Suzanne Forbes, an expat New Yorker in Berlin. Made possible by the generous support of her Patrons. https://www.patreon.com/SuzanneForbes. Former DC Penciller for Star Trek, former courtroom artist, painting portraits and teaching drawing.
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.
Luckily 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.
The 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!
You can learn more about Smarty the Pup and his adventures here!
These 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!
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!
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.
The 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.
Wow, 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.
Here’s another drawing of the amazing Bridge, illuminating beautiful Cafe Kalwil with her classic art modelling chops.
Droste was Anita Berber’s gay husband, a figure of crafted intrigue, tweaked out cocaine addict ferocity, and wild Expressionist talent.
Together they created a kind of Smut Dada that exhilarated and appalled the world, exactly as they intended. Lustmord, Sex and Death.
“Here as elsewhere, Droste materializes as a liminal figure, both male and female, human and god. In this and other scenarios of sacrifice, the accent falls not on redemption, but on sheer eroticism of self-extinction, the ecstasy of Lustmord.”
The session was in the very elegant salon setting of queer space Cafe Kalwil on Berlin’s historic gay boulevard Motzstraße.
Since we did not want to damage the silk satin and devoré velvet furniture, we used only graphite and pencils. I added some pastel and ink later, at home.
On Monday I went to my favorite art supply store near Winterfeldplatz specifically to get an oil pastel in a deep labial/glanz pink to accent the Sebastian drawings. It seemed like the right thing to do!
Both Le Pustra and Bridge have made a deep dive into the Berlin of the 20s and 30s.
They captured the feel of the time so beautifully, lounging in their silk robes on devore velvet furniture and sniping at each other. When they fought over a fox stole I almost died of happiness!
Since we were working in a very elegant salon setting, we used only graphite and pencils. I added some pastel and ink later, at home.
The exquisite setting was queer space Cafe Kalwil on Berlin’s historic gay boulevard Motzstraße.
So much gratitude and thanks to LaLaVox and Le Pustra for organizing such a dream event for artists! Thanks so much to Bridge Markland for bringing Anita to life in all her rage, sensitivity and passion! More drawings here! You can see my drawings from the previous Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin here, and here’s the Instagram for Dr Sketchy’s Berlin.
Here’s some of the drawings I’ve made while travelling about Berlin this month.
In Berlin, where dogs are allowed on the subway at all times, dogs understand about missing or catching the train. They actually hustle to get to the doors before they close. Which I find just amazing.
There are maps on the ceiling of the subway cars, which is sensible!
I am doing so much experimenting with tone, pattern and value areas in these unterwegs. They are my safe space to expand my style and way of documenting things.
This drawing was made from a quick mental snapshot.
I glimpsed this woman wearing the HELL out of a jersey wrap dress, with great hair style, as she hustled for the M10 in Friedrichshain. I was going to the U1, and I got on the train and then realized I had no pencil or even a ballpoint for the sketch I usually do before putting down ink. However I did have a white conte crayon stick and I used that to quickly rough in the gesture and forms. You can see the faint traces of white lines if you look carefully. I could have pimped it up later with background and tone and white highlights, but I just liked the simple lines so much.