Tag Archives: art in berlin

Snow Queen/White Witch OOAK Doll with sledge and reindeer, finished!

Snow Queen Jadis with carriage and reindeer by Suzanne Forbes May 2017I finally finished her!

I am amazing, and amazed by myself! Jadis, The White Witch, The Snow Queen, the Ice Queen, as I always imagined her.

I’d been wanting to make a doll like this since the early 90s in St. Paul. At a fancy shop in Summit Hill I saw a teacup fairy by Stephanie Blythe and Susan Snodgrass.

The delicacy, the precision, the tiny, tiny crystals- there was something about it that moved me deeply.

I had no idea you could get such tiny materials. The thought of handling such tiny things was exhilarating to me. I imagined I could make tiny dolls of characters I loved. I could make a tiny world.

Snow Queen OOAK doll by Suzanne Forbes May 2017I was still waiting to start my dollhouse then, still holding a space for that project open in my future.

Snow Queen by Suzanne Forbes May 2017I didn’t want to open the door to even more collecting and supply hoarding madness, I didn’t dare try such things myself, but I bought some porcelain doll parts and kept them.

I held my love for the teacup fairy in my heart, held the space for those tiny crystals dotting her bodice in my mind, setting the image gently in my mental room for miniature art.

Every time I moved, I packed my craft materials. My porcelain doll heads and limbs, my ever-growing collection of wired ribbon and metallic organza and silver cord and microbeads and glitter, travelled from St. Paul to Hartford to DC to Arlington to Alameda to Albany to Berkeley to North Berkeley to Albany to Glenview to West O to Oakland.

In Berkeley in 2000 I began building my dollhouse at last and collecting 1/12th scale action figures.

Miniature sex toys by Suzanne Forbes 2007

I subscribed to miniature magazines and went to miniature shows.

my first polymer clay OOAK doll by Suzanne Forbes 2011

my first polymer clay OOAK doll by Suzanne Forbes 2011

I met Monique Motil, dollmaker extraordinaire. I started sculpting little things with polymer clay for the dollhouse and reading about action figure customizing techniques.

I scoured the internet for methods, materials and supplies. And at our little Craftsman flat in Oakland in 2011, I finished my dollhouse and started making dolls.

I started my Snow Queen project in 2013.

I had been home to New York for holidays with my husband’s family and I had just seen snow for the first time in fifteen years. On a magical Christmas Eve we went to church in Freehold, New Jersey and when we came out delicate flakes were falling.

The night before In the city I’d stood at the rail of the skating rink in Bryant Park; a tween wiped out and came up laughing, clapping his cold hands over mine.Snow Queen in carriage with reindeer by Suzanne Forbes May 2017

I fell in love with the cold again, the way the stars get lean in a winter sky and the way everything is so sharp.

I remembered the way I loved the cold in WInter’s Tale, the way it muffled my footsteps when I walked through a silent Chinatown to buy heroin on New Year’s Day in 1989, the sparkling lavender twilight of April snow at the treatment center in St. Paul.

iridescent microbeads from MorezmoreIn the dark California January I drove to Michael’s and JoAnn Fabrics and Beverlys and bought bags full of 90% off Christmas decor. Icicles and glitter snow and white fur and pale iridescent sequins.

I ordered Swarovski crystals in colors like Silver Shadow, Moonlight and Opal. I discovered the amazing doll supplier MorezMore. I ordered nail decals of flocked snowflakes from China and Ball-jointed Doll clothing buckles from Taiwan. I bought pearlescent microbeads and fusible fairy films.

Snow Queen OOAK Doll by Suzanne ForbesI learned the sizes Swarovski crystals come in, and where to get the very tiniest.

tiniest-swarovski-crystalsI made the sledge first. The sledge is made of three different plastic Christmas ornament sleighs, some pvc holiday ornament pieces, polystyrene sheets and strips, clear polythene sheeting, crazy glue and balsa wood.

It’s all stuck together with epoxy clay, polished and sanded smooth. The shafts are the bow pieces of dollar sunglasses!

I got so many materials in the basement of Ace Hardware in Berkeley, in the huge model and railroad hobby section. I’d lean on the counter and talk techniques with the guys there for hours.

I primed the sledge with Krylon Primer for Plastics. You can read about my adventures with priming mixed plastics here and here. Then I spray-painted it with four shades of Tamiya pearl and flake model car paints, one of the most fascinating rabbit holes of materials I went down.

I spent a lot of time on model car boards, reading about how to avoid the dread “orange peel effect” and how to clear coat.

Our back steps were my spray room, and the California drought of those years was a huge asset, I gotta admit.

Snow Queen OOAK Doll by Suzanne ForbesI used crazy glue and Zap-A-Gap to bond the styrene, plastic and balsa elements.

I used a Japanese product called Sakura 3D Crystal Lacquer, which is used by Lolis and Harajuki girls to adhere bling, aka “decoden”, to their phones, to attach a lot of the sledge decor.

