Tag Archives: traditional portraiture for alternative lifestyles

My big new portrait finished and hanging at Ludwig!

Portrait of Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017I am so proud of this painting of Rah Hell I hate to be separated from it even to exhibit it!

painting of Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes at Ludwig photo by Suzanne Wegh

Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes at Ludwig. photo by Suzanne Wegh

Rah Hell ukelele from portrait by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017However I am thrilled to have it shown at Ludwig, where Thorsten took such great care in hanging it and positioning the lighting.

Ludwig is a beautiful queer space in Neukölln where art is really respected. I was so grateful to see my work handled with care. It will be the first thing visitors to our show this Saturday see upon entering!

Portrait of Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017 black and white versionIt is the first big personal project portrait I’ve done in Berlin.

I see it as a companion piece, à pendant, to this big portrait I did of friend/muse/Patron Khris Brown in 2005, when I had just returned to painting after a thirteen-year hiatus. This portrait, one of many I did of Khris, is probably my favorite thing I’ve done to date. And this picture of Rah is right up there.

Portraits by Suzanne Forbes 2005 and 2017I painted Rah on a pink ground.

That means before she arrived, I painted the primed canvas an allover bright pink. I used to do this occasionally in college, but had forgotten about it until I saw the work of Natalia Fabia. She is one of the wonderful modern figurative artists I’ve discovered on Instagram. She very often paints on a pink ground.

It adds so much warmth, plus serving as a light mid-tone. Not entirely unlike the many drawings I’ve done on Kraft paper in the last few months! Since I paint alla prima and leave a few areas of bare canvas on every painting I make, you can see the pink peeking through at the edges.

Modern technology makes it so easy to photograph your work, even if you are as bad a photographer as I am.Portrait of Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017 detail

I’m amazed at how easy it to record and share my new pieces. You can see the details of how I paint easily, the scumbling and bits of impasto. I used quite a bit of gel medium in this work, to get translucent layers that would capture Rah’s luminous youth. Young people’s skin has so much subsurface specularity!

You can see it in progress here and here.

This painting didn’t exist a month ago, and now here it is, on the internet and hanging at Ludwig. My Patrons made it possible.Portrait of Rah Hell by Suzanne Forbes Aug 2017 detail

I’m incredibly proud of it and so grateful to Rah for posing for three long sittings. I am so very grateful to my Patrons who support me on Patreon and make it possible for me to do this work.

If you’re in Berlin, come see our show at Ludwig, opening August 19, 2017! Check out Rah performing in Donut Heart! Celebrate queer Berlin!! YAY!!!!

Dr. Sketchy’s Weimar Berlin Part 2: Le Pustra as Sebastian Droste!

Le Pustra posing at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes at Dr Sketchys Berlin Aug 6 2017At the Dr Sketchy’s Berlin “Anita Berber” session, Berlin cabaret superstar and muse Le Pustra portrayed Sebastian Droste.

Le Pustra posing by Suzanne Forbes at Dr Sketchys Berlin Aug 6 2017Droste 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.”

-from the must-read introduction to Merrith Cole’s translation of the Berber-Droste book of poems, Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy.

Le Pustra posing by Suzanne Forbes at Dr Sketchys Berlin Aug 6 2017

The session was in the very elegant salon setting of queer space Cafe Kalwil on Berlin’s historic gay boulevard Motzstraße.

Le Pustra as Sebastian Droste fox stole drawn by Suzanne Forbes Aug 6 2017Since 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!

I cannot wait to see Le Pustra’s celebrated Kabarett der Namenlosen at Ballhaus Berlin next March. (Trailer here) I will make so many drawings!

So much gratitude and thanks to LaLaVox and Le Pustra for organizing such a dream event for artists!

Mad praise to Le Pustra for his creation of Droste as decadent and bitter, yet sensual and vulnerable. Even more drawings coming soon! You can see my drawings of Bridge Markland as Anita Berber here, drawings from the previous Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin here, and here’s the Instagram for Dr Sketchy’s Berlin.

Le Pustra as Sebastian Droste drawn by Suzanne Forbes Aug 6 2017Please remember: if you enjoy my drawing documentation of Berlin’s queer art scene, you can support my doing it for as little as $1 (or euro) a month by pledging to my Patreon!

