So two of these unterwegs are from other months, drawings that started as quick sketches and were left unfinished. Often I’ll have a sketchbook that has some orphans in it, left behind when I ran out of empty pages.
This month I’m gathering up the orphans and finishing them!
Actually, pretty much every sketchbook has a sketch or two I forgot about or didn’t finish because I ran out of marker, lost my pastel, or needed some reference for a bicycle.
I might need to check the layout of the car, see where the doors or handrails are. Orphans are generally dated the day I finish and sign them, which is why the woman with the tree in summer clothes is dated February 18.
On February 14, a small group of female-identifying people gathered at Ludwig Berlin to make art out of a pile of magazines, glue and scissors.
With the help and support of Suzanne Wegh, I tried paper collage for the first time. What a startling process!
It was not at all like I thought it would be! It was confusing, and mysterious! I thought it would be challenging, but it was in fact quite a bit harder than it looks.
First of all, it never occurred to me that you could move the pieces of the picture around before you glued them down.
Until Suzanne explained that’s what she does! I was as startled as I was the first time someone showed me windows being minimized and moved around on a computer, in 1996. With my bricolage shadowbox projects, I glue each thing down as I go.
This idea of fluid composition broke my brain!
I saw this greyed out pastel flower paper and wound up choosing a palette of images and materials related to it, and then making this rococo chicken being ridden by a chicken princess.
I wanted to make a Baba Yaga! What the heck??
So I decided to just go with the process, even though for someone as afraid of artistic failure as me that was pretty scary. I’m learning things I never expected to about composition, pattern and color from my bricolage and mixed media work. I can see how those things could be put to work in making collage art, but I’m a long way from being able to do it.
I was really amazed at how the other women could make their collages look like something so easily. I mean, make them look like resolved images. The one below, which Suzanne made, is just beautiful. You can read about her experience of our collage adventure on her Patreon here.
The Medusa with butterflies at the top was actually the third I made, and the only one I felt sort of resolved into an actual picture. And that expresses my style, with its beetles and jewel colors! Why is Megan Markle’s head on fire? I have no idea! It just happened!
I don’t know if I’ll try collaging again right away; it was pretty disorienting for me. But I’m so glad and proud we created a safe space for me to try it.
The drawers, drawn! AKA, women cartoonists unite and rule!
Last weekend my friends were performing in my neighborhood, just a couple blocks from my home. At a cool place I didn’t know about, an art gallery/music venue called Art Stalker!
We don’t get much punk rock here in the Far West, ya know, so it was a big deal!
It was my first chance to catch an official gig of Baron Anastis and the Erinyes. Friend and muse Rah Hell is the drummer, veteran Berlin rocker Joe Sparkle is on guitar and Baron Anastis, punk titan of West Berlin, is the frontman and songwriter.
(You can see my drawings from when I went to a rehearsal at their Sekrit Mystery Rehearsal Space here. )
To my delight, I also got to IRL meet Rah’s bestie, Switzerland-based American cartoonist Kristen Haas Curtis. Kristen is known as Miz K in the independent comics world, and she is a marvelous talent. I had been enjoying her warm and deft diary comics for a while, and was intrigued to see her at work in the wild.
Miz K and I settled down together to share a drawing table – she was doing Hourly Comics Day, which I didn’t even know was a thing!
It turns out it is, and damn, no way would I be able to do that. Would you look at this??
It was so nice to have a drawing buddy at a gig and the show was great. They played some of their terrific glampunk originals and some covers including a deliciously corroded cover of “Pure Morning” and a rollicking “Commando”. Everyone had a good time!
Afterwards we took a taxi since Rah and Miz K were transporting drums, and they dropped me off at my door like a fancy person. And then I read Kristen’s lovely comic done in collab with her daughter Bee, Princess Wolf and her Life of Darkness, which is really wonderful and if you have kids or like comics, check it out right here, I HIGHLY recommend it!
Thanks a million, million to my beloved Patrons on Patreon, who make it possible for me to show up and document events like this!
ESDIP Berlin, where I teach drawing, has an in-house print studio. It’s run by Suspicious Package, who teach printing to our Fine Arts students and give standalone screen printing courses. Screen printing, a beautiful way to make unique printed images, is really popular here in Berlin. The work being done is gorgeous. The poster print show called Flatstock has a big European event in Hamburg.
Rob Hanna of Suspicious Package asked if I’d be interested in doing an art collab with them for our Fall Fine Arts semester.
I honestly hate most of those saccharine “Mucha-esque” designs on deviant-art that turn pop culture icons into Mucha posters. They almost* universally lack the shocking fleshy immediacy of Mucha’s women, which was his great strength and their source of power.
Almost nobody today has the draughtsmanship skills to give women’s bodies the physical presence and grace Mucha did. I certainly don’t.
But I did the best I could to capture the confrontational nature of my favorite Muchas, their determined physicality and returning of the artist’s gaze.
