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.
I swung for the fences with this one, and I kinda missed. To try and apply my new techniques of mixed media coloring to such a complex, detailed drawing – with such deep space!- was perhaps an act of hubris. I barely have a grasp of this new approach, and definitely don’t feel skilful in handling pastels.
And I absolutely loved the drawing in its original state. But I felt I had to see if I could make it even better. I’m not sure I did.
Luckily, in a moment of foresight, I photocopied the original line drawing.
The scan is dark, because the photocopy picked up the midtone of the kraft paper, and I hadn’t finished drawing Daria’s tattoo machine. Someone with better digital editing skills than me can sort out the values, prolly.
I was quite scared to add the mixed media (pastel, oil pastel and markers) to the line drawing, and it took me almost a month to get down to it.
Rightly so; it turned out to be a bit beyond me to fully reconcile the values so the drawing reads well.
I kinda feel like I destroyed something I really liked, and that’s good. You gotta kill your darlings in the art biz.
After all, I can always make another drawing of Daria making a tattoo. And I want to go back to Tremuschi and draw Vivi tattooing too, when she gets back from her tattoo cons of Europe tour! I might do a whole series of drawings of women tattoo artists of Berlin!
I amassed a huge stockpile of green bling, and bought a discounted Orchard Corset 511 to use as my base.
The green corset was one of the projects I didn’t get to before we left, so I packed all the green jewels and beads and appliques and trims up in a “project kit” and boxed it up.
I unpacked it with the other 400+ boxes last winter. Once my workroom was set up, I started opening project kits and finishing projects. I movedthroughthem at a pretty decent clip! I made the leaf crowns to go with the corset early on, last summer.
I took out the corset and got started on it last August. First I created a bunch of beaded and crystal-covered appliques with some pale green leaf-shaped Venise lace.
I tacked the lace down to netting in an embroidery hoop, then embroidered and bead embroidered it. Then I added velvet leaves (bead embroidered too).
This took about a million years.
Which never bothers me. I like to do textile art slowly, to balance how fast I draw and paint.
Once I had finished a bunch of appliques and had test fitted them on the corset, I modified the corset itself.
Otherwise the corset wouldn’t lace nice and parallel, and it would distort the embroidery and structure of the corset to have a big gap at the bottom.
Sloppily adding handsewn gores like I did is a good way to ruin the structural strength of your corset, but I knew I’d be adding thousands of stitches and layers over the gores. So I wasn’t worried.
When I’m done with one of these beaded corsets it’s basically a cuirasse, an armored breastplate!
It took several months to carefully sew the appliques to the corset, adding bead embroidery as needed to fill in gaps.
I used strong green nylon beading thread I got to make beaded fringe for a lamp in Berkeley in 1999.
I also used beading thread to make strings of variegated beads to sew down onto the corset in curving lines. Because I’m insane, I always sewed back through the beads on the string as I sewed them down, in case the thread broke.
And I think maybe I might want to lend the finished corset to a burlesque dancer or performance artist someday so it should be able to stand up to some abuse.
Panel from Swamp Thing 34, “Rite of Spring”, by Bissette and Totleben
When I started planning it I thought it would be all greens, but since then I’ve learned A LOT about color, mostly through my textile artmaking.
So as I worked on it I decided to add oranges and pinks and burgundies and browns. There are even pyrite-colored rhinestuds all over it, though they’re subtle as hell.
The oranges and warm colors make me think of the love story of Alec and Abby in Swamp Thing, and the orange yams that they shared. It’s a story that’s very meaningful to me, and the best story I know about connecting with nature and The Green.
I’m not a huge nature person, but I love natural symbology and motifs. Working with these colors and shapes really nourished my William Morris heart!
I’m pretty thrilled with the finished corset.
I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with it yet. It feels like a work about nature, and pagan things, and fae things, appropriate to Midsummer. There’s a Midsummer costume party at House of Red Doors in July, and I might wear it to that. I might loan it out for photo shoots, if I found someone trustworthy who wanted to shoot it and they had a model who fit it. I might show it somewhere if there was a show it worked for. Who the hell knows, I just needed to make it, and I’m so glad it’s finally done, almost ten years after I started planning it!
