Tag Archives: traditional portraiture for alternative lifestyles

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!

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 feminist art salon in Berlin.

dr laura by Suzanne Forbes March 3 2017A friend of mine, Miss Natasha Enquist, invited me to come along to see a movie her friend Gia Balestra has directed and produced.

The movie is called Clitorissima. It was being shown at a long-running sex-positive feminist salon. I arrived a bit late, but luckily there was a fellow outside who spoke English and told me which buzzer to press and what floor, and I went up in the lift. With my asthma, the usual Berlin staircase marathon is a no-go.

On the landing there were dozens of pairs of shoes, as you often see; it is customary to take your shoes off outside the home in Germany. I was nervous about leaving mine, because I was wearing my precious bottle-green granny boots that are a homage to proto-genderqueer YA novel Nightbirds on Nantucket. It took me almost two years of daily eBay search alerts to find a pair. And I am a New Yorker, and assume anything not nailed down will be stolen and anything nailed down defaced or set on fire.

But this is Berlin, and my shoes would be fine, and I entered a room packed with all kinds of women and a few cismen, and someone made space for me on the floor and gave me a pillow to sit on.

Sexclusivitaeten‘s house sexpert Dr. Laura Méritt was displaying a beautiful vagina hand puppet, with detailed anatomical features, wonderful for therapy and education.

Gia Balestra by Suzanne Forbes March 3 2017 BerlinAnd then the film was introduced; I had arrived just in time. Here’s Gia introducing the film.

It is a mixture of documentary and animation. As she talked about interviewing the women she made this beautiful, graceful gesture with her hands, describing the shape of the vulva and clitoral arms. Inscribing it in space, a reiterative dance, so lovely.

About Clitorissima:

Giancarla Balestra (Vulvah Van Klitt Productions), directed/produced the short documentary “Clitorissima” which is a series of interviews with women asking the same question: “At which age, and on which occasion, did you have clitoris awareness?”. She teamed up with the Danish Animator and Illustrator Sara Koppel (Naked Love Film & Koppel Animation) with the mission to normalize and facilitate the first mother/daughter conversation about clitoris and clitoris awareness, told through interviews with various clitoris owners, and storytelling through animation.

It was the winner of ‘Outstanding Creative Vision Award’ at the CineKink Film Festival, NYC, USA, March 2016!

CLITORISSIMA – Official Trailer (Italian subtitles) from Vulvah Van Klitt Productions on Vimeo.

Sara Koppel AnimatorThe film is so beautiful and magical. It would be wonderful for parents to show their young kids; it is elegant, cheerful and not graphic.

The artist who drew the exquisitely blooming animation sequences is Sara Koppel of Naked Love Film and Koppel Animation, left. She is so very extraordinarily talented.

Her previous sex educational work, which came out of talks with Gia in the Berlin sex-positive scene, is a short movie called “Little Vulvah and her Clitoral Awareness“. Which has won just buckets of awards and would also be a treasure to show your young child. You can watch the trailer and buy it here.

The vibe at my first Sexclusivitäten event was cozy and warm, and everyone was friendly. My drawing was enjoyed and supported. It was like the first time I went to SF Citadel and met August; I felt so at home. I got stickers!

puzz powerI am enormously excited about the upcoming event celebrating menopause; I find it is really necessary to learn more about this process as I go through it and I am thrilled to be meeting members of a community that has such an open and creative dialogue.

In the Bay being involved with Midori‘s fundraisers, supporting her performances and creating work with her was so important to me, as was working and exhibiting with Madison Young and her Femina Potens gallery. I look forward to getting to know and doing creative work with kindred spirits here.

Upcoming Sexclusivitaten salon events can be seen here! And workshops!

“For the whole month of March sex-expert Laura Meritt and her team offer an insight into the evolution of pussy power. 10 years ago the (Women’s) March was declared the month of vulvas to push its popularity forward and strengthen the sexual confidence of every vulva owner. All the events take place in the rooms of Exclusivitäten and offer a diverse program consisting of an exhibition, films and workshops around the female sexual organ. Viva la Vulva!”

 

 

 

A four-hour portrait painting of Victoria Victrola in Berlin!

Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes Feb 27 2017When you live in Berlin, your friends tell you when their friends are coming to town.

victoria victrola by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2008Our latest visitor from the US is Miss Victoria Victrola, a Bay Area based musician, entertainer and event creator.

She is well known in the Bay for her music and her delightful tea parties, enjoyed at such events as the Edwardian Ball. (There’s an upcoming one with Edwardian Ball house band Rosin Coven too!)

When Whitney sent me her contact info, I thought, she looks familiar! I’ve drawn this woman at an event somewhere!

 

I looked through my hundreds of drawings on flickr and found one I’d done of Victoria doing a living statue performance in 2008, as seen above.

So I asked Victoria if she would pose for me again, and she came by on Sunday afternoon and we made this lovely painting.

Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes WIP Feb 27 2017

Her attire, a true vintage suit and hat, was so charming.

Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes WIP Feb 27 2017

She works one day a week at OverAttired, the exquisitely sourced and curated vintage clothing shop of my friends Sam and Monica.

Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes WIP Feb 27 2017

We had a wonderful visit, catching up on news from our community in SF, Oakland and Berkeley. After we’d finished the sitting and gone downstairs to the pub for some hearty German fare, I explained that I would finish the picture the next day.

Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes WIP Feb 27 2017

The final adjustments to a portrait, like tuning in on a radio station, are best made the following day with fresh eyes and hands and a clean palette. Above is the picture the way it looked when I picked it up this “morning” (around 2pm, after coffee) and below is after the final corrections.Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes CU Feb 27 2017

I’ve been painting on board for the first time in decades and really enjoying it. A smooth surface is so receptive to detail. I’m very grateful to Whits for connecting me with Victoria, and to Victoria for a bright dose of gothic rococo vintage chic and charm in late winter!

 

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!

Unterweg drawings Nr 1

There is a bit of a thing among Berlin drawing folk, urban sketchers and life drawing people and so on, of “Unterweg” drawings.Fluffy boots by Suzanne Forbes Nov 28 2016They’re the drawings you make on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, bus or tram, as you’re underway.

I find that I’m using these opportunities to draw regular people going about their day as a place to practise techniques. I can drop on a half-finished drawing and decide to add dark values, or detail, or a second person, in the most relaxed and experimental way.Headphones guy by Suzanne Forbes Nov 28 2016

You get as far as you get with an unterweg, then the person you’re drawing gets off the train, or you do, or they notice you drawing and you have to stop. Often children gather to watch, and adults murmur, “Schon!”

It’s a wonderful way to pass the time, and try new things.