The art scene here embraces urban art like nowhere else I’ve ever lived, with support (and specialty supply shops!) for graffiti artists and stencil artists.
So I included some classic Krylon cans, and of course the cinder blocks and broken glass and empty bottles that are still common in lots of places.
I love to draw a punk girl! I decided she would be a Modern Muse Of Fine Arts.
Mucha did a series called The Arts, with a representation each for Dance, Poetry, Painting and Music. They were sold as a limited edition of prints, because he produced work across a spectrum of availability: unique paintings, work created for fine art prints and works made for commercial reproduction.
These famous exhibition posters were made for the Salon des Cents, a huge public print show and sale.
Mucha was a master of design, but the humanity and specific natural beauty of his models was the power behind the arabesques.
This less well known exhibition poster, sometimes called “Muse of the Arts”, has been one of my favorites since I was a teenager. I love the rack of prints!
I think of it whenever I go to an art event like Berlin Graphic Days at Urban Spree and see posters in the same kinds of racks, over a hundred years later.
There’s a beautiful through line from early 20th Century art print culture to modern East Berlin screen printing shops where artists are pulling unique pieces by hand.
I sent my finished drawing to Rob Hanna, who did the graphic design and created the text elements to turn it into a poster.
Then the students made it into prints! It was the first time printing for all of them and I am so excited at what they made. I framed one!
These two just slayed me. What you can’t see is that her amazing vintage 80s coat was a rich deep marigold yellow and her chunky knit scarf was a darker mustard. She was coolly wearing the hell out of her whole look.
People often look so displeased when they are looking at their phones. Since I don’t have a phone, I’m free to look around and observe this!
The older guy was playing and they just started dancing together. This isn’t the prettiest drawing, it’s kinda clunky, but I found it half-finished in a sketchbook this weekend and decided to finish it cause I like the women in the background.
And I really like the fact that I drew a guy doing an actual double take!
I also found this drawing made very quickly from the upper deck of the M29 bus and finished it roughly.
It’s a good example of how elements can be added to a documentary drawing responsibly. You couldn’t see the typical European notice column with its posters in the same shot as the guy, but it wasn’t far away, and adding it helps to sell the setting of the sketch really quickly.
You can see previous unterwegs here:
I have C-PTSD and the last couple of years have been intense. The last time I flew and was strapped in next to a strange man, I had a terrible panic attack and very nearly clawed my way out over him to escape. I only stayed onboard because my beloved brother-in-law and sister-in-law were counting on me to make their wedding cake! And I take cake very seriously. I could have forgiven myself for not making their wedding, but not for failing to make their wedding cake.
Over the weekend I went to Brussels to help a woman friend redecorate her flat after a breakup.
It was the first time I have traveled in Europe since we moved here three years ago; last December I had to miss a friend’s wedding in Luxembourg because I simply couldn’t handle flying. I was so scared of this flight I asked my husband to come to the airport and help me get on the plane! Which he did VERY graciously and kindly.
I’m not afraid of the actual flying part at all; if I’m seated with women in my row I am as relaxed as a slightly claustrophobic person can be in a crowded, small metal tube.
I had checked in early to get an exit row seat, so I would have lots of room on one side at least. But when a strange man sat down next to me and his arms and thighs touched mine, I felt like I was gonna die. (Weirdly, this doesn’t happen much on public transit, where I can get away easily.)
Again, someone I loved was counting on me, so bailing out was non-negotiable. This time, when I started flipping out, I had my sketchbook handy so I quickly made these drawings of an armored corset body* for flying with PTSD. I imagine the spines to be made of vulcanized rubber, permissible for travel. The shoulder, arm and thigh pads are also rubber, so you don’t feel the flesh of the person next to you, and the mesh “NO” skirt snaps off for using the loo. I chose Mother Nature’s warning colors!
The stewards looked over my shoulder at my drawing and moved the man next to me to another row, murmuring, “more space”. My spell worked!!
The flight was relatively empty, and so it could have just been fat bias – as a US 14/UK 18 I fully and completely occupy even larger European plane seats. My friend Suzanne said stewards are sensitive to people who are a panic risk. I think they saw something in my eyes or my drawings and felt it was best for me to have the row to myself.
Gradually I calmed down and the feeling that my vagina was full of spiders receded.
Do other people get that? Like a creepy echoey crawling awareness of the vulnerability of your genitals, when you’re triggered? I feel like if they do, this could be a popular garment. Until, inch by inch, we make a better world.
*a corset body is the specific name for a true corset that includes a built-in crotch covering of the same sturdy materials. It’s a term used pretty much only in the serious corset community. What Americans call “teddies” or “bodysuits” are called just plain “bodies” in the UK/Europe, and “corset body” seems to be derivative of that.
A good C-PTSD resource.
RAINN’s resources for trauma survivors.
