Hostess Thrieza Poke, GodXXX Noirphiles, Gaby Tupper and more at Pansy’s House of Presents!

Godxxx Noirphiles by Suzanne Forbes Feb 19 2020GodXXX Noirphiles is a performer I have been wanting to draw for AGES!

Godxxx Noirphiles by Suzanne Forbes Feb 19 2020 detailBecause they do very interesting performance work, and amazing makeup, and because this boi is so good-looking! So when I saw he was performing at House of Presents on a damp January night, I headed over to Monster Ronsons. Her look was dazzling!

And her performance was a twist: the audience was primed for serious political performance art by the dramatic intro music, then swept into nervous giggles by the embarrassment of a familiar intimate moment.

By the end everyone was whooping with relief at sharing this awkward feeling they knew all too well!

Upcoming GodXXX events:

TODAY Feb 20 is the Black History Month event at Sari Sari Collective, where black folks will bring foods and talk about their history, with performances! On March 13, House of Living Colors will host Spring Awakening at Berghain Kantine.

More about GodXXX: cool Berlin drag queens interview video here! House of Living Colors’ Insta here.

Gieza Poke as Thrieza by Suzanne Forbes Feb 18 2020Gieza Poke was hosting The House of Presents in lieu of Pansy who was somewhere warm having fun!

And Gieza had an excellent new look involving three heads. This event was the first time I saw Gieza up close in person barefaced – and I almost didn’t recognize her! Gieza was kind enough to arrange disability accommodation for me, reserving a seat with a view. I used to be able to stand up and draw in a crowded club for six hours straight, but those days are long gone!

There was not actually a huge rainbow flag behind Gieza during Auntie’s performance- I just felt inspired to add a lot of color, so I did, which totally violates my normal documentary art protocols but you know what, so what!

Antina Christ and Dunja by Suzanne Forbes Feb 18 2020Before the show started I drew two local beauties chatting at the DJ booth.

Left is goth drag witch MUA Antina Christ, The Daughter of Seitan, and right is Dunja Von K., hula hoop MaÎtress, Creeper and hard-working performer!

Gaby Tupper by Suzanne Forbes Feb 19 2020I loved the 80s styling of Gaby Tubber, who I had never seen perform before.

Did you know Gaby has a fabulous event called TGIF, “Trash Goddess in Film”, a show for film fans and friends of trash?

Please remember that Drag Saves Lives.

I am so grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, who make it possible for me to document Berlin’s queer intersectional performance scene and release the artwork free to all.

 

More archive art about addiction, from 1991.

In the ambulance with Mom mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

In the ambulance with Mom mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Not much fun, this period of my work!

I can remember at the time, 1991, feeling like, alright, I’ve been sober a couple years, I’ve got a little bit of art school left, if I am gonna make work about being a junkie on the Lower East Side, now is the time.

Hold my place mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Hold my place mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

It definitely felt like I was gonna handle the psychic material and then be done featuring it in my art.

And that has proven true. I haven’t felt any need to revisit that period of my life in my visual art and indeed I don’t talk about it much in my recovery community this last couple decades either. I’ve made enough wack mistakes in 31 years of sobriety to have plenty of other material to talk about!

Dino with me mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Dino with me mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Most of these drawings, which I made in Fall 1991, were photocopied, colored, painted and collaged together in a large piece about addiction and recovery.

It had text from legal documents, old photos of me, and Miguel Piñero poetry. It was a really nice use of my comics background, combining words and pictures. A wash of sickly translucent green varnish unified the surface, except for three bright watercolors.

Me and Dwinkie mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Me and Dwinkie mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Dwinkie was a punk girl I used to panhandle with sometimes.

She lived in one of the last totally crazy squats on the Lower East Side, the kind with some stolen electricity, lots of candles, and no running water.

Self Portrait in the Tombs Jan 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes Fall 1991

I did two pieces about the last time I was arrested, in January of 1989.

I spent three days, the 72-hour maximum hold, in The Tombs. Cold turkey heroin withdrawal. It was during a bitter freeze so the cops had rounded up all the homeless women and sex workers they could find, along with the junkies. There were about thirty five women in the cell, half of which you can see in the works above and below. I didn’t draw the toilet.

4am in the Tombs acrylic on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

4am in the Tombs acrylic on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

The sex workers, who were mostly not junkies and not in withdrawal like the rest of us, were bored and lively.

