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.

Women who rock: Das Fluff in Berlin!

Dawn and Das Fluff by Suzanne Forbes Sept 18 2017I finally got to see Das Fluff perform! Post-punk electric filth!!

My friend and muse, Donut Heart drummer Rah Hell, told me I would love them. And I did!!!

I went to frontwoman Dawn’s 51st birthday party gig at her favorite Berlin bar, Leydicke. You can’t explain Leydicke; it’s one of those Berlin places that just breathes magic. I had met Dawn at the Donut Heart video release party and liked her very much, and i was excited to hear her music. We are the same age and share much cultural and aesthetic furniture. I missed two of their Berlin gigs this summer due to my ever-present perimenopause health variances, and they are frequently playing in London and soon again touring Japan. It’s hard to get paying gigs for bands in Berlin, whereas in Tokyo serious rock is always in demand.

So I was determined to make this gig in my own part of Berlin, the West. I arrived at midnight, in time for the second set, and it was fantastic. Das Fluff has a sound that is both very modern and very responsive to the era Dawn and I became adults in, the 80s. And it is FILTHY and raging.

Das Fluff audience at Leydicke by Suzanne Forbes Sept 18 2017The crowd was all ages, as so often in Berlin, and international, and multi-gendered.

Berlin is a dress-down town, so most people were in leather jacket and black jeans mufti, except a couple gorgeous genderqueer belles in gothabilly style.

I was so happy I got to chat briefly with Dawn after the set. There is nothing like talking to a woman your own age, who has as much hard-won experience and personal power as you do. We are both here in Berlin, doing our art in the most truthful and authentic and finally distilled way, after long hiatuses from our work. We are beautiful and strong and staying the course.

There is a story to the woman in her 80s who was rocking out hard to Das Fluff, but I’m not going to tell it. She was there, she was dancing. She is part of the mystery of Leydicke, part of the mystery of Berlin. Sometimes both art and life are long.

Follow Dawn on twitter, Das Fluff on fb, and buy new Das Fluff album “Flower with Knife” on vinyl or DL 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.

Sacred Heart with titanium druzy.

I have had almost no time for embroidery this month.

I drew at so many events, we had an art show where I did live painting, I made the Trans Dino-Witch, I finished a big new portrait. It’s been glorious and exhilarating. Yet I really wanted to get some thread and bead time in, for the energy and comfort it gives me.

And I wanted to work with Sacred Hearts, the symbol of hope and faith.

I learn so much from beloved artist Monique Motil, aka @z0mbique, about how working with mystic powerful symbols gives you creative juice. So I used bricolage and upcycle principles to make these collage embroidered Sacred Hearts or Ex Votos.

Sacred Heart collage embroideries WIP by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017The hearts in the center are beaded patches I bought on eBay for a couple of euros.

I sewed them to some of the last scraps of an iridescent blue-violet panne violet I bought two yards of in 1999 and have used for innumerable projects. I made the orange and blue flames out of the last pieces of some vintage velvet flowers bought at Lacis in Berkeley, also in ’99.

Then I embroidered around them with my favorite Rico Metallic thread, the Holy Grail of metallic embroidery thread.

sacred heart collage embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Aug 30 2017I sewed on iridescent and AB Swarovski bicone crystal beads and added hundreds of Swarovski crystals in many, many colors. I attached some of my new blue oil slick iridescence titanium druzy crystal beads with invisible thread. I painted the frame by rubbing it with deep madder paint, then gold paint, then tapping silver leaf onto the still tacky gold paint.

The shiny red string was saved from a gift I received – I save all my gift ribbons and bows for projects.

Like the embroidery collage jacket I did last month, this kind of collage/bricolage embroidery is a low-impact, flexible project anyone could do. I love how in the top picture the fiery heart coordinates with my sketchbook-carrying sack, a 50th-birthday gift from Daria! I plan to sew a LOT in September, along with the million new events and teaching, so I’ll finish the blue flame lightning heart soon.

More musicians – Dirk Rave and Mads Elung-Jensen at Ludwig.

Dirk Rave at Ludwig by Suzanne Forbes Aug 27 2017I love to draw people playing the accordion!!

