a child in Chelsea in the 70s, I really love the classic leather daddy and uniform looks. It feels like being wrapped in a warm blanket to see gay men rocking the old school Christopher St Clone style.

This performer, Georg Kroneis, was wonderful.

Georg Kroneis Folsom Europe by Suzanne Forbes Oct 10 2017However there were also plenty of casually dressed lovers just sporting crew socks and sweats, as seen in the first picture!

I was very casual myself, unlike my friend Sadie Lune who wore gorgeous high leather regalia and an Autumn goddess headpiece, which inspired the big diptych of her and her girlfriend Jo Pollux I just finished. You can see my previous Folsom Europe posts here:

Women of Folsom Europe 2017

Puppies of Folsom Europe 2017

Women who rock Berlin – Donut Heart at Arcanoa

Alfred Ladylike and Baron Anastis at Arcanoa by Suzanne Forbes Oct 20 2017I drew the Donut Heart folk at an amazing and magical Berlin bar, the underground wonderland that is Arcanoa.

The show was called the “Sunken Ship Show!” Check out Alfred Ladylike and Baron Anastis, above. I feel like I got a very good likeness of Baron, who is a professional life model as well as rocking out with both Donut Heart and Baron and the Erinyes.

Rah Hell and Donut Heart at Arcanoa Suzanne Forbes Oct 20 2017Pirate costumes were on point! Here is Rah Hell drumming in high seas style.

Donut Heart at Arcanoa by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017Well and truly is it said that she is the sexiest and most amazing dork in all Berlin. Also kinda cool, the drawings form a panorama of the stage! By accident mostly, I’ve never done that before.

Natascha Artworx came down from Hamburg and she wore an amazing mermaid outfit she had made herself, much like she created her outfit for our A(RT)ffair.

I also wore an amazing mermaid outfit, although I only made the jewelry and headpiece of mine!

Suz Natascha Artworx and Alfred Ladylike at Arcanoa Oct 2017Here we are with Alfred Ladylike posing like merpirates or something!!

Check out how great we look and how cool Arcanoa is! There is a running stream built into the bar. It is probably neither safe not sanitary, but it is beautiful. Living in Berlin is heaven.Natascha Artworx and Suzanne Forbes at Arcanoa Sept 28 2017

Last but not least, the show opened with a thrilling oceangoing yarn spun by the shifty Old Tom Haggardy!

He belted out some fine sea shanties later as well.Tom Haggardy at Arcanoa by Suzanne Forbes Oct 20 2017

New Donut Heart video online here.

The big diptych – work in progress! My portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux.

wip Portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux by Suzanne Forbes Sept 2017Now we’re at the stage where I make serious refinements to scale and positioning.

You can see I’ve scaled down Jo’s body significantly and adjusted the room and furnishings as well. I made her enormous hands much smaller, although enormous hands are cool! I had made them so large I had to repaint them twice to get them normal size 🙂

One foot of at least one model always breaks the frame in every one of my portraits, and it was best if it was Sadie’s new Fleuvog boot, so I moved Jo’s knee and feet back.

WIP Portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux by Suzanne Forbes color clarification pass Sept 24 2017You can see the previous pass of post sitting work above, the color clarification pass where I clean up muddy colors from the first sitting.

WIP portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux by Suzanne Forbes Sept 24 2017And the first sitting, which I painted almost entirely with sponges from the euro store and sponge brushes, in 2.5 hours.

More info in the first post!

Unterwegs, September 2017

Unterwegs September 2017 Hurricane by Suzanne ForbesI think these two Americans were talking about Hurricane Harvey.

It was during that time, and she kept saying, “- But if I was actually there! – ” while her partner comforted her.

unterwegs two women September 2017 by Suzanne ForbesThese two were annoyed with each other, as people of different generations sometimes are.

You can see previous months’ unterwegs here:

July bonus round

July

June

May bonus round

May round one

April

March 2

March

January

December

November

The Women of Folsom Europe

Miss Natasha Enquist in Butcherei Lindinger at Folsom Europe Sept 9 2017 by Suzanne ForbesMy friend Miss Natasha Enquist performed at Folsom Europe 2017!

So of course I was there to see her. And the other women on stage.  There were plenty, despite the event being produced by male.space! ! Miss Natasha was styled for the event by legendary Berlin fetish wear designer Butcherei Lindinger.

She played a set you can check out here and also my favorite cover, “The Cat Came Back”. She got down and twerked and waggled her cock at the audience. You might have thought it was pretty transgressive for a mainly-gay-men event, but the crowd loved it!