At 4 a.m. one night they were playing Simon Says, and I watched, when I wasn’t vomiting or purging black diarrhea on the single open toilet in the middle of the cell. I thought, “This is incredible material. I’ll use this some day.” I dug the pathos, the Hunter Thompson vibe of it.

left side collage mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

left side collage mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

I don’t think about it that way today, though. I think about how sad it was.

And how sad the carceral state and the opioid epidemic and the continuing criminalisation of sex work is. My part as a participant and witness sucked, but addressing the overarching spectrum of human suffering is so much more important. My escape from the sorrow, degradation and horror was in so many ways a function of my privilege.

collage right mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

I got to be shipped off to a fancy treatment center, and got to stay in a nice halfway house for four months.

I could never have stayed sober otherwise. I also didn’t die when I overdosed on methadone because my mother let me stay at home, horrible as it was for her, while I was using.

20th st with mom collage mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

20th st with mom collage mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

My mom was there to call the paramedics, who revived me.

I was so, so incredibly blessed by her compassion for me. Yes, I did the work to stay sober. I have done it all these years. But I also had incredible opportunities, great resources, and tremendous inspiration and support from my mom. Most people have none of those things.

Hazelden mixed media on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThe truth is, I’m not very interested in talking about these shitty junkie stories now.

What I do think is important is how goddam good the work I did then was. The big collage had three bright watercolors in it, about my recovery. The one above is my first night sober, detoxing at Hanley Hazelden treatment center in West Palm Beach on Jan 27, 1989. I painted the night nurse to look a bit like my mom.

St Paul 1990 watercolor on paper Fall 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis one is me at a year and a half sober, in my white-painted, loft-like art school apartment.

It was the first place of my own I really set up for my work.

And this is me on the phone with the tv station I worked for, wearing my mom’s nice grey suit, in 1991.

At my beautiful Craftsmen apartment with a fireplace, in my last year of school, already working regularly as a courtroom artist and working hard to break into comics. It was the last piece for the collage; I am turned away from the viewer, because the period of processing and disclosing the past is over.

I never forget it, though. Every night when I go to bed, I say a prayer of thanks for my safety and freedom, and I remember that cell in The Tombs.

Every night, I know what a miracle and a blessing it is that I am alive, and sober, and have a bed to sleep in (except for those two nights in recovery I have had to sleep in my car). Don’t leave before the miracle happens.

These paintings and drawings had never been photographed; until now, no record of them existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

A New York city subway car underneath a dollhouse in Berlin.

Extreme Sets NYC subway car customized by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2020Sometimes it takes me a really long time to finish a project.

Extreme Sets NYC subway car customized by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2020 Virginia Slims adLike, years and years! Loved ones brought me Extreme Sets’ NYC subway car and subway station from the States in the Fall of 2017.

I customized and installed the station pretty quickly, but then there were problems with the lighting. (There are ALWAYS problems with miniature lighting.) I decided to wait a bit and see what I could figure out.

I researched many different types of lights. I got a new type of LED strips for the station, then decided they wouldn’t work. It still has no lights!

I did permanently assemble the subway car seats, using a combination of hot glue and carpet tape to really square them up nicely, and filled in gaps with my beloved Apoxie Sculpt, a cleaner and more paintable finish than spackle. And I spent several years finding vintage 1980s ads to line the headers and side panels. Brooke Shields for Calvin! Take the Plane to the Train! And of course, Crazy Eddie! He’s practically GIVING this stuff away!!!

But I was nervous about the lights. I studied the solutions in use by action figure diorama people, and battery-operated flexible LED strips with adhesive backs seemed the clear winner.

So I did the final customizing and light install on the car…this month!!

I decided Winter 2020 would be my midlife nostalgia and taking stock time.

Extreme Sets NYC subway car customized by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2020 doorsSomehow, I found the psychic strength and motivation to tackle the huge archive project I’d been putting off since the summer of 2015.

The New Mutants movie is finally coming out.

And hub and I got to the third season of The Deuce, where they are in 1984. The silhouettes of the coats and the way people’s bangs moved gave me such a stab in the heart of grief, loss and unstuck-in-time that I had to stop our watching for a month.

Then once I’d dug into the archives for a couple weeks I was like fine, I can take it, I’m literally soaking in it anyway.

