Tag Archives: portrait painting

A three-hour portrait painting.

When you live in Berlin and have a large flat, your friends send their friends to stay with you.Bryce in library by Suzanne Forbes Feb 12 2017

And when you come to stay with us, you may be asked to pose.

Bryce in library by Suzanne Forbes eb 12 2017 WIP.Bryce in library by Suzanne Forbes Feb 12 2017 WIP.

Our recent houseguest Bryce graciously agreed to pose while reading in the library with my hub.
Bryce in library by Suzanne Forbes Feb 12 2017 WIP.
Bryce in library by Suzanne Forbes Feb 12 2017 WIP.

 

Now that I have an Instagram, I’ve been trying to document my process more. It’s fun to see how fast it happens.

ryce in library by Suzanne Forbes eb 12 2017 WIP. 2 - Edited
This 15″ by 20″ acrylic on board portrait was completed in just under three hours.Bryce in library by Suzanne Forbes Feb 12 2017 face

Patron Portrait Party!!!

So many beloved Friend-Muse-Patrons came to Berlin to celebrate my 50th birthday!

J by Suzanne Forbes Jan 8 2016I got to make portraits of lots of loved ones, it was glorious.Icka by Suzanne Forbes Dec 29 2016

For me making portraits of people I care about is a way of recording love, making it eternal.anandamayi and alexis by Suzanne Forbes Jan 6 2016

To have these wonderful people in our home and make art of them was the best birthday gift I could possibly have imagined.
neysa and ramon by suzanne forbes jan 7 2017

A new year of portrait painting.

Portrait of DIa by Suzanne Forbes Jan 4 2017I’ve known Dia for years, and made a very good drawing of them at the Edwardian Ball back in the Oughts.

Portrait of Dia by Suzanne Forbes Jan 4 2017Dia came to my Halloween party in this outfit, dressed as Desire, and I was like “Oh HELL yeah!”

I wanted to seize the opportunity to make a portrait while Dia was still in Berlin, before they headed off to New York for a new job doing important work protecting civil liberties.

I am as giddily pleased with this rock-solid powerhouse portrait as I’ve ever been with anything I’ve done. I think it’s a good indication for the New Year.

My work has always been deeply committed to queer and trans visibility, and I pledge to work as hard as I can on representation with love and respect in 2017.

If you’d like to help support my work, please visit my Patreon!

https://www.patreon.com/SuzanneForbes

If you’d like to see more of my work representing diversity, queer love, trans visibility and body positivity, click over to my flickr. Some of the drawings are VERY explicit drawings of queer love and sex, so to see all 98 images in this album you’ll have to have your “adult” safeties off!

Opening my heart through my fear. A work in progress.

I invited total strangers I met on the U-Bahn into my house and made them food. Then we made art together.The Walz by Suzanne Forbes WIP CU November 16 2016

It might not seem like a big deal to you, but to me, a skittering omnibus of aggregated phobias, it was a big deal.

journeyman packs in BerlinI was on the U-Bahn heading to ESDIP to teach my Hand Drawing class when a group of young people caught my eye. They look like cowboys in daguerreotypes from the Old West, I thought.

I kept glancing at them through the crowd. Wearing thick, homespun-looking clothes with worn leather trim on the pockets and cuffs, broad-brimmed black hats, and one gold earring, they were romantic and mysterious.

There were two men and a woman, whose heavy cord waistcoat had an embroidered shawl collar.

The Walz by Suzanne Forbes WIP CU November 16 2016Their waistcoats and coats had rows of huge mother-of-pearl and horn buttons, mismatched and full of character. Their thick trousers had vertical double zips where the buttons on a sailor’s pants would be.

They wore pintucked white shirts of what looked like cambric, and scarves of rough loose-woven cotton, and heavy leather boots that had seen the hands of a cobbler.

They had walking sticks that were gnarled and smooth, like roots that had been polished. They seemed relaxed, at ease, comfortable with each other and the East Berlin night. I had to know more.

I wove through the swaying car and approached the oldest, a bearded and tattooed ginger.sketch for The Walz by Suzanne Forbes November 15 2016

I asked, as you do here if you are polite, “May we speak English?” He said yes, and words spilled out of me: “What is the story, you are rocking this amazing look, is it like cowpunk or something, are a you a troupe, what ARE YOU?”

“Oh no”, he said, “We are journeymen. For three years and a day, we must be within not a certain distance of home. We are gardeners and a joiner.” “A joiner?” I asked, amazed. “Like a carpenter?” “Yes”, he said, “We are craftsman on a journey.”

I desperately wanted to paint them. I had my sketchbook with me, and I showed them my U-Bahn sketches of a sleeping Russian teen, of a Turkish guy playing the banjetar. I had my Moo cards in the hot pink carrying case Daria got me and I gave them cards.

I paint people, I said. Would you come to my house and be painted and I’ll make you dinner?

They nodded consideringly, said they would be in touch, and debarked at Schlesisches Tor. I went and taught class and after I told my friend Skye, who was in the class, all about them. “I met these amazing people!” I drew the clothing of the ginger as best I could remember.