And I was surrounded by big, buff leathermen who were cheering Miss Natasha on and saying incredibly nice and supportive things about my drawings.

Liliana Velasquez at Folsom Europe by Suzanne Forbes Sept 26 2017Then we enjoyed Power Woman Ms. Liliana Velásquez from the Freudian Slip Club and  Fetish Comedy Show.

She told jokes about working in a house in New York, which I was greatly entertained by. It took me back to the 80s when my friends worked at a house in the Meatpacking District. She was wearing a bespoke latex gown from The Baroness!

Comedy Singer at Folsom Europe by Suzanne Forbes Sept 26 2017I will have to get the name of the very young and very funny woman with the ukulele.

She was hilarious and pretty shocking!

See more drawings of Miss Natasha Enquist here and here and more Folsom Europe here.

First Sitting: A really big new portrait, my first diptych!

WIP Portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux by Suzanne Forbes color clarification pass Sept 24 2017This Sunday I started a big new portrait of my dear friend Sadie Lune and her wonderful partner Jo.

WIP Portrait Jo Pollux by Suzanne Forbes Sept 24 2017This is my first diptych painting. It is being done on two canvases, which will be hung together or separately at the choice of my curator Thorsten at @ludwig.berlin when we show the works in early October!

Sadie is wearing her beautiful black leather Alexandra corset by  @darkgardencorsetry. Jo, a photographer, is wearing a marvelous outfit of a little ruffled white dress and a cage harness of black elastic, which I will paint in at the next sitting. And they will have Autumn headdresses of rosehips!

Sadie Lune at her birthday party CSC October 2008 by Suzanne ForbesI have wanted to paint Sadie since I met her at “Nude Aid”, an art benefit for the Center for Sex and Culture, in 2007. She is an artist, performer, sex worker and activist and has marvelous style and presence. The day I met her she was working as both artist and model as she often does. She was wearing a cloche, I remember it so vividly!

As the drawings were all sold that day for a fundraiser, I don’t have a picture of it, alas.

We talked that day about a portrait collaboration, but with our busy, frantic, community-focussed, subsistence working lives as Bay Area artists, we were never able to make it happen in the US.

Art of Restraint 5 16 2009 Sadie Lune performs

I did make several drawings of her at events, like the one above of her at her birthday party (also at the CSC) in a latex dress. That party was full of amazing performances, like Jiz Lee and Syd Blakovich doing a work from their Twincest collaboration with blood-drinking and fisting.

Sadie invited the audience to use her body as a canvas for “birthday bites” and we all decorated her with bite marks!

I drew her again in 2009, when she performed with her snake at Art of Restraint, a regular fundraiser for queer art gallery Femina Potens. Here’s Violet Blue’s photo of the scene. and her shot of me drawing Fivestar.

Suzanne Forbes drawing at Midori performance at Femina Potens photo by Zille Defeu Sept 29 2010

Suzanne Forbes drawing at Midori’s “Taken” performance at Femina Potens/ Photo by Zille Defeu Sept 29 2010

We both were constantly donating time and art to fundraisers for the sex-positive and queer art community in the Bay Area in 2006-2010. My policy for five years was, if someone in the community asked me for any art or art labor, I said yes. So we were doing the same events in the scene all the time. Here’s another shot of me drawing at another Art of Restraint. You can see my red flowered head in this one from another Nude Aid. These events were so beautiful and magical, so queer and body-positive and great for community resources. They didn’t leave us as much time for personal projects as we would have liked, though!

Sadie moved to Berlin years before anyone else I knew, and was a great inspiration to me.

Portrait of Sadie Lune by Suzanne Forbes in progress Sept 24 2017She was tremendously helpful in the year before we moved here, providing critical advice about how to prepare for life here and apply for an artist’s visa. (By the way I was granted a two-year artist’s visa of my own on August 28th!)

It has taken us until now to sort out doing a portrait at last, because we both face health challenges and Sadie has a little one, who is now four.

And that’s fine. It takes time to come together for personal-project portraits.

it took a year to schedule and another two years to finish the sittings for my portrait of Midori, for example!

WIP portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux by Suzanne Forbes Sept 24 2017I believe it always happens at exactly the right time.

Puppies of Folsom Europe!

Smarty and Lucky at Folsom Europe 2017 by Suzanne ForbesI am not a dog person.

I’ve never been comfortable with dogs or known how to interact with them and I’m always a little scared of them. However back when my art business cratered in the Great Recession and I went back to work as a barista, I worked at Wicked Grounds. And the puppyplay munches held there transformed my experience of dogs.

