Monthly Archives: June 2015

My first Berlin art event!

Suzanne Forbes drawing from ESDIP June 2015Since we got here, it has been crazy.

There is so much to do with a move like this for two people and two cats. Plus we’re both partially disabled and just don’t have the bandwidth some people do.

So it was only this Friday, three months after we arrived, the day after we got our two-year visa, that I finally made it to an artist’s networking event.


It was at ESDIP Berlin, a co-working space and art school in Friedrichshain.

I took the subway, even though the tram would have been more efficient, because I love the subway so much. Across from me there were three blond German kids; I noticed them because one girl had a face that interested me as a potential model. I don’t have cards yet though, and although I have been known to accost total strangers and demand they pose for me, I prefer to have a card to give them.

I got off at Frankfurter Tor, which smells slightly like pee, as do many Friedrichshain stations.

I deeply appreciated that the event didn’t start til 8, and when I got there at 8:30 everyone was eating delicious vegan food from Flambé. After staggering asthmatically up the eight million stairs, I entered the room full of young artists in full-on perimenopause hotflash hell.

Luckily, there was a gallery space serving as smoking room with open windows, and I saw a woman my own age, standing in one of them. I asked if I could share her window, since I was having a change of life moment.

She said in the most glorious, smoky, Marlene Dietrich voice, “Dahling, you know I understand you!”

I had a lovely chat with her, and then found a seat next to Clairikine, a transcultural maker of comics who I was delighted to meet. There is an incredible generation of young women in comics now, fearless and funny. They were never wounded by the battle to break in at the Big Two as I was, because they’ve never cared about working at Marvel or DC. They make comics and post them, and scrape together a living, and they don’t have to get sexually harassed by editors to do it.

Soon the first presenter, a graphic designer from Spain, started his slides.

That’s him in the top picture, Jorge Chamorro. I was so happy to be in a room full of artists, with beautiful work on the walls, with people holding sketchbooks, with people talking about making visual art. There were people from all over Europe, and of course plenty of Americans because there are Americans everywhere in Berlin, and everyone there cared about DRAWING. (And eating tasty vegan food. And drinking beer, or delicious Fritz-Kola, like me.)

It was like taking a bath in hope and welcome, especially because of the usual ghastly Berlin humidity.

The presenters were from Spain, France, Scotland and Germany. I was enchanted by French animator Perrine Marais and her fucking adorable mobile game, Pony Style Box. I was also impressed to see that “Kommunikations Designer” Jonas Heidenreich has solid actual drawing skills under his graphic design chops. I don’t think they teach drawing to design students in the US anymore.

I felt like I was in an environment where traditional draughtsmanship was actually valued, for the first time in decades.

I drew this picture below after the talks were over, especially for one of my patrons, since she has a taste for a certain look in boys. ESDIP_Connects_2_Suzanne_Forbes_June_15

I headed home early, just past midnight, because I’m an old, but I was deeply glad to have gone and so excited about art in Berlin.

I stopped at a very cool little crepe shop and bought two goddam excellent macarons, for just €3, and on the subway I saw the three blond kids again, sitting across from me again. “You guys were–” I said, laughing, and they said, “Yes! Berlin is small.”

Berlin is small, but big enough for new dreams.





Berlin is louche as fuck.

Original drawing by Suzanne Forbes June 2015Berlin is an amazing combination of good-citizen law-abidingness and cavalier scofflawry.

Obeying the law seems to be, iike many things in Germany, left to your good sense. You may have read that German people will shout at you if you cross the street on a red light; one phrase that they shout translates to “Think of the children (you monster)!”. It’s not actually so much about obeying the red light as setting a careful example to kids.

Besides, nobody in Berlin is in such a hurry that they really need to jaywalk.

The European sense that the law should be obeyed when appropriate and disregarded otherwise is particularly noticeable on the public transit system. Technically, it is illegal to eat, drink, drink alcohol or smoke on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses. Absolutely everyone ignores this.

Since you can get an espresso, a noodle stir-fry and a six-pack on the subway platform, it’s not difficult.Original drawing by Suzanne Forbes June 2015

(You can also get a pack of cigarettes, from an actual cigarette machine, but I haven’t seen anyone smoking on the transit system yet. )

You’ll be on the bus and someone will be eating a pastry; the person across from them will notice and remember that they have a sandwich in their bag. Pretty soon everyone is crunching away.

Here you see a picture of a girl cheerfully eating french fries- which you will note are SPECIFICALLY forbidden- while the ticket inspector gives her friend a ticket for riding without one, which everyone does all the time, of course. You can see my hand drawing the U-Bahn signs, which are hidden by the ticket inspector’s head.

I was waiting for her to offer him some fries, but she rudely did not.

I love all this lawlessness, of course. One of my patrons requested that I make some work about the similarity between Berlin now and New York in the 80s, so I drew this picture of me and my best friend Skenney and our friend Naomi on the subway in 1982 or ’83. We used frisbees as drink trays during our “Mobile Tequila Sunrise” phase; you can see Naomi is daintily adding the grenadine.NYC Subway early 80s Suzanne Forbes