Late that night I got an email from the oldest journeyman.

We would like to come tomorrow night, he said in the direct fashion of Germans. I was terrified. I had looked up the journeyman tradition, and got my brain around it a bit, but basically we were talking about homeless strangers coming to my delicate sacred house of precious things. I muscled through the fear and confirmed. I offered to make some simple vegetarian food, which was a good plan as it turned out the fourth of their company is a vegan.

Skye came over for moral support, and brought peppers and onions.

The Walz by Suzanne Forbes Nov 16 2016 WIP CUI sauteed peppers and onion with chunks of smoked tofu, baked a dish of refried black beans (ordered from Amazon, totally unobtainium on the street here) with chipotles in adobo and olive oil, and made this no-fuss vegan cornbread.

I substituted full fat coconut milk for the soy milk, olive oil for the canola, white balsamic for the ACV, German “strong” 1050 flour for the all-purpose, and four tablespoons of date syrup for the sugar. It came out really well!

The journeymen arrived and we ate food together. They were intrigued by our weird house and I could hear them muttering, “Ah! Halloween!” as they looked around. I immediately knew that I had been right to push through my paranoid, everyone is out to get you New Yorker mindset and that these were truly good folk.

We talked of lots of things, had some tea, and then retired to the library to paint.

Jagua dye Wonder Woman skin tattoo by Suzanne Forbes Nov 16 2016.I didn’t have a canvas on hand and wanted to get as much detail as I could in the time we had, so I painted on cold press illustration board for the first time in at least twenty years. Boy howdy, I forgot how easy it is!! I made good progress in the amount of time my strength held out.*

After the painting, we hung out for a while and Ben, one of the journeyman joiners, pulled out a battered plastic Coke bottle. He had recently been in South America, in Brazil, living with indigenous people and weaving and building. He’d brought this bottle of scary indigo fluid back with him, through German customs. (Imagine being that unafraid of your government!). It was jagua, a traditional skin dye or tattoo pigment made from Genipa Americanus, which is an edible fruit.

I painted jagua tattoos on the journeypeople and myself as mementoes of our time together.

Jagua skin dye tattoo of robot by Suzanne Forbes Nov 16 2016.I took photos of their clothes so I can continue to work on the details of the painting, and I’ll be posting more about it.

You can learn more about the journeyman tradition here. Although the part about not using transit doesn’t apply to all journeyman groups, obviously.

This whole experience was so mellow and yet so fucking magical I almost can’t describe it.

My Patrons give me courage. It is the support of my Patrons that makes it possible for me to do things like this, and I am so, so very grateful.

*Which was less than three hours. The times in 2005 when I could sit three sitters in a day, or paint for ten hours straight, are long gone. My stamina, health and vitality were decimated by the recession, having to close my art business, losing my house, losing my health insurance, years of major depressive disorder and suicidal impulses, and being briefly homeless.
Here in safe-for-now Germany I am slowly recovering, but my health may be permanently broken. When artists are marginalized to the point where their survival is touch-and-go, they are damaged. You can support me and other artists on Patreon for as little as a dollar a month, and we will be fucking grateful.

Painting, or not painting, Ian in Berlin.

I am very new to using watercolors.

unfinished-failed-watercolor-do-not-share-editedThat means I sometimes makes mistakes, and with a watercolor you can quickly reach a point of no return.

One of our friends from the Bay Area, a very handsome and dashing fellow, was in town. I was super excited to paint him, as I’d never had a chance in Oakland.

He came over, dressed in a sharp suit, and I gave him some wine (we still have tons left from the housewarming) and set to work. He posed extremely well, with great brio, but I couldn’t get a light source that worked. And once I started painting, the situation devolved.

I can draw myself or paint myself out of just about any corner in an additive-subtractive medium; my knowledge of anatomy, structure and values is sufficient to recover from most wrong directions. But with watercolor, you can’t go very far down the wrong road. unfinished-failed-watercolor-do-not-share-edited-1

An old friend of mine, a master watercolor painter, once said, “I’ve never won an argument with a watercolor.”

I tried everything I could think of to resolve the portrait, including opaque white to recover lost lights, but it was a no-go. Eventually I called it and we started over. I asked my model to change his pose, I changed the light source, and I switched to drawing, only lightly tinted at the end with watercolor. I captured his Leyendecker profile this time.Ian September 24 2016 by Suzanne Forbes

So I was able to produce a decent likeness that had a good sense of the sitter, but only by divergent means. I scanned the horrific failure, excerpted here, but only my Patrons get to see it 🙂

Watercolor painting with Daria in Schöneberg!

Daria at Cafe Bilderbuch Sept 2 2016 Suzanne ForbesI love Schöneberg.

It’s our neighbor neighborhood, just to the East and a quick bus or subway ride. Blixa Bargeld, Marlene Dietrich and Helmut Newton were all born there. Bowie, Iggy Pop, Klaus Kinski and Christopher Isherwood lived there. It’s old-fashioned and not uptight, with lots of amazing food and lots of relaxed mature bears.