Dr. Sketchy’s Weimar Berlin – Bridge Markland as Anita Berber!

Bridge Markland as Anita Berber drawn by Suzanne Forbes at Dr Sketchys Berlin Aug 6 2017What a fabulous Dr. Sketchy’s! Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin is SO FUCKING GOOD.

The atmosphere, the models, the music – always on lock. This session’s theme was Anita Berber and her Weimar Berlin life of decadence, debauchery and artistic fervor.

Bridge Markland as Anita Berber drawn by Suzanne Forbes at Dr Sketchys Berlin Aug 6 2017Bridge Markland, an incredible performer, portrayed Anita Berber late in life, bitter and caustic.

As well as a Drag King, actor and puppeteer, Bridge is an artist’s model with decades of experience. She imbued her characterization with such wickedness and sensuality, such louche elegance.

Bridge Markland at Cafe Kalwil reclining drawn by Suzanne Forbes Aug 6 2017We also enjoyed legendary Berlin model and performer Le Pustra posing – portraying Anita’s husband and betrayer, genderqueer icon Sebastian Droste.

Bridge Markland as Anita Berber drawn by Suzanne Forbes at Dr Sketchys Berlin Aug 6 2017You can see the post of my drawings of him here!

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.

Life drawing session at ESDIP Berlin: a very pregnant tattooed lady!

Martha reclining drawn by Suzanne Forbes at ESDIP Berlin Aug 4 2017I went to the life drawing session at ESDIP Berlin again and this time I drew a lovely model named Martha who is about to have her baby!

I think I drew a pregnant woman once, well actually twice in my whole drawing career before, I don’t have a picture of the second one which was a private commission of my friend Mindy.

Martha in blue wig drawn by Suzanne Forbes Aug 4 2017For part of the session Martha wore a flowing blue wig! Of course, no one with a comics background can draw a naked pregnant woman without thinking of the late Jeffrey Catherine Jones and her creation Idyl.

It was totally by accident that I drew her as a naked, tattooed, pregnant Whistler’s Mother.

Martha in blue wig drawn by Suzanne Forbes Aug 4 2017What a beautiful evening it was, with a crowd of three dozen artists quietly working hard to capture Martha in her immanence.

Mysteriously, the group was almost entirely women, many of us tattooed blue-haired women. It was very special. I’ve had a lot of luck of both kinds in my life. The night I accidentally found my way to ESDIP Berlin for the first time was one of the very luckiest.

You can see my previous life drawing session drawings here.Martha in turban drawn by Suzanne Forbes Aug 4 2017

Playing with pastels, drawing loved ones.

l in berlin by Suzanne Forbes Aug 1 2017When you live in Berlin, everyone comes to visit!

Many Patrons will know the beautiful face of this loved one, visiting Berlin for a week or two. L. and I got to spend some sweet quality time visiting in my Berlin kitchen while I took it slow making this drawing.

As I continue to experiment with pastels, they become more integrated into the drawing as a whole. I really considered their usage and merits for the first time as I worked on this, trying to actually work with the medium a little. As opposed to riding roughshod over it and entirely imposing my comic-book aesthetic and technique, the way I usually do.

Maybe someday I’ll even make a traditional style, true pastel painting, with no ink at all!

Like I used to do at the Art Students League as a ten-year-old.

But that day is not today, as you can see from this drawing of the hubbin sleepin. I was so fired up from drawing L. that later that night I snuck in and drew my husband in the dim light of our bedroom. Hub is so used to me sneakin in and drawing him, he just opened his eyes, shrugged, and went back to sleep, being careful not to change his pose!D sleeping August 1 2017 by Suzanne Forbes

More mixed media experiments on some life drawings from Drink and Draw Berlin.

Masked woman by Suzanne Forbes July 30 2017Just playing around, experimenting wildly with mixed media, composition and values.

Well, wildly for me. Since I spent my six-plus years of art school totally focussed on becoming a comic book artist, I never experimented with anything unless they forced me to, as a student.

I had some left over unfinished drawings from when me and Daria and Marina went to Drink and Draw Berlin earlier this year. I thought I’d finish them up by adding some big dark areas and sharp contrasts. I was like, hey, this mixed media stuff is mostly going well, why don’t I add paint to the drawings? Daria adds paint and ink and watercolor sticks and even coffee and tattoo ink to her drawings all the time and they come out absolutely beautiful.