So we watched the rest of The Deuce, and I’m on twitter talking to the New Mutants fans, and on Instagram talking to the wonderful storyboard artist for the movie, Ashley Guillory, and it’s just 80s all over the place. It is poignant, piquant, sickening, and motivating.

I made the arms for the seats by softening styrene cylinders with a lighter, and yikes they looked like my old drug pipe, lying around.

I had to quickly throw out the failed tries (bending styrene is hard!) because seeing them out of the corner of my eye was freaking me out. Once spraypainted silver, though, they look great!

I didn’t tag the subway car with real writer’s tags, for the most part.

I was drained by the emotional work of connecting with all this material, and unnerved by the shockingly real look of the car. I just made up lots of random tags. “SEO” actually appears multiple times, because it looked good! I put up the tags of my dead boyfriends and old friends here and there, in the layers of gray-scale marker, but I let it not be the focus. I needed to get this project done, at last.

It is shocking that I survived, and critical that I work, for all the ones who didn’t.

Having this piece done, and putting it in its cubicle underneath the dollhouse, is like sealing up the now-recorded archives of 80s and 90s artwork. It creates a way forward where nostalgia and grief are gently given their places, and respectfully packaged, out of view of my daily life.

You can read more about my dollhouses and their function as memory palace (Gedächtnispalast), Valhalla and memorial below.

My first action figure dollhouse. My action figure subway station. The X-Men’s dollhouse.

My Rahne and Dani lovebird action figure customs, Douglock custom, and queer New Mutants art from my archives.

The New York subway I knew, in the 80s.

From the vaults: art about addiction, from 1991.

Self Portrait with Dino Jan 26 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes Fall 1990On Jan 27 2020 I celebrated 31 years clean and sober.

These paintings are from Fall 1991, when I was just turning three years sober. I had several excellent painting teachers at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the school where I finished my degree after I got sober. These paintings were part of a series I did with one of them.

The one above shows me and my friend Dino in her flat on First Avenue, the night before I left for treatment, January 27, 1989.

Self Portrait with P at the Jane West in 1987 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes Fall1990This one, of my longtime on-and-off boyfriend P. and I, is at the Jane West Hotel.

It was an SRO then, I think it’s fancy now.

Self Portrait Panhandling 1988 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes Fall 1991My main income as a junky came from panhandling.

Not because I was opposed to sex work – I have always known and loved sex workers – but because my father, my first abuser, made me so self-conscious about my cellulite! I found it very hard to see my own body as a commodity.

Self Portrait Panhandling with subway entry in 1988 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes Fall1991These paintings are pretty dark, I know.

Their surfaces are excoriated, like my skin was then. I literally scraped away the paper.

Self Portrait Panhandling with subway entry in 1988 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes Fall1991 cuBeing a junky was bad then and it’s bad now.

Self Portrait snorting on LES in 1988 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes Fall 1991I have always had a ferocious sense of self-preservation, beading up between the lashings of self-destruction.

I wasn’t a needle user til my very last night before treatment; I snorted instead, in the bathroom of every restaurant and bar that would let me on First Avenue.

I worried a lot, at the time, about what the alkaloid plus whatever it was cut with was doing to my sinuses.

Yesterday I had my first sinus ultrasound, at my first visit to a German Otolaryngologist.

He ran the lube-slick device over my cheek, and he yelped, “Jesus Christ!” And said no more, except that I must get a CT scan immediately and I may need surgery.

Luckily sinus surgery not too big a deal and we have incredible German health insurance that will cover everything! But yeah, I guess there was a reason I was sick eight times in ten months last year.

I am so lucky, so grateful to be alive, to be here in Germany, to be working.

Self Portrait panhandling 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes Fall 1991I feel such grief for the huge population in the States living in opiate addiction.

Harm reduction matters and #narcansaveslives. Don’t leave before the miracle happens.

None of these paintings had ever been photographed; no record of them existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

 

For the archives – Color studies from art school!

Auto shop color study painting for Tom Garrettt Illustration Class Fall 1990 Rachel KetchumIn 1989 I got sober, and moved to Minnesota.

I wound up finishing my degree at The Minneapolis College of Art and Design because I wanted to stay near my halfway house. In a lot of ways, MCAD was a problem for me and I was a problem for MCAD. I seemed to be the only New Yorker there, and I was unable to parse the passive-aggressive Minnesota Nice culture or the conceptual art school culture. I considered myself a craftsperson, a person being professionally trained for a commercial career as a comic artist, which was a form of commercial illustration.