There’s something physical about the way they have to lean into the instrument, its spinelike flexibility, that just blows my mind. It’s like they have a person in their lap and they are squeezing music out of them!

So when Dirk Rave came onstage at Ludwig the other night with his accordion i was delighted to draw him. Amazingly, after I wrote the above, I went to his website to add the link, and guess what I read???!

“The proportion of the instrument can not be underestimated: the accordion breathes. This makes it the ideal partner of a singing man, whether it is a baroque, a pop song or a classic French chanson.”

So I was right! It is about the physicality and proportions of the accordion, it adds a unique dimension to a performance! Isn’t that cool, that Dirk and I share this notion and didn’t even know it?

Dirk and Mads at Ludwig by Suzane Forbes Aug 27 2017Dirk performed several of his original compositions, then was joined by Danish tenor Mads Elung-Jensen. 

They were GREAT! You can see them perform together yourself here. It was a performance way the hell out of the league of a quiet Thursday night in Neukölln, exactly the kind of unexpected miracle Berlin specializes in.

About the drawings, I must note that the top one is another example of me nearly ruining a fine drawing by adding pastels and mixed media.

I wanted to use only grey tones, because I worry that I’m in danger of developing laziness around values from using pink and umber. I knew I had to be careful to leave the open space of the kraft paper as a value and that I needed deep darks to convey the night-time feel of the bar. I could just barely wrangle it all together, and it devolved for a bit.

Sargent said that if you control the midtones you control the painting.

I am working on midtones, trying to use them more effectively. Since I developed my entire style of drawing to be reproducible black and white linework for comics, that’s challenging to me. I still find spotting hard blacks is helpful when the drawing isn’t reading clearly.

Having a true peer that you see and work with often is so crucial to artists.

Daria is such an important part of my growth as an artist here in Berlin. It’s her voice I hear in my head when I want to overwork a drawing, and her voice I heard tonight saying, “When in doubt, add more black!”.

For the second drawing I kept it simpler, leaving more of the paper surface open. While pattern and value ensure it reads easily, it doesn’t have the same night-time feel. My next sketchbook is going to be a Canson grey tone pad. Sargent painted on canvases toned with a cool grey midtone, and I am excited to try using pastels to work on that kind of base! Wow, the 50th-birthday gift of greyscale markers from my beloved friend-muse-Patron Clear really opened the drawing door for me!

More accordion drawings:

Unterwegs

Four hour portrait painting of Julia

There’s one of Heather playing accordion but I couldn’t find it on my flickrstream, you can look at her great photos instead

Dovekins at Cakebread

Scout at Cakebread

Old ones from St. Paul and here and here

Trans Dino-Witch, a vision of protection and safety for transmen and transwomen.

Trans Dino Witch sculpture by Suzanne Forbes Aug 26 2017My Trans Dino-Witch is finished at last! I’ve been working on her all month.

Trans Dino Witch sculpture by Suzanne Forbes Aug 26 2017 neo nazis running awayShe was a huge project for such a small work!

I am thrilled to have finished her and she gives me strength. I hope other folks will find strength in her too.

Look at those pathetic, evil Neo-Nazis running away from her mighty teeth!

Look at her group of friends who are riding along on her back to support her and enjoy the mayhem!

I made their tiny colored hair out of nail flocking powder, way cheaper than fancy “craft” flocking powder. You can get a set of 10 colors on eBay for a euro.

Trans Dino Witch sculpture by Suzanne Forbes Aug 26 2017 friendsShe is a companion work to my Pride piece, Queer Dino-Witch, which I made last month.

Trans Dino Witch sculpture by Suzanne Forbes Aug 26 2017It was harder to make her, because I had some harder feelings. I realized while making her that I often connect deeply with trans women partly for a very sad reason.

Most of the trans women I know have C-PTSD from repeated, systemic sexual violence, as I do.

Although my Trans Dino Witch is a work about Neo-Nazis, the despicable Alt-Right, I can’t make art about trans folk without thinking about the other kinds of attacks they suffer.