When we had our first sitting for a planned pastel portrait, I knew I needed colors to depict Shakrah Yves. A 1920s jazz singer and former professional costumier, she has an absolute treasury of gorgeous outfits she has created, with matching accessories.
You can see the results of our first sitting, in sepia and umber colors accented with black and white, here.
I got two sets of new pastels, oil and chalk, and some mixing stumps, as a birthday gift. I took a trial run at adding color by enriching the portrait of Iris Perez, left, before her partner took it back to the Bay Area for her.
When Shakrah arrived for our second sitting, I was ready. SO many colors!
I rarely set up my paint palette with more than fifteen, and here I had at least 70. I added color to the drawing with chalk pastels first, as they are easier to remove, layer over and blend without muddiness. The chalk pastel also behaved well with the white gel pen highlights from the previous sitting. The gel pen ink seemed to act as a resist, sealing the surface of the paper. That meant I didn’t lose the highlights.
I’m using Canson Mi Teintes, which is gelatin-sized and has some kinda crazy microscopic hyper-surface-area (mechanical resistance) to attract and hold pigments.*
Then I put oil pastel over the chalk, because I am punk as fuck.
While chalk pastel is close to painting in the sense that it has limited additive/subtractive properties, oil pastel is less flexible.
You can scrape it back down, but the surface will be permanently stained.
When you apply oil pastel over chalk pastel, the chalk slides like graphite dust under the stick.
It takes some focus to control the resulting mix, but it gives a rich color, including the deep darks I want from a picture. I don’t think I have the patience or discipline to become the kind of chalk pastel user who can get true dark values from chalks. Same way I don’t have the spoons left to properly learn watercolor. I love mixing media, though, and I feel like there are tremendous possibilities. Particularly in terms of the speed that is always of primary importance to me.
Of course I’m concerned about the archival properties of the works, particularly when using markers as solvents for oil pastels.
The data that exists on the preservation of mixed media is not much more than a century old.
Gel pens are only a few decades old, and my hundreds of drawings made for Frank Wu are on printer paper and use correction tape, which isn’t intended for art material use at all.
Artists have the responsibility to be educated about the archival and lightfastness properties of their materials to the extent that the information exists.
As an artist who always intended to be a commercial artist creating work for reproduction, I’m willing to see some of my work deteriorate.
That the reproduction, or the digital record, is the true version of the work and the actual physical art is ancillary. And of course, when I sell these mixed media works, it’s crucial to be transparent about the fact that they may get Pollacky in a few decades. In the age of the digital record, collectors understand this much more easily. Time is a medium too.
So I am gonna keep experimenting!
With the layers of media and their varying specularities, this portrait is hard to photograph except in raking light. You can see a video of it on my Instagram!
*reading about the properties of Mi-Teintes reminded me of learning about pasta-making at The Pasta Shop in Berkeley when I worked there in 1997. We had a superb employee education program, and during one lecture we learned that the best Italian dry pasta is still extruded from antique bronze dies, which create a microscopic pitting on the surface of the pasta. This sponge-like texture grips sauce far better than pasta extruded from steel dies.
All knowledge is worth having!
This year he brought his bride to be.
And for the second year running, a box of still warm cinnamon rolls from Zeit für Brot nearby. I like both of these and wish both to become tradition!
I told them that of course we had to paint a wedding portrait, and we could do it in four hours or less.
They promptly agreed and spent the day on January 3 hitting Berlin goth shops for appropriate attire.
(Not everyone chooses the route of D & E, who wore their underwear for their New Year’s wedding portrait!)
I am so happy for these two and the adventures that lie ahead of them as a family. The portrait was started and finished in three hours, all in, plus an additional hour for talking and planning beforehand. Making it my first Four Hour Portrait of a couple in many years!
The reason I can spontaneously make a work like this is that I am a Patreon-powered artist.
My amazing Patrons on Patreon, a subscription platform for supporting artists, contribute money every month to make it possible for me to make art. As a disabled person, I wouldn’t be able to be a working artist without Patreon. You can help, for as little as a dollar a month!
Click here to join the team who makes my work happen.
Finally got a chance to have another sitting with our friend Quinn and her companion.
We’ve had uncannily similar traumas, and we each have our own ways of surviving them. She is completely an LA girl, and I am a New Yorker for life, but we are both robust survivors, absurdly resilient and determinedly creative.
I posed them in the library instead of the salon because the palette suits her Autumn coloring best; this sitting was extra special because her extraordinary child was with us. Ignoring us, like any reasonable teen would!
The day before we painted I said to her, you were one of the reasons I gave my guy a shot.
I figured any guy who had a woman friend like you had to be a guy worth checking out.
“Remember what I said when you got married?” she said, and we laughed. Knowing remarkable people over a lifetime is the first greatest treasure of life. Watching their remarkable children grow up is the second greatest.