Auto shop color study for Tom Garrettt Illustration Class Fall 1990 Rachel KetchumBut the commercial illustration track at MCAD had already switched to digital for the most part.

There were terrific resources for people who wanted to enter the nascent world of digital graphic design; I was not one of those people. So my track wound up being Fine Art, because that’s where the drawing classes were. The fact that I had to take Painting classes too was a bug, not a feature, for me. I was deeply uncomfortable doing anything new or different, anything that got in the way of my progress towards a job in comics (particularly using color!), and I was also volatile, rageful and doing deep therapy work about CSA.

I got in a lot of conflict with the MCAD faculty.

Auto shop color study for Tom Garrettt Illustration Class Fall 1990 Rachel KetchumLuckily, I had a wonderful teacher who got past my resistance and fear around color, and I really had fun with his assignments.

I took the one series of Illustration classes that were focused on traditional drawing, and they were taught by a marvelous man named Tom Garrett. He was a tremendous teacher, one of those teachers that all students love. We did illustration assignments in the stages an agency would expect, roughs to comps to finals, and Tom always managed to make it fun and interesting.

Chicken Drawing 2 for Tom Garrettt Illustration Class Fall 1990 Rachel KetchumMost importantly, I who almost never felt safe anywhere felt safe in Tom Garrett’s class.

It was a safe space, where someone like me, who could out-draw everyone in the room, was the same as all the “Why Can’t Johnny Draw” kids, as I called them. And they were the same as me, and I could see the value of their different skills and visions and understandings of the assignments. We worked hard, but I also felt playful, something I’d never felt before in art school. You can see me explore color, style and mark-making in these assignments.

Chicken Drawing for Tom Garrettt Illustration Class Fall 1990 Rachel KetchumThey say that one supportive adult can make all the difference to a damaged child.

I know a lot of my resilience comes from the fact that throughout my life I have had many, many supportive adults and teachers and professional adults who saw past my rage, brittleness, inappropriateness and struggle to function. All those people cared for me, steered me and mentored me.

Drawing for Tom Garrettt Illustration Class Fall 1990 Rachel KetchumTom Garrett was one of the most important mentors and supporters in my career.

Having a space to play with composition, color and mark-making was a huge factor in my being able to do progressively more intuitive work in my Fine Art classes. I was really deeply afraid of creative failure, judgement, and exposure (of my soul, I guess?) when I got to MCAD. Three of my teachers there changed things for me: Tom Garrett, painting teacher Elizabeth Erickson, and Fine Arts Dean Hazel Belvo. Teachers who make safe spaces do an incredible thing.

Bathtub painting for Tom Garrettt Illustration Class prob 1991 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesI think you can actually see how safe and supported I felt in the classroom assignments.

Traditional, agency-style illustration assignments involved a concept, roughs on the concept that are reviewed by the client, comps that approximate the final, and a final. Hence the many iterations on what may seem like odd themes!

Kleenex paintings for Tom Garrettt Illustration Class Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesTom was the person who suggested I become a courtroom artist, which led to me having a professional art career before I even finished school!

He was convinced I’d be good at it, and I carried that conviction to my interviews at the tv stations, drawing samples, and going to work for local CBS affiliate WCCO. I made a good living and I was really good at it, and my drawings were on CNN when I was just 25.

I was so fond of Tom I made him a coconut cream pie (his favorite!) for the last day of our last class together! It was the first time I made custard, and I was very nervous it wouldn’t work, but it did, and I brought the pie to class. Thank you always, Tom. A good teacher is beyond price.Theater Box paintings for Tom Garrettt Illustration Class Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

These last two are the ones everyone liked best out of all the work I did in Tom’s classes!

Only two of these paintings have ever been photographed; no record of the others existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Accessory making project: Hats and jewels!

Voyeur print accessories by Suzanne Forbes January 2020I love making my own accessories for events.

It’s a simple and satisfying way to make something unique to coordinate with your outfit. For a Weimar Berlin theme, I made myself two hats, a necklace, and earrings. I learned a couple simple jewelry construction principles at my friend Donna’s when I was fourteen, and I have always kept a set of jewelry tools and findings on hand ever since.

Voyeur print pillbox hat by Suzanne Forbes January 2020I don’t have any actual hatmaking skills, I just cover commercially available “blank” bases with fabric and ribbon.

