Suzanne Forbes, an expat New Yorker in Berlin. Made possible by the generous support of her Patrons. https://www.patreon.com/SuzanneForbes. Former DC Penciller for Star Trek, former courtroom artist, painting portraits and teaching drawing.
The Newcomer competition at Shimmy Shakedown was a Battle for the Best in Burlesque!
Newcomers from all over Europe and Germany competed for the title of ‘Burlesque Entertainer of the Year’. Above, you can see Noeline La Bouche, who won “Most BadAss” I believe!Here’s Setty Mois – she was my first drawing of the night and I wish I could have captured her in more detail.
I love hearts as a theme because I love love 🙂 Cadbury Parfait, who won “Most Classic”!
You can read about how I came to know and love these characters, how they led to my career in comics, and my friendship with their creator, Chris Claremont, here.
There’s even a cameo by Bill Sienkiewicz in the Marvel hallways in 1986. But it’s not an easy read, be warned.
As soon as I was gonna have an action figure dollhouse, I needed New Mutants action figures, and particularly Rahne and Dani.
Because my emotional investment in these particular characters was so profound, they needed a safe home in the Valhalla of my dollhouse even more than the other avatars of story-people who helped me survive. I started accumulating parts to make the customs, like heads, almost as soon as I started collecting Marvel Legends scale figures. I have literally had the heads for Sam and Dani since at least 2003.
I got my first 6″ (dollhouse) scale action figure in 1999.
She was a DC Direct Death figure, a gift from a boy at work who liked me, and kept giving me terrific comics-related gifts, even though I was married. That Death figure released the lifelong lust for a dollhouse I’d managed to contain until age 32. I found out that action figures were being made in one-twelve scale, and it was the tipping point.
I could bear not having a dollhouse with dolls in it – but I couldn’t bear not having a dollhouse with super heroes in it.
I didn’t finish the dollhouse for a good fifteen years, but I started collecting super hero action figures like a fucking fiend right away.
1999 began the first heyday of 6″ scale action figures, the early days of ToyBiz Marvel Legends and DC Direct and McFarlane, plus LOTR figures and various other genre properties that were being done in 6″ scale.
It genuinely shocked me, the obscure characters that began appearing as the adult collector market developed. But I knew no-one would ever make New Mutants figures for adults, that was TOO obscure.
It was incalculably thrilling to me to see the new X-Men figures released with the first film in 2000.
It was lying around the store as a joke object. Because it was so funny, so ludicrous that a character as fucked up as Wolverine, from a property as weird and obscure as the X-Men, could have been made into a plastic toy a child could buy in a regular toy store.
And because the idea that comic book readers would buy toys of their favorite characters was unimaginable.
I bought the first Wolverine action figure, though, and I still have mine, though his snap-on claws are lost.
Because it was hilarious and insane that this secret world of ours had extrojected itself into real space, but it was also magic.
I took my time getting my hands on these, because I was waiting to see what else might happen, and eventually the Jean figures started popping up individually on the secondary market.
I wound up paying at least thirty bucks for each of the three figures I bought, but they are so terrific, it’s hard to be upset.
The body for Dani was a Marvel Legends version of Kitty Pryde released in 2016. The sculpt was way too tall and lean for Kitty (though appropriately less bosomy) and perfect for Dani. I used the Jean Grey body (“buck” in action figure talk) for Rahne, Shan and Illyana. Illyana, insanely enough, was recently actually released as an action figure. Dani is just the right amount taller than the other girls. ‘Lock was remade in action figure form last year, and look how great he is!
By 2018, so many X-Men action figures had been released I needed to build a new dollhouse.
So I built a School for Gifted Youngsters, seen above. It was a huge effort that took about a year, but it’s 99% percent done. The kids, of course, are relaxing in the living room.
I made Rahne’s head from a resin dollhouse doll, sanded and resculpted with my beloved Apoxie Sculpt. Painting her teeny little face took me, a professional portrait artist, a total of over three working days. it was worth it to me because my emotional investment was vast. But… it was DERANGED.