Shhhh girl by Suzanne Forbes July 30 2017Ha ha ha NO. I added some highlights in unbleached titanium, which seems like a pretty innocuous thing to do…

It looked clumsy and awkward and tragic. Oh well! Pastels have some limited additive/subtractive properties so I just covered up the paint! It was on the top and bottom ones, for the curious. I think they look fine now.

Honestly, I think they look terrific. I’m having a blast. An artist I know from Instagram, an extraordinary young French courtroom artist and illustrator named Emilie Oprescu, said nice things about them. Since I have mad enormous respect for her work, I feel good about these playful experiments.

boy drawing by Suzanne Forbes July 30 2017Gonna keep messin around! It’s just art! Nobody’s heart is open on the table!

One of the producers used to say that, when I worked as a production coordinator at a VFX studio. He’d say, “It’s just a movie! Nobody’s heart is open on the table!”. Wise words.

Drawing Donut Heart for Pride Month!

donut heart at gay and lesbian festival july 15 berlin by Suzanne ForbesI went to draw Donut Heart performing again!

suz in pink dress july 2017 by Dan SchickThis time at the Lesbian and Trans* stage at the Berlin Lesbian and Gay Festival. The festival is one part of the Berlin Pride Month activities, which culminate the following weekend in Christopher Street Day.

There were a lot of stages, so I wasn’t sure how to find the Lesbian and Trans stage – until suddenly I walked into a crowd where I felt completely at home. Everyone had tattoos and brightly colored hair and they welcomed me with warm smiles.

I dressed up fancy! Photo by Dan Schick from when we went to see Spider-Man Homecoming earlier that afternoon – a charming must-see!

This is by far the most complicated color drawing I’ve done since college and my days as a courtroom artist.

I wanted to capture the details and vividness of the scene as much as possible. (DJ Chroma wasn’t actually performing at the same time as Donut Heart of course, I just added her cause she is so great looking!)

donut heart berlin july 15 detail by Suzanne Forbes

Detail before adding pastels on top of marker, pencil, colored pencil and ink.

I keep pushing the limits with the mixed media experiments on Canson kraft paper and it keeps going mostly ok.

Portrait of Tess and Colin Jan 2017 by Suzanne Forbes photo by Colin Fahrion

Portrait of Tess and Colin Jan 2017 by Suzanne Forbes photo by Colin Fahrion

I’m very confident with color when I’m using opaque paints, as in this portrait commission of loved ones from January.

But with additive transparent media like watercolor and markers I feel wobbly. There’s a pass at watercolor painting Ian so bad only my Patreon Patrons got to see the whole thing.

You can see the first drawing I did at the Lesben-Schwule Fest here; it has some colors added.

I grabbed a few Sharpies from my deskside drawer and spotted in a bit of pink and green.

I used color in my courtroom drawings of course, and those were on beige and buff illustration board.

Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum for WCCO-TV, 1992

Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum for WCCO-TV, 1992

 I think the midtone beige of the kraft paper helps to mediate my limited color skills.

Suzanne Forbes drawing Donut Heart July 15 2017 by Dara

Suzanne Forbes drawing Donut Heart July 15 2017 by Dara

Alfred Ladylike was wearing her silver dress from Loving the Alien, and the additive/subtractive nature of pastels worked pretty well for it. Not as much success capturing Rah Hell‘s gold sequin fedora!

I’m using two shades of grey and two shades of umber in regular pastels, white conte crayon, a black oil pastel and alcohol based DeSerres markers in shades of warm and cold grey, and a red-brown Caran d’Ache colored pencil.

Me and Dara, former Donut Heart bassist, by Dara!

All this goes over the PITT brush pens and .05 HB mechanical pencils I normally use, on Canson kraft paper. It has some tooth and a texture, like a cotton paper.

Most significantly maybe I am using the clear-ish “blender” shade of the DeSerres markers OVER the pastels. I run it over the black oil pastel and the solvent in it dissolves some of the pastel base, creating a wash.

I also use a blender marker or 10% grey over the chalk pastels, to help blend and incorporate. For this Donut Heart drawing I bought a pack of colored markers at the Euro-Store for one euro, and added those in.