Here I used a teardrop fascinator base and a little pillbox base. The fabric is cut-up sections of lingerie from UK “adult products” superstore Ann Summers, The print is called “Voyeur”, and I have been collecting items made with it for several years, with the idea of some kind of project.

Voyeur fascinator hat by Suzanne Forbes January 2020To attach materials to the bases I use both glue gun and UHU Alleskleber, my “Quick Grab”/”Quick Gripdupe.

Glue gun is great for stretching fabric over a surface, because it sets so fast, while the Alleskleber gives a more precise control for applying trim because it’s repositionable for a few minutes. I burned myself, as usual. But I always say it’s good to burn yourself with the glue gun, it helps you know you’re alive! The black velvet rose was from the ’90s. It had been waiting so patiently to be used!

Hand and pussycat jewelry by Suzanne Forbes Jan 2020The jewelry was made by tearing apart some ombre pink pearl stretch bracelets I got at like Claire’s for my Edwardian Ball outfit in 2003.

Their elastic was dissolving anyway! I strung the pearls with bits of pink and gray crystal beads floating around from other projects and some lengths of chain-and-pearl necklaces that were from Forever 21 in 2006 or so, The carved pink quartz pussycat is from the gem shop by my EMDR therapist.

MOP earrings assembled by Suzanne Forbes Jan 2020And I ordered these beautiful carved mother-of-pearl hands on Etsy, and my mom brought them to Berlin!

They were the last ones the shop had, and no way was I trusting them to the US-Germany Bermuda Triangle of Mail. The Czech glass links and faux-opal briollettes in brass settings are from this great eBay seller, who I’ve been buying from since 2014 – no problems with shipping to the US!

More jewelry projects here here here and here!

Bricolage project: silver leafed assemblage mirror with lots of insects!

Gothic Rococo silver leaf bricolage mirror with insects and skulls by Suzanne Forbes Jan 2020I had been wanting to use some of my metal insect stampings to make a mirror like this for ages. Then Colleen Doran sent me this beautiful crystal along with a Patron gift and I decided to build the mirror around it.

As always, I start with washing the assemblage materials!

A good hot soap and water scrub makes a huge difference in how primer, paint, adhesives and varnish adhere to molded metal and plastic objects. Removing all traces of mold release, skin oils and dust makes such a difference.

Then, I glued all the stampings onto the frame with the glue gun. If I needed to reposition something, I just pried it off and then pried the glue blob off the frame.

I also often repositioned things by adding some fresh hot glue to the blob behind a piece, softening it enough to adjust it. I don’t really have a plan for most of my assemblage projects! Insect stamping assemblage frame in progress Suzanne Forbes Jan 2020

Once everything was glued down I spraypainted it all with my excellent silver acrylic craft spraypaint. Yes, I should have primed it first. But I was confident in my washing job and the paint.

Insect stamping assemblage frame black wash Suzanne Forbes Jan 2020After the spraypaint cured overnight (acrylic, yes, but all spraypaint has solvents and needs a night’s cure), I gave it a black acrylic wash.

Once the wash dried overnight, I coated the whole thing with an isolation coat of Mod Podge Matte. The Mod Podge is thick enough that it also helped hold the stampings in place. Mod Podge is an isolation coat, to separate the plastic-y glue-gun glue and the foamed polystyrene frame base from the next phase. I let it dry for 24 hours, always.Gothic Rococo silver leaf bricolage mirror with insects by Suzanne Forbes Jan 2020

There’s another thing that matters a LOT with assemblage art. It’s quite similar to a crucial practice for baking and decorating cakes!

Silver leaf bricolage mirror with insects and skulls by Suzanne Forbes Jan 2020 That thing is — time. Give it some time. Cakes that you are gonna to glaze or frost have to be cool or cold, not just room temperature, and in fact your best bet is freezing them overnight and icing them frozen. It makes everything so much easier!

Same principle with primers, isolation coats, adhesives and handling glued items. You got to give your assemblage project time to set and cure completely before you are handling, moving or painting it.

A frozen cake layer is far less likely to shed crumbs into your buttercream or break in half as you lift it.

With your project, same idea except you’re also talking about bad chemical reactions between adhesives and paints, orange peel effects, bond failure, and a bunch of other deterioration issues. Adhesives and paints contain solvents, even if the solvent is only water ( as in, water-soluble!) and those solvents need to off-gas or evaporate.