Whatever they charge you is a bargain. The work involved in doing it yourself, even as a professional artist in a fully equipped craft space, is bananapants.
Where are the boys?? Doug is done, coming soon, and I’m working on Sam. I plan to use a Miles Morales head for Bobby, and they cost a mint, so I’m working on it.
I should probably say more about how I made them, and I will. But it was so emotionally wrenching to make them, and such a relief and mercy to be done and place them safely in the X-Mansion, that I’m done for now.
Enjoy these amazing gay teens in the safe harbor I have built them, as I slowly build a safe harbor for my own amazing gay teen self in the ship of my adult life.
Here is beautiful CocoLectric, as a lovely flower during the Full Moon Cabaret “Nature” show! So many incredible performers traveled from all over the world to perform at Berlin Burlesque Week, and I was thrilled to meet them and get a chance to draw them.
This is AgathaFrisky, a gorgeous lady in a gorgeous outfit, as a Corpse Flower!!!
Her costume was exquisite, and she has an amazing shake!
Below, producer and hostess with the most, Viva Lamore.
Because of recentchanges in US law, I cannot create any drawings that show nudity, “implied nudity”, or breasts with pasties for my Patreon, which is how I have crowdfunded my free documentary art the last few years. I’ve created a new site for my documentary art about human sexuality and gender expression. I can’t link to it because of Patreon rules. Please don’t blame Patreon; blame SESTA-FOSTA. Maybe you could find the new site by googling!
There’s a post on my new site with new drawings from this Full Moon Cabaret too. It shows the breathtaking power and beauty of the performers at this show in all their glory. Skyclad, or in pasties.
I’ll continue to post on here too, sponsored and supported by my beloved, cherished Patrons, as right now that’s the only source of revenue for my art and I’ll always be interested in doing “work-safe” art as well as art with nudity such as life drawing. I’m working on a funding model for the new site. Meanwhile you can always paypal me money at email@example.com
I had to sneak this portrait of her as she chatted with a friendly gay boy from Oz, because she looked so luminous. we went for Thai food beforehand and she looked like a movie star, I was like oh la lala, just havin some iced tea with my friend the movie star.
This is done in pastels, gel pens and other mixed media on Strathmore Toned Gray paper.
I love this paper but it’s too big for my scanner so I have to photograph the drawings and with their complex, mixed pigment surfaces they are hard to photograph. I am gonna have get a bigger scanner sometime soon!
Lady with a Baby
My friend S. with her little one, just a few weeks old. She has the most amazing kids. Seriously, the most amazing, beautiful, strong, full-of-identity from birth kids. I saw this one in the hospital and he was already right there. And the older kid- her glamour, character and self-possession are already legend among the Berlin demi-monde! “I saw her having lunch with Peaches one day, when she was just five years old”, someone whispered at a party. We are planning a portrait of mama and older child later this year.
This work, of making a record of the people I know, and telling the story of a moment in their lives – I cannot think of anything I am better suited to do, or any task more honorable.
I am so deeply grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, whose financial support makes it possible.
I started drawing this tender couple because I liked the shape of the left-hand partner’s coat and legs.
As I drew them, they sorted out movie plans and then things got very, very cute!
This guy was on the train I got on right after.
He was very tall guy with a very large instrument case, and he looked tired as hell. Whatever gig he was coming from must have been intense. I couldn’t figure out what the instrument was – it was like a guitar case, but oversized. Yet not big enough for a standup bass.
And this young woman in a sweatshirt dress was on the phone, on the bus.
Her phone call making her happy.
Previous unterwegs below. All unterwegs drawings are courtesy of my Patrons on Patreon whose monthly financial support allows me to make this free art available!
Here’s three portraits of women friends I made during the winter semester of 1990, my first semester back at art school after I got sober.