I’ll get better pix of me wearing it soon, with the jewelry and crowns I made to go with it 🙂
*everything you could ever need to know about buying and wearing a corset is here on Lucy’s website. This amazing young woman has created a resource for the corset community that is beyond price. There is info about the relative measurements of OTR and RTW brands, a corset database to guide you in your purchase, and so much more. We love Lucy!
Here’s some of the drawings I’ve made while travelling about Berlin this month.
In Berlin, where dogs are allowed on the subway at all times, dogs understand about missing or catching the train. They actually hustle to get to the doors before they close. Which I find just amazing.
There are maps on the ceiling of the subway cars, which is sensible!
I am doing so much experimenting with tone, pattern and value areas in these unterwegs. They are my safe space to expand my style and way of documenting things.
This drawing was made from a quick mental snapshot.
I glimpsed this woman wearing the HELL out of a jersey wrap dress, with great hair style, as she hustled for the M10 in Friedrichshain. I was going to the U1, and I got on the train and then realized I had no pencil or even a ballpoint for the sketch I usually do before putting down ink. However I did have a white conte crayon stick and I used that to quickly rough in the gesture and forms. You can see the faint traces of white lines if you look carefully. I could have pimped it up later with background and tone and white highlights, but I just liked the simple lines so much.
Here’s a crazy little bug embroidery piece I made during 20 hours of waiting around the hospital while my hub got a cyborg upgrade.
I embroidered this on a cut-open green netting bag that some holiday ornaments I bought at Anthropologie for 75% off in 2001 came in.
Unbelievably, when I unpacked the holiday ornaments for our first Christmas tree here, these never-used items were there, still in their bags.
My materials hoarding seemed insane for so long. But now I have better health, a perfect workspace and the support of my Patrons.
I’m whipping through all my old art supplies and long-awaited projects!
I am like a cross between Smaug and Divine.
i got this rainbow glitter vinyl for a Pride project but it did not arrive in time. That is ok! I will still make a thing with it!
Embroidering on net, mesh or tulle is wonderful because it’s so easy and restful on the hand. Since I was working with the demon metallic embroidery thread, that was important!
Most metallic embroidery thread, including these two greens that were leftover from my Green Beaded Corset project “kit”, frays as it is drawn through fabric.
It frays and breaks and makes you crazy. Waxing it is supposed to help but I’ve always feared the wax would attract dust after or not be archival. However using it on netting is a breeze. In the picture you can see I’m cutting the completed bug free of the netting. I glued some extra layers of netting on the back after I finished embroidering to add structural strength.
The outline is done in my beloved Black Pearl Rico Metallic Stickgarn, which never makes a fuss and behaves impeccably on any fabric.
I have been incredibly inspired by the couture embroidery work of Lyudmila Plotnikova, a Russian textile artist.
You can see her work below. In addition to being technically skilled at a level I can only dream of (in my dreams of going to grad school for textile arts), it is much subtler and less lurid than my efforts! Her eye and hand are equally exquisite.
Jewelled embroidered insect brooch by Lyudmila Plotnikova, June 2017
She does things with materials that constantly innovate and extend the form.
She has brilliant new ideas about embroidery in three dimensions, like Michele Carragher. You can buy her art here, and hopefully someday I will! Many of her signed, unique pieces are designed to be worn as jewels or brooches. I think of the great European design and craftwork traditions, like Art Nouveau jewelry, when I see her work.
Gallery of bead embroidery art in progress from the Instagram of Lyudmila Plotnikova, 2017
Ms. Plotnikova is also incredibly generous with her process, sharing photos of works in progress. Being able to follow other artists on Instagram is so exhilarating, as much as I hate giving clicks to that pig Zuckerberg.
Here’s a couple good pieces about how women artists connect emotionally with creepy crawlies!
I’ve been working on several bug bricolage projects this month. Here are two finished ones!
The copper paperart cricket seen here was a birthday gift in my forties from the incredible artist and sculptor Aimee Baldwin. I made him this carriage to ride in out of a gilt carriage I got on eBay. Then I made a harness for a metal grasshopper I ordered from some online discounter.
I had this vision before we left the US of an insect-based version of the classic Golden Jubilee or coronation coach models. In my mind’s eye I saw it in our new home, one of the lamps that guided me through the terrors and trials of the move.
I don’t know why it felt so important to me to make this weird thing; I never do.