The sledge is decorated with hundreds of the very, very tiniest Swarovski crystals, some smaller than the head of a pin, laboriously applied while watching all seven (at the time) seasons of Supernatural (twice!) and tiny, tiny flocked and glittered snowflake nail art decals. And upholstered with silver velvet, button-tufted using pretty antique silver scrapbook art brads and quilt batting over cardstock. I glued the velvet to the cardstock with my beloved Quick Grip/Quick Grab, which is my absolute favorite for small textile work.

As any burner or steampunk can tell you, assemblage art lives or dies by its adhesives.

tiny-buckles-from-RIo-Rondo

The reindeer is made of a cellulose acetate reindeer from the ’50s, legs sawed off and replaced with new sculpts, and head, body and neck heavily re-sculpted.

This kind of Frankensteining is a classic action figure customizing technique; the materials and techniques for creating the miniature harness come from the model horse customizing community, and the handling of the mohair mane from the dollmaking world.

(I’m allergic to mohair, like wool, it turns out.)

I also used the 3D Crystal to get a clear dome over his eyes and a gloss of mucus in his nostrils. The flocking on his ears is nail artist’s flock- much cheaper than the art store!

Snow-Queen-by-Suzanne-Forbes-May-2017-reindeer-headshot-cu

Snow-Queen-by-Suzanne-Forbes-May-2017-reindeerThe tiny silver leather strips for the harness came mostly from a handbag making supply company in Los Angeles; I found it on etsy. I bought many different silver cords and strings at a passementarie shop in the New York Garment district during my second trip back East for the holidays. And for four years I saved every single piece of silver stuff I got, from silver elastic on dress tags to silver pvc on packaging.

Then I had to make a Snow Queen figure!

Snow queen doll WIP Suzanne ForbesI was totally ok with customizing an existing figure; my many hundred hours on action figure boards has made me very comfortable with the idea of remixing sculpture.

I would never, ever, ever copy another artist’s drawing or painting- or even their style- or use elements of someone else’s drawing or photograph in one of my drawings or paintings. I just don’t do that.

But sculpture is play to me, something I do for pleasure. I like the idea that assemblage art incorporates existing elements. And dollmakers commonly use finished porcelains from well-known sculptor to paint and dress. It’s a medium where collaboration is normal.

So ultimately I decided to use the top of a commercial resin mermaid and the legs of a resin fairy to build my Snow Queen.

Snow queen doll WIP Suzanne ForbesI sawed and sanded as needed, then fit the two halves together, and then I used epoxy clay to bulk out her body. Because I love muscle on women’s shoulders, and a big butt, aesthetically! I left her ribcage and waist slim because they would have layers of tiny fabric corseting on them.

And she needed boobs too, sculpted to fit in a square Elizabethan type bodice. Then I had to completely resculpt her face, to give her the strength and archness she needed.

And I needed to bulk up her thighs and sculpt boots on her feet. And lengthen her fingers. And sand off and resculpt her ears. I think she was resculpted, primed and sanded about ten times altogether. Her final finish was partly achieved with Mr. Surfacer priming medium, which i learned about from Daria’s dollmaking. She is streets more advanced than my crazy haphazardness!

By December of this year, my Jadis was close to finished at last.

project-kit-Snow-Queen-OOAK-Suzanne-ForbesI got the project box I brought over in the shipping container out, intending to paint and dress her.

But I got nervous about working on the project suddenly and instead I used up some of the extra materials in the project box making Fearless Pink Gay Santa and his Jolly Ally Reindeer. Which came out great! And I used the fusible fairy film and it was super cool!

Then I made a whole bunch of other dolls!  And sculptures! And mixed media stuff! And a mantis doll! Was my poor Snow Queen doll ever gonna get finished?

faceup-Snow-Queen-OOAK-by-Suzanne-Forbes-2017Yes, she was. Because even though it was now April, and she was no longer seasonal, I had just finished my leafy green beaded Swamp Thing corset (reveal soon!), the second to last of the projects I brought from Oakland.

I really wanted to knock out the last unfinished thing and get rid of the last “project box”. So I can start all my new Berlin projects!

With that thought in mind, I nerved myself up and just went for it. I used nail art brushes I bought for 1€ to paint her face because I didn’t want to buy expensive tiny brushes. I’d never painted anything tiny before and didn’t know if I’d like it. But it went great! And I love her snotty smug 80s made-up face! She looks like Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth and Mia Sara in Legend, right?

Snow Queen OOAK Doll by Suzanne ForbesWigging and dressing her was easy, after that; Daria gave me a personal doll-wigging workshop last year and I have made so many tiny corsets now it’s NBD. And then she was, done, suddenly, after four years. In the green and glowing Spring, but so what? There will always be another Winter. She will look beautiful in the dark winter nights.

I’ve learned to trust the process with making art; I finish most things when it’s time for them to be finished.

What I’m saying here is, it’s okay to have a long game as an artist. In fact, the long game is pretty much the only game in town for most of us.

 

My first art show in Berlin – what a wonderful night!