I was nearly a year sober when the semester started, and living with Anita, who appears above, in all her grace and strength. I had taken an adult ed painting class in St. Paul, the previous Fall. The class was offered through the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where I wound up enrolling in the BFA program in January 1990.
It was really an accident I took the painting class, the accident being that it was the one art class available in St. Paul that Autumn of 1989 that fit my work schedule. I was working full time in a bakery so I took a night class. I had never been interested in being a painter, professionally.
I was bored and resentful in my color theory classes at Parsons and particularly unhappy in the one watercolor class I had to take. I did take a portrait painting class in my last semester at Parsons, but we only worked in sepia tones, not full color, and we spent the entire semester painting a single male model’s face. It was the atelier approach; it was not for me.
And the class terrified me; I would get so wasted to go that I would wind up too high to walk, let alone stand at an easel, and spend the day nodding in a lounge across the street at The New School instead.
But in Fall 1989, having a supportive woman teacher and being sober changed everything, and I began a visceral love affair with painting.
I signed up for my teacher’s regular undergrad painting class in my first semester at MCAD, and she seriously had my back. The fact that I trusted her mattered so much. Although figurative art was generally spurned at MCAD,the painting teachers were really good. Somehow I got into painting on masonite during my first year painting. It was easily and cheaply bought at the school store. Masonite is a gorgeous surface to paint on, with a perfect mid-tone. (Unfortunately, it’s also insanely heavy and the sheets of masonite are a total hassle to haul around and nearly impossible to hang.)
The painting of Anita in black uses the natural color of the masonite as a base; the one below of her in pink uses a bright pink ground.
These paintings have heavily scumbled surfaces, as I was using tube acrylics on disposable wax paper palettes, and the paint dried fast.
The scumbling is cool, in retrospect. But when I discovered the Masterson Sta-Wet Handy-Palette a year later, it transformed my painting, by keeping my paint moist.
Anita posed for me whenever I asked, during the short few months we lived together. I painted the picture of her in black in our scantily furnished living room, over a couple of hours on a winter night. Our friend Tom was staying with us, and he looked at it and said “Wow! I didn’t know you could paint like that!” I looked at it, and I was astonished; I said, “Neither did I.”
After Anita was gone, I started to ask other people to pose for me.
This is a woman I knew in that first year of sobriety. We weren’t close friends, but I loved her style. She was what they called in the Twin Cities a “darksider”, a kind of goth. I was always much more interested in painting women than men, because women’s faces are so much harder and their clothes tell so much more.
We never had a second sitting for this picture, so it remains unfinished. But it looks kinda good that way! It’s a fucking banger of a painting.
It is such a tribute to my belief in the value of my work that I have dragged these paintings all over the US and now to Europe, through my fifteen different official residences and the three times everything I owned has been in storage, through two divorces, a bankruptcy, twenty years of crippling depression and fifteen of ill health. I believe that my work matters, and that these images of these women matter. And yet until I took the pictures for this post, there were no modern media records of them. If we had a fire, they would just have been 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.
In 2001 I used to sit at my desk at ESC, the visual effects company where I worked on the Matrix sequels, and read about “orange peel” and paint rub.
Painting plastic has evolved over the years, but it’s still unpredictable. And moving from the US to Germany meant everything I’d learned about Krylon and Rustoleum had to be thrown out the window and relearned with Dupli-Color. Dupli-Color, founded in the US but now the ubiquitous hardware store spraypaint of Europe, has several different formulations for priming and painting plastic.
For the last four years I’ve been trying to learn all their tricks; I talk a lot about techniques I used for my last bas-relief insect project here. So when I wanted to make a seat for our hallway, I felt pretty confident.
Because we don’t have cell phones, but we do have a landline, we needed a little seat for the telephone in the hall.
We’re always dragging a chair in from the library when we need to call a doctor or something. I had the idea of buying a simple boudoir stool on Amazon and decorating it to fit the hall, which is perhaps the creepiest part of our whole creepy house. I ordered it and it arrived. I removed the seat, which I planned to re-cover, and wiped the whole stool down with cleaning wipes, then damp paper towels. I used the glue gun to adhere a bunch of plastic bugs and resin flowers around the existing bas-relief floral decorative elements. I had previously washed the bugs and primed them with Dupli-Color clear primer for plastic.