It was scary experimenting like this, and it took me ten days to finish the drawing once I started adding color. I was nervous about making an ugly, muddy mess or a primary-colored cartoon. I’m pleased with the result though, and now I have colored markers….’cause-

I needed all the colors for the full rainbow of the Pride flag! donut heart drawing by Suzanne Forbes July 15 2017

Drawing my Cyborg Husband!

Physical therapy in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes July 17 2017 My husband got a cyborg upgrade.

Here he is doing physical therapy with the wonderful PT we found in our neighborhood. Health care in Germany is amazing and great and wonderful and we are so very glad we live here.

I make my drawing students at @esdipberlin work hard on foreshortening because you never know when you’ll need to draw some drastically foreshortened body!

Dan at the eiscafe by Suzanne Forbes July 22 2017And here he is eating ice cream or “eis” as we call it here in Germany.

I am starting to feel like maybe…I might want to use some watercolors or even colored pencils on these Kraft paper drawings? Even though that’s crazy talk!

Live Drawing at “Loving the Alien”, Monster Ronson’s Berlin.

Shlomi Wagner as Anastasia at Loving the Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017

Shlomi Wagner as Anastasia at Loving the Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017

I finally went to Monster Ronson’s!

Iggy swan song at Loving The Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017

Iggy’s swan song at Loving The Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017

After a year and a half of passing it whenever I went to and fro from teaching at ESDIPBerlin!

Loving the Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017I went with Suzanne Wegh, to see “Loving The Alien”, a musical that several folks I know are involved in. Delighted surprise when a woman I know was also manning the door!

Iggy and Mandy by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017We were kindly seated in the front row, so I could draw.

It was a great show with really terrific songs, a cracking band and fabulous dancers.

Spaceman at Loving the Alien by Suzanne Forbes July 20 2017Lots of homage not just to Bowie but to other icons of glam like my beloved T. Rex.

Afterwards I went backstage and finished my drawings while the performers changed, just like Degas or Toulouse-Lautrec, except gayer and with more glitter!

Further info with performer name links as I get them sorted, the drawings are licensed Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivs and can be downloaded here.

Big new portrait, coming along sweet!

Rah second sitting med by Suzanne Forbes July 19 2017Pretty damn pleased with myself and my amazing rockstar model @rah_fookinhell after our second sitting.

Rah second sitting by Suzanne Forbes July 19 2017You can see the first sitting here!

I love the small portraits I’ve done this year, every one of them. However this is the first large personal project I’ve done since moving to Berlin and it is thrilling.

Having a big canvas and a model who really fits my aesthetic is like a deep dive into the source of my strength.

I’ve struggled to find muses like my amazing Bay Area loved ones here. That I was able to find such great working chemistry with such gorgeous and powerful people seems like a miracle to me now. That so many made time to work with me, some of them over and over, was such a gift.

Nearly all my paintings these last two years in Berlin have been of Bay Area folks who were visiting!

In Germany, even in Berlin, it’s not as easy to ask a total stranger or acquaintance to just come to my house and sit still for hours.

Rah second sitting longshot by Suzanne Forbes July 19 2017I feel absolutely blessed to have met Rah, who has a true feel for the work and also keeps the same hours I do!

She is very young, as was my Never-Muse when I began painting her, and it is really fun to be painting a fiery young person again. I was able to work for four hours straight in the second sitting, which is a big deal.

The Great Recession, my last bout of severe depression and treatment, and my devastating second divorce seemed to have broken my strength as an artist.

I haven’t been able to paint for more than a couple hours for years. Let alone for for two or even three four-hour sittings in a day as I did in 2005, when I first went back to working as an artist and committed to portraiture. I finished dozens of paintings a year, along with hundreds of drawings, the first four years.

But in 2009 things were sputtering to a halt and in 2010 I was working for another startup. My two 2010 paintings, the couple 2011 and 2012 paintings, one 2014 painting and four 2015 paintings were done in multiple short sittings. I just didn’t have the stamina.

Now I am recovering, at last. Yesterday I taught gesture drawing class AND drew at an event for four hours. I know it’s my Patrons and the freedom they give me that’s making this possible.

I am so very grateful to my #Patrons who support me on @patreon and make it possible for me to do this work.