During the making of this piece the Orange Shitclown lashed out violently at transfolk.

He announced (on twitter, of course) that he intended to ban trans people from serving in the US military. Just yesterday he signed a formal memo. Since trans people have been serving with honor in the US military since at least 1862, lots of luck running the armed forces without them.

Also during the making of this piece, Chelsea Manning built a rainbow army of loving, celebrating followers who just won’t stop being brave and kind.

trans girl dinowitch in process by Suzanne ForbesSuck that, neo-fascist real estate golem!

I tweeted Chelsea a photo of our cat being cute on one of the particularly horrible days for trans people in August and she thanked me personally! So nice!!

She has made #WeGotThis a banner for the power of trans people and their unbelievable determination to survive and thrive.

 

I named the Trans Dino-Witch Catherine, after the late, legendary artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones.

My generation of comic artists was so inspired by Jeffrey Catherine Jones and her commercial and comics artwork that always transcended the commercial.  I hope she would like this tribute.

Catherine is a work built on a legacy of artists who inspire me. First, the incredible sculptor and assemblage artist Elizabeth McGrath. In 2005 I saw her show Altarwise By Owl Light at Billy Shire Fine Arts in Culver City.

She is the artist who opened my eyes to the power of modern assemblage and pop-surrealist artists. Her works are creepy, adorable, mythological and emotionally meaningful.

And some of them have little railroad miniature people in them! And they’re full of fake fur and Swarovski crystals and weird shit she found somewhere! And they’re like being hit in the heart with a bus.

So finally using tiny railroad people in a piece is my tribute to Liz McGrath.

I was also very influenced by the constant miniature close-ups on the Instagram feed of Jake and Dinos Chapman. The group of works by these YBAs called “Hell” is an intensely political anti-Nazi work that took them two years to complete and used 60,000 toy soldiers.

I decided to do dinosaur witches for Pride because of Mab GravesDinoKitty show at Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans this year.

I thought, Dino-Kitties! That’s a fine idea. I wonder why you never hear about Dino-Witches

Mab Graves has been hugely inspiring to me as an artist who never apologizes for making paintings, illustrations, sculptures (in a craft-identified medium iike needle felt!), commercially produced prints and diffusion line mass produced t-shirts all at once.

I love that she gets to make unique fine art objects and show them at the national level and sell melamine plates in her Etsy store.

She controls it all and completely owns her brand, despite enduring years of suffering from endometriosis, which she has been courageously transparent with her fan base about. Inspiring as fuck! I can’t work as hard as she does, but I am working as hard as I can.

Most of all, Catherine the Trans Dino-Witch was inspired by the Degenderettes LGBTQiA flag baseball bats made by Scout Tran.

Seeing those clear, bright flag stripes pass by in my Instagram feed day after day – seems like queer people are playing a lot of baseball lately, or something – is surprisingly comforting.

I give back 10% of my Patreon income to young queer and trans cartoonists and comic artists. Scout is one of them. So is Sam Orchard. Because fuck, the only people who have a harder and shittier time making a living as artists (especially comic artists) than women are trans people.

Trans Dino Witch sculpture by Suzanne Forbes Aug 26 2017My Patrons made it possible for me to spend fifty hours sculpting, painting and dressing Catherine. I hope she gives back some strength and inspiration.

More drawings from Dr. Sketchy’s Weimar Berlin at Cafe Kalwil.

Bridge Markland posing at Dr Sketchys Berlin Aug 22 2017 by Suzanne ForbesWow, I have made SO MUCH ART this month! Thank you, amazing Patreon Patrons, for making this possible.

Here are some more drawings from the Anita Berber Salon Session of Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin. Above, Bridge Markland portraying Anita Berber amid a group of young women drawing. The life drawing scene in Berlin is absolutely being taken over by women!

For this one I pulled out my Winsor & Newton Series 7 Sable No. #7, which I have kept and cared for since I bought it when I was a student at Parsons in 1984. It is beat to shit but still shakes out to a nice point and holds a wash like nobody’s business. I haven’t done a wash drawing in decades and have no ink, so I used a bit of black acrylic (bad! don’t use acrylic on a sable brush!). It came out lovely I think! The craft paper isn’t sturdy enough to hold up to a wash so I had to press the drawing under a bunch of my doorstop Rose Levy Beranbaum cookbooks after.