Then I used epoxy clay to really blend the new elements onto the base. Thinking I could expedite things (epoxy clay is a beautiful material for conjoining disparate materials, but expensive and slow) I also used some regular tube spackle for some of the big gaps. To smooth and unify all the surfaces, I painted many areas with Mr Surfacer500, a Japanese gap filler/primer product for model builders. Its grey surface is supposed to function as a primer, so I wasn’t worried about it not adhering or not accepting paint. Then I sprayed the areas with the bugs again, with the Dupli-Color primer. Here’s the original stool out on the balcony at that stage, last July.
Then I spraypainted the whole thing. WOOOOOO what a mess.
Yeah that did not work. There was some kind of reaction between the painted cast resin decorative elements of the stool and the plastic primer, or between the Mr Surfacer500 and the spackle. Tiny bubbles appeared all over the work I’d done, the areas where I’d filled crevices around the bugs to make them look carved from the surface.
Plus, the paint on the original resin elements had become tacky, which means disaster for a mixed-media work. It means there is a reaction preventing the curing of the paint, and that area will never harden and will attract dust for all time. Possibly a reaction between overspray of the Dupli-Color clear plastic primer, which is a chemical scuff, and the paint used on the resin elements.
My project was fucked. I took the picture above to show the chunky, unevenly cured surface, but you can’t see all the damn bubbles!
So I decided I’d remove the paint and re-prime the entire thing.
Guess what, I had primed the bugs and new flowers so effectively that the paint was virtually inseparable from them. And the original curliques and flowers just got gunkier with every solvent I tried. In the end I was trying orange oil and baking powder, which will take off damn near anything, and scraping sections with a dental probe, because I just hated the idea that this was a thing that had to be thrown away.
I could not get a clean surface. I could not get the paint off. I did salvage and scour one centipede, because plastic centipedes with a flat underside are hard to find. Here it is soaking in olive oil to remove the last of the paint.
Luckily, I got a new dollhouse which took my mind off the maddening primer/solvent/paint mess, and eventually I brought myself to throw the bug stool base out. Because it had so many different materials on it, it couldn’t go in any of our German recycling bins. It bothered me.
But it bothered me even more that we were still dragging a chair into the hall to use the phone!
So I decided to try again. I ordered the same stool, and set to work. But this time I tried a new approach, from a new action figure customizing blog. A bunch of incredible tutorials had gone up in December on a site called Action Figure Art. One of them suggesting sealing acrylic paint with Mod Podge! I was ready to try this new approach.
I had used Mod Podge as a primer for a plastic toy exactly once, back in about 2002, to prime a little cat figure for the top of a wedding cake I was making. But I’ve used it for various other projects over the years, mostly for decoupage. It is popular for furniture as a glue, primer, sealer and finish, and comes in different formulas. I ordered the matte finish for the bug seat, because I wanted to paint on top of it with acrylic paints.
Of course I did the usual prep of washing the bugs with hot water and soap, and I used the glue gun to attach them again. I took my time filling in around and under the bugs with Apoxie Sculpt.
This second attempt was during my Make-Cation, so I had plenty of time.
Here you can see the stool in progress along with some other projects, including the Baroque Bug Frame, which I used the same technique for. Pictures of the frame finished here!
Mod Podge is a like a rubbery plastic coat you are sealing everything under, a form of isolation coat. That’s why it prevents chemical reactions between plastics and paints. Because it’s thick, it also does some gap filling and overall smoothing. I used about five coats over the panels with the bugs. Then I spraypainted the whole thing, with Dupli-Color Next in Berlin Berry.
Dupli-Color Next is a “universal” spraypaint, one of the new class of acrylic lacquer spray formulas that’s supposed to go on almost anything without primer.