But what if you are an insanely impatient person, who cannot stand to wait for any form of gratification, like me???

You must work on multiple projects at once. You must start thinking about projects in terms of PROCESSES, the same way bakers think about cakes in terms of components. The folks on model car boards and action figure customizing boards are a great resource for staggering processes.

You’ll see them post about “clearcoat day” or “metallic black day”. They paint everything that needs to be painted white on a single day, or do all the sanding for a bunch of kits over a weekend. That way, you aren’t wasting time waiting for things to dry or cure – you’re into the next process for a bunch more parts of your project.

Yes, this means you will have half-finished projects everywhere, all the time. It is the price of efficiency. Personally, I’ll work through all the processes on three or four related projects, then clean up the huge fucking mess and then do something that doesn’t make a mess for a while!

This project required the addition of Ingredient: Time at many stages.

After the Mod Podge dry time, I got out my clear craft acrylic gloss, the kind that comes in a bottle with a flip-top. This would be the base for the silver leaf.

I went around the frame, brushing raised areas I wanted to highlight with gloss, waiting a minute for it to get a little tacky, and tapping on silver leaf with my fingertips or grabbing the leaf with tweezers and touching it to the tacky gloss so it adhered.

Once I had silver leaf all over in a nicely variegated application, I patted it all down with my fingertips and painted the whole thing with gloss. I sort of carelessly scrunch down/scrub away the loose leaf with my brush.

This is not how you are supposed to apply metal leaf! DO not do what I do! Anyway, overnight drying, then another coat of gloss. Overnight drying AGAIN.

edit. to add: at some stage I also highlighted some areas with the Tamiya Chrome Silver model paint I bought for my Lilandra custom!

And then, the final stage: covering the whole thing with water-clear, super-shine solvent-based brush-on acrylic gloss varnish.

Gothic Rococo silver leaf bricolage mirror with insects by Suzanne Forbes Jan 2020But wait! I still had to add the crystals! So I wrapped them in wire, and adhered them with Apoxie Sculpt, my favorite epoxy clay.

Epoxy clay will stick anything to anything, nearly. Overnight curing AGAIN, and then I turned the frame over and reinforced all the bonds by pouring a different kind of UHU Alleskleber, the Flinke Flasche or “Nimble Bottle” liquid into crevices, and added all the pearls and crystal beads to crevices in the front with the same liquid glue.

I honestly don’t know what the chemical relationships are between all these layers, and there is  no guarantee this piece is archival.

I kinda lost the thread at some point! Model car people say put your hottest (most chemically active) layer on last, because you need to isolate the plastic base of the kit, which solvents will attack (hence the Mod Podge and craft acrylic varnish before the “hot” varnish). Fine artists say you can put oil (chemical solvent) over acrylic (water-based) but not the other way around, because acrylic cures completely and won’t offgas into the oil. But assemblage artists say don’t put oil over acrylic on a piece that may flex, because acrylic remains flexible (plasticky) even when dry, but oil (after years of offgassing!) dries to a brittle film.

Adhesive solvents will also attack and react with some plastics (the notorious fogging caused by cyanoacrylate superglues) or melt the paint off it. I have seen both Quick Grip and UHU Extra Alleskleber melt a long-cured film of acrylic spraypaint – but not tube acrylic, which they bond with.

Solvents, man. I decided to just see what happens with this one.

If it deteriorate rapidly I will let you know!

Meanwhile, did you know you can support me and Colleen Doran on Patreon? Colleen Doran knows a tremendous amount about fine art materials, far more than I do, and posts great tutorials about things like the archival/lightfastness ratings of markers and how to use oil paint!

Truly underground model drawing, with Barsketcher Alexandra Ru and Chiqui Love!

Watercolor marker drawing of Chiqui Love in red by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020I have been meaning to go to one of Alexandra’s drawing sessions for YEARS!

Alexandra is a terrific artist who organizes drawing meetups, sessions and classes all over town – museum days, bar nights, life drawing and more. Just by accident last night I saw a post from Chiqui Love of the BSC, who said she was about to model for one, burlesque themed! I dropped everything, packed up my new gear and skibbled across town!

Watercolor marker drawing of Chiqui Love by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020For years I have been loving the watercolor washes other artists use for life drawing.