Bridge Markland posing at Cafe Kalwil by Suzanne Forbes Aug 22 2017Here’s another drawing of the amazing Bridge, illuminating beautiful Cafe Kalwil with her classic art modelling chops.

You can see my previous Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin drawings of Bridge here!

Le Pustra as Sebastian Droste by Suzanne Forbes Aug 10 2017And I finished two more drawings of Le Pustra as Sebastian Droste.

You can see the previous ones here. The one below has paint added with my fingers, as I continue to experiment with mixed media despite my previous failures. I am so gorram excited about the next time I get to draw Le Pustra, at the Kabarett der Namenlosen.

Or maybe I will sneak in a sketch of him at the October Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin which is Victorian Spiritualism themed! OH hell yeah you know Imma hit that big time in Full Goth.Le Pustra as Sebastian Droste by Suzanne Forbes Aug 22 2017

After all I snuck in a sketch of event organizer LaLa Vox this time 🙂LalaVox hosting Dr Sketchys Berlin Aug 6 2017 by Suzanne Forbes

Live painting during A(RT)ffair at Ludwig Berlin!

Suzanne Forbes painting Natasha Enquist at Ludwig on Aug 19 2017 photo by Xushaw

Suzanne Forbes painting Miss Natasha Enquist at Ludwig on Aug 19 2017. photo by Xushaw

SO much appreciation to Suzanne Wegh and Natascha Artworx for creating our wonderful art event at Ludwig Berlin this past weekend.

We had new works from all three of us, live painting (me) and drawing (by lots of cool women), modelling by Miss Natasha Enquist, live body-painting by Natascha Artworx on Alfred Ladylike as human canvas, a gorgeous performance by Leo Gold, and music by NanseaBerlin.

Artffair at Ludwig Aug 19 2017

Clockwise from left, curator Suzanne Wegh, Natascha Artworx in front of works from her “Selfie” series, me painting Miss Natasha Enquist, my husband studies my portrait of Rah Hell.

It was so much fun! I was so happy to be able to book electro-accordion chanteuse Miss Natasha Enquist as our model; she is an extraordinary performer and one of the best life models I’ve ever known. This outfit was inspired by her rad look when she rode on a float at Christopher Street Day Berlin! She kicked it up a notch with the creepy white latex gloves!

Miss Natasha Enquist seated at Ludwig Aug 23 2017 by Suzanne ForbesMy colleague and fellow art instructor at ESDIP Berlin Omar Jaramillo came and made art!

He is a remarkable watercolorist and painting teacher; I had never seen his tonal work before and was dazzled by these lovely wash drawings. Check his Insta for more beauty!

Omar Jaramillo and his drawings of Natasha Enquist at Ludwig Aug 19 2017Omar Jaramillo and his drawings of Natasha Enquist at Ludwig Aug 19 2017

Omar Jaramillo and his drawings of Natasha Enquist at Ludwig Aug 19 2017

My beloved genius Daria Rhein came and made jaw-dropping drawings of Miss Enquist, on her new ipad Pro thing- I had no idea work like this could be created digitally.

Click over to Daria’s Instagram to see more!

Miss Natasha Enquist and Alfred Ladylike drawn by Daria Rhein Aug 19 2017

Miss Natasha Enquist and Alfred Ladylike drawn by Daria Rhein Aug 19 2017

I taught a quick lesson on how to do a gesture drawing, and made vegan treats! We raised 90 euros in our donation jar, not bad!

The house was packed, a wonderful representation of queer Berlin, and several of my former drawing students came and drew, how lovely! Photo of me and new drawer Ursula by artist Xushaw who I know from ESDIP’s monthly Life Drawing nights.

Artffair at Ludwig Berlin Aug 18 2017Alfred Ladylike posed for Natascha Artworx as her human canvas.

Natascha was wearing an amazing art dress she had customized and painted. The person who owned the dress was getting divorced and planned to burn it, and it got turned into art instead!