A similar product is Krylon ColorMaxx. I have found Next to be inconsistent in finish – some areas dry shiny, some matte – but it’s easy to use, with flexible recoating time and low-odor/toxicity. Since I was planning to put a gloss acrylic sealer coat over everything, I didn’t care about the problems with inconsistent finish. It took about two cans total to really cover the whole stool, which is a good example of how spraypaint is actually an inefficient and expensive way to paint things! However, the paint adhered to the Mod Podge finish really nicely.
Then I started painting on the details.
Because Next spray is acrylic lacquer, not enamel, I could paint on top of it with regular artists’ tube acrylics. I did layers of black wash, then dry-brushing highlights, then lowlight passes. In between the accent paint layers, I added additional layers of Mod Podge. This ensured each batch of highlights was sealed under a protective coat. If I went too heavy with a highlight, I could wipe it off without disturbing the black wash underneath. I can’t even tell you how many layers of this I did – gotta be at least ten. Each Mod Podge layer helped the bas-relief, carved-on effect.
I also did some sponge-painting effects and scumbling on the panels themselves, to give a nice Impressionist quality. You know how those Impressionists loved cockroaches.
At the very end I used an acrylic-based (rather than solvent-based) gold marker to add a few more highlights. Cause I’m so subtle. Then I let it all cure for a couple days. I had also spraypainted the legs of the stool, with the Berlin Berry, and let them cure too.
Then it was time to spray the fuck out of it with Gloss Acrylic Sealer Coat!
The outrageously comprehensive Mod Podge craft site Mod Podge Rocksrepeatedly states that to truly get a hard, non-tacky finish on your Mod Podge project, you need to seal it. That seems pretty shady, since Mod Podge itself is supposed to be a sealer, but I wasn’t taking any chances at this point. Acrylic sealer it was, and four coats!
Finally, I attached the recovered seat with the incredible velvet death’s-head moth fabric.
Wow that fabric was a close call. It’s actually a cut-up dress from a goth clothes company called Killstar.
I ordered the largest size they had praying it would cover the seat without a seam, and it just barely did. Killstar have a lot of custom fabrics made and I knew I would never, ever find this fabric anywhere else. It was a hard call to buy a brand-new dress, for forty euros (of course I used a coupon, you know me!), and immediately cut it up. But I knew that the pleasure of seeing the fabric on the stool, day in and day out, would be far greater than having a dress in the closet.
The velvet-and-gilt purple upholstery braid I ordered from the UK covers the places the fabric doesn’t quite stretch!
Big Broad Revue is co-produced by Dotti Moscati, who gave a quick talk about how much she values diversity and inclusion in burlesque.
Same, queen! It’s all about the big, embracing tent. I love a show that welcomes all folx. The next BBRevue show is looking awesome too, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it with the vast amount of medical procedures both hb and I have in June but I am gonna try like hell. The venue, Zum böhmischen Dorf, is very cool as well!
Liliana did her new comedy routine about redacted cause spoilers, you gotta see it yourself and wore two different bespoke latex outfits! Sadly, I could only draw this transp. burgundy and black one. You can catch Liliana’s comedy every Sunday, no matter what, at Sunday Slips.
She is hilarious, sexy and luminous. She threw knives in her underwear.
We also enjoyed several other performers including local legend Cadbury Parfait and violin-playing contortionist Ellie Steingraeber, whose drawings I will get up shortly- I still gotta get some reference for their costumes 🙂
Wynton mixes harmonica, synthesizers and vocals for a sound that is totally unique. I love to hear him perform. There was a rather drunk guy at the show who also clearly loved Wynton’s sound, and he got out of hand and started hollering about “One more! One more!” Liliana, who is both Latina and a former New Yorker, told the dude to chill out in a very firm way. Do Not Mess 🙂 More Liliana and Wynton drawings here.
It is only possible for me to create and share my documentary art of Berlin life because ofmy Patrons on Patreon. Their monthly financial support allows me to make this art!