Alexandra does a particularly nice job. So I decided to take a step towards that approach, and ordered a bunch of watercolor brush pens, and some Strathmore Toned Gray paper for wet media. I figured it might be a disaster, but what the hell!

Watercolor marker and ink sketch of Chiqui Love by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020This session was put on by Alexandra and Liana Gilman, who share a studio space called Sketcherei, where they also host drawing.

Watercolor marker and ink sketch of Chiqui Love by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020The venue was a bar near Gorlitzer Park called “It’s A Bar”. The night was dark and rainy and I was not a little skittish about being closer to Gorli than I ever have on foot – not that I am afraid of drug dealers, I just don’t have any reason to interact with them.

I found the bar though, and made my way down the most rickety flight of stairs I have ever seen, into an underground chamber seemingly carved out of several random basements and infrastructure.

People say Berlin is gentrified now, but they don’t realize how different gentrified here and gentrified in the States is. Berlin is like West Oakland in 1997, plus a war.

There’s no visible awareness of law enforcement, building codes, fire safety regulations, or secondary exits in most places, and people have just been digging out the rubble and building shit for 75 YEARS. It’s like the East Village in 1984.

There is still a lot of magic in Berlin. And still a lot of accessibility issues. I am more aware of the access issues all the time.

Watercolor marker drawing of Chiqui Love by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020 detailAlexandra had kindly reserved the one chair with a back for me, and I made it down the stairs once, but no way was I trying them again for a beverage or the toilet! Most of the Barsketcher crew is lovely young people, who skittered up and down the coffin-like stairwell like mountain goats and sat comfortably about the levels of the underground grotto.

The secret space made a terrific drawing area and the lighting was bright and clear. Chiqui is a wonderful model, and she had excellent costumes and tunes.

I had no idea how to manage my watercolor brush pens, my water glass for refilling the water reservoir, plus my usual tools. And no idea how to use the brush pens! Which was great.

It’s terrific to use new tools, because I am VERY stuck in my routines. It was kinda hilarious though, water flying everywhere, me pouring water in my palm and then just smearing it across the lines to get a wash. I also quickly found myself scruffing the nylon bristles of the brushes across the smooth paper.

I’d love to see how the brush pens perform on paper with some tooth.

I would have liked to do more quick gestures, but the only sketchbook I brought was the Strathmore Mixed Media, at a almost a euro per page, so the loose sketches are actually on the backs of the finished drawings!

I also wish I’d brought just sepia, brown and beige watercolor pens, rather than having a whole color palette. I don’t have the transparent media color mixing skills, especially under club conditions! On the grey paper, with transparent media, I definitely felt the absence of a high white value.

Mixed media drawing of Chiqui Love in red by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020So I added white chalk marker and pastels to the watercolor pen drawings.

I’m not sure about the results – I feel like now they just look like my regular marker and pastel drawings. Which is not bad, it’s just the native temperament of the watercolor is lost. Also @chiquilovelovelove looks a little stocky here, and she is actually muscular but slimmer.

So adding the whites changed the visual impact of the forms in a way it doesn’t with my usual style. Fascinating!!

I want to try the watercolor approach again, but on white not gray paper. The Strathmore toned gray mixed media paper held up really well though.

Thank you @barsketcher and Liana for the lovely drawing sesh!

And always, always thank you so much to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to experiment and grow as an artist, and to document Berlin life.

 

 

 

More Rahne and Dani queer New Mutants art from the 80s!

Rahne Dani New Mutants Queer Love Movie and 1986 art by Suzanne ForbesApparently, in 1986 I predicted the future on-screen LGBTQ romance of New Mutants Rahne and Danielle, aka Wolfsbane and Mirage!

Wow, I had completely, completely forgotten these existed!

Rahne and Dani double page love scene spread by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes May 1986Holy heck I made so much queer art with the New Mutants!

Thanks to the support of my Patrons on Patreon, I try to do a little archiving of my vast lifelong art archives every month. I hit a goldmine of late-80s and early 90s stuff this week. Rahne long panel by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes May 1986

Because these drawings, which are all dated May 7- May 12, are on illustration board, they had gotten stored with larger works from a slightly later time.

I believe these were all drawn in May 1986, not long after I first met Chris Claremont, based on the level of my skills.

And also because the love scene is totally inspired by Kory and Karras in one of my very favorite issues of the Titans, New Teen Titans (vol.2) #19 (1986), which was drawn by Eduardo Barreto!