Daria decided the Cafe BilderBuch, or Storybook Cafe, is the perfect meetup place for us because it’s halfway between her place in Neukölln and our place in Wilmersdorf. We met there for the second time yesterday. I love to walk from the M29 stop at Nollendorfplatz, through the ancestral queer neighborhood and down towards the new hip specialty food joints.

Daria made this beautiful watercolor.Daria Rhein watercolor at Cafe Bilderbuch Sept 2016

We went to Jones Ice Cream first, because Jones Ice Cream is beyond belief incredibly delicious.

The ice cream is American style, with big, soft chewy American cookies also available. This time I had lemon ice cream with blueberry jam and lemon-mint sorbet. The day before I had cucumber and tonic and pink grapefruit/Earl Grey. All are amazing, although the cucumber and tonic is some particularly next level business.

Daria Rhein watercolor at Cafe Bilderbuch Sept 2016 cu Daria, who actually studied watercolor in art school, is going to teach me some techniques soon so I can make real watercolors. Meanwhile I made a kind of illustration/drawing hybrid of her 🙂

Here’s another pic of her Bilderbuch picture. You can see more of her work at her site and now secret works at her brand-new Patreon!

August Drawing Roundup!

Some drawings I’ve been finishing up.

Here’s one of my beloved friend-muse-patrons with her little guy Felix.chunskis summer 2016 by Suzanne Forbes

in the ubahn by Suzanne Forbes Aug 30 2016Here’s a girl I glimpsed on the subway platform and had to draw because something about the way she delicately picked a strand of hair out of her face reminded me of my friend Victoria’s daughter Dalia when she was younger.

drawing of Victoria Aronoff by Suzanne Forbes 1993Here’s a throwback- a drawing I did of Victoria in ’93 that she recently sent me.

drawing by Suzanne Forbes April 2015Here’s a guy I drew on the U-Bahn cause he looked like my boyfriend David when I lived in DC.

And here’s a note I left for my middle-aged German biker furniture movers, who don’t speak a word of English but can be relied on to go anywhere in Berlin and collect something I bought on eBay, then deliver it and gruffly mock me for “kaufen, kaufen!”. We would have no furniture without them.note to Bernd und Peter Suzanne Forbes 2016

Another watercolor portrait!

We’ve had a few undesirably hot days here in Berlin, and today was the hottest.

I bought a portable A/C from a Brit who was leaving town last year, because we don’t do well with heat. I set up the A/C in the library and painted the hubbin while he did whatever he does on Reddit.Dan McArdle by Suzanne Forbes Aug 28 2016 Berlin

This watercolor thing is getting to be FUN. Probably if I’m gonna keep doing it I should buy a better watercolor block than this one from the stationary store around the corner, and maybe some real watercolors. Maybe even a new Windsor & Newton Series 7 Sable, nobly though the one I bought when I was at Parsons thirty years ago has served.

Maybe I should actually take a class and learn HOW one does watercolors.

Dan McArdle by Suzanne Forbes Aug 28 2016 Berlin - close upI had one class where we had one watercolor assignment, in school. Unfortunately I didn’t think painting in colors was worth my time, then; it was just an useless tangent for a person who was going to be a comic book penciller and have a colorist to take care of such things.

So I did a sloppy job of the assignment, and showed up late and drunk to class, with my very drunk boyfriend Richie tagging along.

My teacher was furious. I felt at the time that he was furious about the banal quality of the green grass I’d painted. It seemed like he was just really disgusted that I’d painted such bad grass. But I know better now. I still think the grass really bothered him, but I bet it bothered him more that I had wasted a priceless opportunity to work and learn.

I forgive you for yelling at me, Parsons teacher whose name I’ve forgotten. I forgive you for being a medium I didn’t know how to use, watercolors. I forgive you for being drunk and sloppy when you were 20 years old, Suz.

Sometimes both life and art are long.

Painting Mitch Altman at 3am.

Mitch was here in Berlin, so of course I had to ask if I could paint his picture! He was a great model, and this watercolor thing is SO FUN!Mitch Altman in Berlin By Suzanne Forbes Aug 22 2016

Watercoloring my Never-Muse.

When you live in Berlin, lots of people visit.

My Never-Muse comes to Berlin all the time. I had been planning watercolors of her since she went pastelgoth last year. I hadn’t painted a watercolor portrait in a very, very long time- 25 years. I did do a little watercolor experimentation to warm up earlier this summer.
E in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes August 19 2016

Eva in Berlin August 19 2016 by Suzanne ForbesI started the painting above, then set it aside to dry for a while and did this other one. When I came back to the first painting, we were talking about some very heavy things, and that’s why she looks so sad.

I feel like sadness is a part of life and sharing it with friends is a way to make peace with it, so I don’t mind that she looks sad.

I’m glad we did two though.

I was so happy to spend a day making art with my Never-Muse again.