Natascha Artworx painting Alfred Ladylike at Ludwig Aug 22 2017 by Suzanne Forbes

Miss Natasha Enquist posing and Alfred Ladylike as human canvas for Natasha Artworx Aug 19 2017

Miss Natasha Enquist posing and Alfred Ladylike as human canvas for Natascha Artworx, Aug. 19 2017

30 minute portrait of Miss Natasha Enquist by Suzanne Forbes and Fluid Gallery at Ludwig Berlin Aug 10 2017

30 minute portrait of Miss Natasha Enquist by Suzanne Forbes and the Fluid Gallery at Ludwig Berlin, Aug. 19 2017

The finished 30 minute portrait of Miss Natasha Enquist, above.

We gave out free raffle tickets and raffled it off at the end of the night! Free art! And there was even a secret surprise performance by Alfred! Her Donut Heart bandmate Rah Hell was represented in portraiture by both myself and Natascha, and performed the raffle ticket drawing. What a heavenly evening.Miss Natasha Enquist and Alfred Ladylike drawn by Suzanne Forbes Aug 19 2017 Ludwig Berlin

My infinite thanks to Suzanne Wegh and Natascha Artworx for managing this event. If you’d like to help support their creative work, here’s Suzanne’s Patreon and Natascha’s Patreon. Visit Miss Natasha Enquist’s Spotify here and Donut Heart on bandcamp here.

I was able to be part of this event and make this art documenting queer Berlin because of my Patrons on Patreon. You can help with just a buck a month – it’s super easy!

30 minute painting of Miss Natasha Enquist painted by Suzanne Forbes at Ludwig Berlin Aug 19 2017

My big new portrait finished and hanging at Ludwig!

Portrait of Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017I am so proud of this painting of Rah Hell I hate to be separated from it even to exhibit it!

painting of Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes at Ludwig photo by Suzanne Wegh

Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes at Ludwig. photo by Suzanne Wegh

Rah Hell ukelele from portrait by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017However I am thrilled to have it shown at Ludwig, where Thorsten took such great care in hanging it and positioning the lighting.

Ludwig is a beautiful queer space in Neukölln where art is really respected. I was so grateful to see my work handled with care. It will be the first thing visitors to our show this Saturday see upon entering!

Portrait of Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017 black and white versionIt is the first big personal project portrait I’ve done in Berlin.

I see it as a companion piece, à pendant, to this big portrait I did of friend/muse/Patron Khris Brown in 2005, when I had just returned to painting after a thirteen-year hiatus. This portrait, one of many I did of Khris, is probably my favorite thing I’ve done to date. And this picture of Rah is right up there.

Portraits by Suzanne Forbes 2005 and 2017I painted Rah on a pink ground.

That means before she arrived, I painted the primed canvas an allover bright pink. I used to do this occasionally in college, but had forgotten about it until I saw the work of Natalia Fabia. She is one of the wonderful modern figurative artists I’ve discovered on Instagram. She very often paints on a pink ground.

It adds so much warmth, plus serving as a light mid-tone. Not entirely unlike the many drawings I’ve done on Kraft paper in the last few months! Since I paint alla prima and leave a few areas of bare canvas on every painting I make, you can see the pink peeking through at the edges.

Modern technology makes it so easy to photograph your work, even if you are as bad a photographer as I am.Portrait of Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017 detail

I’m amazed at how easy it to record and share my new pieces. You can see the details of how I paint easily, the scumbling and bits of impasto. I used quite a bit of gel medium in this work, to get translucent layers that would capture Rah’s luminous youth. Young people’s skin has so much subsurface specularity!

You can see it in progress here and here.

This painting didn’t exist a month ago, and now here it is, on the internet and hanging at Ludwig. My Patrons made it possible.Portrait of Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017 detail

I’m incredibly proud of it and so grateful to Rah for posing for three long sittings. I am so very grateful to my Patrons who support me on Patreon and make it possible for me to do this work.

If you’re in Berlin, come see our show at Ludwig, opening August 19, 2017! Check out Rah performing in Donut Heart! Celebrate queer Berlin!! YAY!!!!