Rahne’s makeover is an echo of the X-Men scene in issue #210, where Rogue goes to Bloomingdales, which is what Chris was writing an outline for in his little stenographer notebook the day I met him.

I haven’t seen any of this artwork in decades!

Literally, the box was packed up when I lived in West Hartford, where I drew my last issue of Star Trek for DC. That was Fall 1995. New Mutants Rahne makeover May 1986 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumIt traveled all over the US with me, and finally to Berlin, like all the other boxes of art!

 

Obviously, I desperately wanted to show the kids having a good time!

One of the (many) things I was always (fondly) hassling Chris about was the lack of PARTYING in the book. It was the 80s, f’r chrissake! I loved them, I wanted them to be happy for at least a night.

New Mutants party scene May 1986 by Suzanne Forbes Aka Rachel KetchumDani is making a vision bouquet for Rahne! Isn’t that so cute???

I drew Kitty drunkenly phasing through the couch and Sam shrugging and toasting her with his beer!
New Mutants coming out story May 1986 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel Ketchum

But like all coming-out stories, this one takes an emotional turn for a while.

Having myself been through the awkward moment when you’re fifteen and you tell your best female friend you have a crush on her, I didn’t imagine it would go perfectly smoothly.

New Mutants Rahne and Dani coming out story May 1986 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumI was optimistic. I believed those mutant girls would get together!

My own girl crush confession had resulted in hot shower sex and waking up in spoons. And my mom took her and I to brunch next morning! So I had a hopeful take on things. I feel like the (sorry it’s so hard to see) text did a pretty good job of mirroring Chris’ style.Queer New Mutants double page party scene May 1986 by Suzanne Forbes Aka Rachel Ketchum

Look how happy they are! This drawing totally reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes dancing.

I am truly enormously excited about the New Mutants film, and so excited to see my vision of Rahne and Dani’s love on the big screen.

You can read about how I became a New Mutants fan and my journey to become a comics penciller here, and you can see my Wolfsbane and Mirage custom action figures here!

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Until today, no record of these drawings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

Color experiments and Weimar Glamour with Kabarett der Namenlosen.

Le Pustra and Mama Ulita at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2020I found a bunch of unfinished drawings from a Kabarett der Namenlosen session of Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin!

Work in progress Suzanne Forbes drawing of Le Pustra and Mama Ulita 2019I was shocked to find these drawings, hiding in a sketchbook I thought contained nothing of importance. (I also found an unfinished unterwegs that I genuinely don’t remember drawing!)

As you can see to left, the drawing of Le Pustra and Mama Ulita was mostly finished. The others were more scribbly, just pencil. But now that I have actually seen the live performance of the Kabarett, I felt I should try finishing them up.

Why had I abandoned them?Le Pustra at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2020

Mama Ulita at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2020 back viewWas it frustration that I can never really capture the wild glamour of these performers, in their soft silk robes and stockings, with their immaculate white tie and tails?

I feel terrible frustration trying to convey exactly how it feels to see Mama Ulita perform. When she whips off her bob wig to reveal her own seal-slick black cap of hair, the audience gasps. I honestly want to be David Downton, at moments like that. This drawing doesn’t have a fraction of her elegance.

But it is a valid attempt, and it was worth finishing to see where it went, so I don’t know why that didn’t happen. Maybe these drawings just overtaken by events, as they say in the military? It’s been a tough year or two, healthwise.

I’m working hard to figure out how to add color to my drawings, but I am still so unsure. I used markers, pastels and a water reservoir brush to add color to several of them. Color is such an important part of the visual design of the Kabarett, with bright wigs by Nina Budden Hair and pale ostrich boas. I don’t really know how to convey these soft vintage shades alongside the graphic black and white tuxedoes.

I am committed to the process of making color an integral part of my live drawing, and it’s tough!

Mama Ulita at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2020Sometimes hints of color, little accents, are best.

Sometimes I try to do more and don’t feel I succeeded. The trouble is, even terrific photographers can’t capture everything the eye sees at a show like this. There are a thousand moments, each so beautiful, and I can’t show you them all.Le Pustra and Dekolars at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2020

Still, I do my best, and I hope you enjoy this tender moment with Le Pustra and Lars Schwuchow, above.

I am so grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, who make it possible for me to document Berlin’s queer intersectional performance scene and release the artwork free to all.