I learned to play with human puppies, how to scratch them and throw things for them and yell “Good DOG!”.

Many of the puppies were over 200 pounds, and as they frolicked in the back seating area (we moved the chairs and tables out) they made the old floorboards creak. Their joy and exuberance was so delightful to me.

So when I was at Folsom Europe this year, I really wanted to spend some time with puppies!

pups of folsom Europe 2017 by Suzanne ForbesLuckily my friend Sadie Lune and her partner Jo were there, dressed as amazing Autumn Leather Goddesses, and Sadie told me where to go.

“There is a puppy play area where you can see puppies at play and at rest”, she said with great warmth and affection. And I went there and played with pups and skritched their heads and drew them and they were SO WONDERFUL.

So curious, so alert, watching me draw with great interest, ears cocked.

Morgan and pup drawing by Suzanne Forbes Sept 2017The puppies in the first picture above were in the play area and were wonderfully friendly and well trained.

Usually human puppies are much better trained than animal puppies, and I’ve rarely had a human puppy jump up, which scares me. Here in Germany the dogs are generally well-trained, whether human or animal, and I feel very safe around them.

The pups in the second picture were more aloof, maybe they were sporting dogs of some kind? They had those sleek racing stripes!

Obviously, Morgan doesn’t like dogs of any kind, so she had to display her dominance over the works in progress!

More experiments with pastels and mixed media.

Masks at Drink and Draw Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Aug 17 2017These are the last of the drawings from Drink and Draw Berlin’s Secret Society event, all finished up finally!

I took the opportunity to really experiment on these. Things like changing background color, adding large areas of midtones and heavy darks. Using pastels for the midtones and oil pastels to strengthen the blacks gives a really high-contrast image, much faster and more even than using markers.

I feel like I am getting much better at suggesting the atmosphere of dark clubs and parties!At Drink and Draw Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Aug 17 2017

You can see how this approach would have improved a drawing like this one from the Skin Two fashion show in London in 2007. Both the drawings above and the one from ten years ago are times when I don’t have enough time to get good visual information for the background of a scene.

Choosing areas to treat as dark values and midtones gives the scene much more energy and resolution.

I’ve switched from the beige Canson Kraft to a new Canson Toned Grey sketchbook, so I’ll be posting drawings done on an actual grey midtone soon. It’s like a 30% grey; maybe after I finish that sketchbook I’ll try one with black paper!

Previous Secret Society here and here.

Miss Natasha Enquist at Chantal’s House of Shame!

Miss Natasha Enquist at Chantals House of Shame by Suzanne Forbes Sept 14 2017I went to see my friend Miss Natasha Enquist perform at a legendary Berlin gay boy dance party.

Chantal’s House of Shame happens every Thursday, without fail since 1999. It is at the Bassy Club, which is usually a swing/rockabilly kinda place but is taken over by filthy techno and sweaty naked men for Chantal’s. Bassy is kinda divey but also really awesome. It reminded me a little of my beloved Lone Star Cafe in NY.

Miss Natasha appeared on stage at 2am. She was clad in golden sequins like a vision of 30s glamour in the dark club, her shaven head glinting. Then she stripped off her golden batwing gown to reveal a gorgeous gold leather harness and booty shorts outfit she made herself!

Miss Natasha Enquist sings The Cat Came Back by Suzanne Forbes Sept 5 2017A sassy, saucy, sparkling Deco Belle from Outer Space, the electro-accordion chanteuse also accompanied herself on a delightful version of “The Cat Came Back”.

The boys were howling, “NATASHA!! QUEENNNN!!!”

One of them was kind enough to hold his phone over my sketchbook so I could see to draw for Miss Natasha’s entire performance. In all the dark clubs and sex parties and alleys I’ve drawn in, no-one has ever done this before! I really appreciated it.

Why does it have to be so hot in the dance clubs in Berlin? It’s like hot yoga or something. I do not like it, but I was so comfortable at Chantal’s and the boys were all so incredibly nice to me I was able to stand it.
Boys dancing at Chantals House of Shame Sept 14 2017 Suzanne Forbes

The place was wall-to-wall beautiful young men in peak physical condition, dancing their brains out and smooching.

Everyone was super friendly, I had a lovely talk with a gleaming young god on the sidewalk at 4am about the casting of the upcoming Teen Titans tv show. More cute dancing boy drawings soon!

You can listen to Miss Natasha on Spotify here and on Bandcamp here, and watch a bit of the performance here.