Vernissage Suzanne Forbes photo by Sarah Kilcoyne May 12 2017

Thanks to my amazing friend Daria Rhein, who is a tattoo artist there, I met the lovely folks who own Tremuschi Ink Tattoo and Art Gallery in Friedrichshain.

vernissage tremuschi ink for Suzanne Forbes May 12 2017 by Uschi Tremuschi

vernissage for Suzanne Forbes May 12 2017 by Uschi Tremuschi

I was invited to show my works and we had a vernissage (that’s what we say in Europe instead of opening!) on Friday night.

The night before, Daria and her sib from another crib Marina helped me hang the show.

What a wonderful, glorious time we had! So many dear ones new and old attended.

Here you can see Miss Natasha Enquist chatting with a fellow whose name we couldn’t pronounce!

Nathan and Daria in front of Darias mural at Tremuschi Ink by Suzanne Forbes May 12th 2017Our friend Nathan, who was hub’s acupuncture doctor in the Bay, was in Berlin for re:publica, working his awesome new Makerspace networking startup, MakerNet.

He took care of Daria’s headache problem! One of my old lovers who lives in Berlin came and bought a piece. Our friends Ben and Ursula came and took the hubbin over to Santa Cantina, and returned with delicious Mexican food for me to nom.

vernissage for Suzanne Forbes at Tremuschi Ink May 12 2017My ESDIPBerlin fam came and represented, as well as new internet friends like curator Suzanne Wegh and Rah Hell of Berlin Uke rock band Donut Heart.

Several of the hub’s co-workers made it, as well as cool hackers from CCC, and lots of Berlin-based or soon to be Berlin-based programmers and Burners we hadn’t met before.

Half a dozen pieces sold immediately. I simply had the most wonderful time. I am happier here in Berlin with my hubbin than I have ever been in my life. Fifty is amazing; I am so grateful I lived, so grateful to be in long-term remission from depression, and to be able to make art.

My Patrons on Patreon make it all possible, so take a bow, supporters of the arts! I love you.

 

Unterwegs Nr. 6- April 2017.

french kids by Suzanne Forbes April 27 2017 Just a couple finished up this month, as I have been sick for twenty-five of the thirty days of April.

These beautiful French kids were having a great time heading to Friedrichshain.

phone guy by Suzanne Forbes April 27 2017This guy was reading a graphic novel and I was curious if it was one I knew but too busy drawing to ask.

These were actually started probably in March, but finished and signed in April. Let’s hope May offers better health and more travel!

You can see loads more unterwegs drawings if you like.

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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!

DJ Alice Oldenburg, performing in the downstairs, was amazing.Alice at KitKat by Suzanne Forbes April 2017

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.

Trans Day of Visibility. A light in the darkness.

D and s Jan 2012 by Suzanne Forbes

D and s Jan 2012 by Suzanne Forbes

Every Trans Day of Remembrance my heart is shredded. I don’t know if Trans Day of Visibility eases that pain at all; I can’t know because my experience is only cishet.

But I hope I can help to make transfolk visible and celebrated today.

alix of the inverted eye at fat city folsom eve by Suzanne Forbes 2008

alix of the inverted eye at fat city folsom eve by Suzanne Forbes 2008

I have shared my life with transpeople always, and my art has always tried to make a beautiful and honorable record of them.

At Marquis Fetish Ball 7 18 09 by Suzanne Forbes

At Marquis Fetish Ball 7 18 09 by Suzanne Forbes

I am more committed than ever to documenting transfolk with love and respect in 2017, a frightening, regressive year after some incremental progress towards basic decency.

Jiz Lee at Nude Aid by Suzanne Forbes 2009

Jiz Lee in red jockstrap at Nude Aid fundraiser by Suzanne Forbes 2009

At Berlin Graphic Days Suzanne Forbes July 1 2016

At Berlin Graphic Days Suzanne Forbes July 1 2016

Many of these drawings are licensed Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivs.

That means they can be freely shared, reprinted and re-used for any noncommercial purpose as long as you credit “Suzanne Forbes, artist.”

They can be printed out and displayed as well.

If the version online isn’t high enough res for your needs, just contact me and I’ll try and find a bigger file for you!

I make as much art as possible that belongs to the community. If you want me to make your picture, let me know!

You can find lots of free drawings in my  Visibility album.

Liza at the Marquis Fetish Ball 8 30 2008 by Suzanne Forbes

Liza at the Marquis Fetish Ball 8 30 2008 by Suzanne Forbes

Here’s one of my favorites. It’s from a fetish party at the Supper Club in 2008.

The next one down is NSFW and explicit!!!

It’s a drawing of the amazing Maxine Holloway, sex worker,  sex educator,  artist and filmmaker, and sexy AF transman pornstar Billy Castro at a fundraiser for Madison Young’s queer art gallery, Femina Potens.

The fundraisers were called “Art of Restraint”; I donated my time and art to a bunch of them.

I will happily donate my art time and art to any LGBTQi art fundraiser here in Berlin, just ask!

 

Billy Castro and Maxine Holloway by Suzanne Forbes 2010

Billy Castro and Maxine Holloway by Suzanne Forbes 2010

I am so grateful for the support of my Patrons, who make my work possible.

I am an entirely Patron-Powered artist; If you want to help with my mission of art-documenting LGBTQi community, alternative culture and immigrant life in Berlin, just click here.

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.

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