I had a lot of miniature horse saddlery supplies and thin metallic leather left over from my Snow Queen project.
I had little buckles, silver leather straps and silver cord. It could not go to waste! I covered the side panels of the coach, which were white, with a variety of fine silver leathers and cording trim. Silver rhinestuds added detail. I used antique silver color filigree jewelry findings to tip the ends of the carriage shafts so they fit the grasshopper better. (They still look a little dark, Imma brush them with silver paint to blend them in better just took my silver Sharpie and fixed ’em.)
I made a little silver leather seat pillow with cord trim and scrapbooking brads for the upholstery button-tufting, and filled it with microbeads which work better than any fluffy filling on dollhouse or mini scale.
I made the harness out of silver leather straps. Some of them were silver on the tops but white on the sides, so I colored the sides with a fine-point silver Sharpie. It worked great!
When you have all your tools readily to hand it’s so easy to take care of the details!
The new jewel bug shadowbox is lined with green dragonfly brocade scraps left over from a corset made years ago by Mina LaFleur.
I buy the jewelled insect brooches on eBay using a simple system: they have to have free shipping and I will bid up to $2.00. If the bidding goes over $2, too bad. So it takes a while to accumulate a batch for a shadow box but after all it’s not like I’m in a hurry.
I’m working on slowly increasing the pink accents in the Gothic Rococo salon, so I searched specifically for pink bug brooches this time.
If the bug brooch arrives with any colors that don’t coordinate well, I tint the enamel or rhinestones with a colored Sharpie. Since they’re going to be in a box, it won’t rub off. I turned white areas pink and yellows to pale green for this one.
To attach the backing fabric to the board in the shadowbox I use UHU “Extra Allekleber”, my Germany dupe for my beloved Quik Grip (formerly Quik Grab). It’s an excellent adhesive for fabric to fabric or fabric to anything; it really lets you stretch and shape your fabric to a surface.
The brocade was wrinkled from years of storage but I didn’t bother to press it, just stretched it taut with my UHU. To attach the bugs to the backing board I always use a glue gun. I make little balls of tin foil and attach them to the backs of the bug pins to keep them level. They hide neatly behind wings and keep the brooches stable.
Rafa had been approached by Laura, who runs Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin, and asked to do a painting during the Dr. Sketchy’s session. He suggested I join in, and so I did!
It was a nice day and we had a lovely time!
The theme was Garden of Desire, so of course I had to dress up in some leafy flowery business. I brought a leaf crown for Rafa too. His partner came (her parents were watching their little lad, who you can see in this drawing) and took these great pictures.
Isn’t it amazing how two artists can create such different works, on the same theme in the same amount of time?
I love Rafa’s style so much. He used these acrylic paint markers, which he got at the graffiti store (we have two in Berlin!) and which I had never seen before.
I also snuck inside the (gorgeous, historic, old school cabaret) venue and did drawings of the last two poses.
The tables have these telephones you can use to call the bar and order a drink, and apparently they still work though a bit crackly. The globes light up, of course! Ballhaus Berlin is simply a mad spectacular place to hold a drawing session.
The models, lighting, props, set and music were amazing.
Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin is a seriously nice event, going strong for over seven years, and I absolutely plan to make the next one. Hopefully next year I’ll actually make some of the performances at Berlin Burlesque Week. I know I missed some fantastic ones. Darn lack of spoons. More spoons next year!
Here is a lovely photo Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin House Photographer Nina Zimmermann took of all of us!
photo by Nina Zimmermann from DrSketchys Berlin May 2017
Here is hostRah Hell, playing an obscure Amanda Palmer song on her amazing ukulele that has travelled all over the world with her and has more stickers than the bathroom at Urban Spree! You can see another drawing of her performing in DonutHearthere.
This is Luke Smoke, who sang songs I could not understand, but certainly enjoyed.
Later he put on a huge red wig but sadly I did not draw that.
Out of nowhere, Joe from Chicago, who used to live around the corner from Lagari where the Boogie is, appeared.
He is a mad fucking talent on the piano, a fantastic fucking entertainer, and being a Chicago guy he fucking swears like me, a fucking New Yorker. You can see us all freak out on this video Rah took.
There were many other performers, and I wish I could have drawn them all.