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.
And I wanted to work with Sacred Hearts, the symbol of hope and faith.
I learn so much from beloved artist Monique Motil, aka @z0mbique, about how working with mystic powerful symbols gives you creative juice. So I used bricolage and upcycle principles to make these collage embroidered Sacred Hearts or Ex Votos.
The hearts in the center are beaded patches I bought on eBay for a couple of euros.
I sewed them to some of the last scraps of an iridescent blue-violet panne violet I bought two yards of in 1999 and have used for innumerable projects. I made the orange and blue flames out of the last pieces of some vintage velvet flowers bought at Lacis in Berkeley, also in ’99.
Then I embroidered around them with my favorite Rico Metallic thread, the Holy Grail of metallic embroidery thread.
I sewed on iridescent and AB Swarovski bicone crystal beads and added hundreds of Swarovski crystals in many, many colors. I attached some of my new blue oil slick iridescence titanium druzy crystal beads with invisible thread. I painted the frame by rubbing it with deep madder paint, then gold paint, then tapping silver leaf onto the still tacky gold paint.
The shiny red string was saved from a gift I received – I save all my gift ribbons and bows for projects.
Like the embroidery collage jacket I did last month, this kind of collage/bricolage embroidery is a low-impact, flexible project anyone could do. I love how in the top picture the fiery heart coordinates with my sketchbook-carrying sack, a 50th-birthday gift from Daria! I plan to sew a LOT in September, along with the million new events and teaching, so I’ll finish the blue flame lightning heart soon.
There’s something physical about the way they have to lean into the instrument, its spinelike flexibility, that just blows my mind. It’s like they have a person in their lap and they are squeezing music out of them!
So when Dirk Rave came onstage at Ludwig the other night with his accordion i was delighted to draw him. Amazingly, after I wrote the above, I went to his website to add the link, and guess what I read???!
“The proportion of the instrument can not be underestimated: the accordion breathes. This makes it the ideal partner of a singing man, whether it is a baroque, a pop song or a classic French chanson.”
So I was right! It is about the physicality and proportions of the accordion, it adds a unique dimension to a performance! Isn’t that cool, that Dirk and I share this notion and didn’t even know it?
Dirk performed several of his original compositions, then was joined by Danish tenor Mads Elung-Jensen.
They were GREAT! You can see them perform together yourself here. It was a performance way the hell out of the league of a quiet Thursday night in Neukölln, exactly the kind of unexpected miracle Berlin specializes in.
I wanted to use only grey tones, because I worry that I’m in danger of developing laziness around values from using pink and umber. I knew I had to be careful to leave the open space of the kraft paper as a value and that I needed deep darks to convey the night-time feel of the bar. I could just barely wrangle it all together, and it devolved for a bit.
Sargent said that if you control the midtones you control the painting.
I am working on midtones, trying to use them more effectively. Since I developed my entire style of drawing to be reproducible black and white linework for comics, that’s challenging to me. I still find spotting hard blacks is helpful when the drawing isn’t reading clearly.
Having a true peer that you see and work with often is so crucial to artists.
Dariais such an important part of my growth as an artist here in Berlin. It’s her voice I hear in my head when I want to overwork a drawing, and her voice I heard tonight saying, “When in doubt, add more black!”.
For the second drawing I kept it simpler, leaving more of the paper surface open. While pattern and value ensure it reads easily, it doesn’t have the same night-time feel. My next sketchbook is going to be a Canson grey tone pad. Sargent painted on canvases toned with a cool grey midtone, and I am excited to try using pastels to work on that kind of base! Wow, the 50th-birthday gift of greyscalemarkers from my beloved friend-muse-PatronClear really opened the drawing door for me!
My Trans Dino-Witch is finished at last! I’ve been working on her all month.
She was a huge project for such a small work!
I am thrilled to have finished her and she gives me strength. I hope other folks will find strength in her too.
Look at those pathetic, evil Neo-Nazis running away from her mighty teeth!
Look at her group of friends who are riding along on her back to support her and enjoy the mayhem!
I made their tiny colored hair out of nail flocking powder, way cheaper than fancy “craft” flocking powder. You can get a set of 10 colors on eBay for a euro.
She is a companion work to my Pride piece, Queer Dino-Witch, which I made last month.
It was harder to make her, because I had some harder feelings. I realized while making her that I often connect deeply with trans women partly for a very sad reason.
Most of the trans women I know have C-PTSD from repeated, systemic sexual violence, as I do.
Although my Trans Dino Witch is a work about Neo-Nazis, the despicable Alt-Right, I can’t make art about trans folk without thinking about the other kinds of attacks they suffer.
During the making of this piece the Orange Shitclown lashed out violently at transfolk.
He announced (on twitter, of course) that he intended to ban trans people from serving in the US military. Just yesterday he signed a formal memo. Since trans people have been serving with honor in the US military since at least 1862, lots of luck running the armed forces without them.
Also during the making of this piece, Chelsea Manning built a rainbow army of loving, celebrating followers who just won’t stop being brave and kind.
My generation of comic artists was so inspired by Jeffrey Catherine Jones and her commercial and comics artwork that always transcended the commercial. I hope she would like this tribute.
Catherine is a work built on a legacy of artists who inspire me. First, the incredible sculptor and assemblage artist Elizabeth McGrath. In 2005 I saw her show Altarwise By Owl Light at Billy Shire Fine Arts in Culver City.
She is the artist who opened my eyes to the power of modern assemblage and pop-surrealist artists. Her works are creepy, adorable, mythological and emotionally meaningful.
And some of them have little railroad miniature people in them! And they’re full of fake fur and Swarovski crystals and weird shit she found somewhere! And they’re like being hit in the heart with a bus.
So finally using tiny railroad people in a piece is my tribute to Liz McGrath.
I was also very influenced by the constant miniature close-ups on the Instagram feed of Jake and Dinos Chapman. The group of works by these YBAs called “Hell” is an intensely political anti-Nazi work that took them two years to complete and used 60,000 toy soldiers.
I decided to do dinosaur witches for Pride because of Mab Graves‘ DinoKitty show at Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans this year.
I thought, Dino-Kitties! That’s a fine idea. I wonder why you never hear about Dino-Witches…
Mab Graves has been hugely inspiring to me as an artist who never apologizes for making paintings, illustrations, sculptures (in a craft-identified medium iike needle felt!), commercially produced prints and diffusion line mass produced t-shirts all at once.
I love that she gets to make unique fine art objects and show them at the national level and sell melamine plates in her Etsy store.
She controls it all and completely owns her brand, despite enduring years of suffering from endometriosis, which she has been courageously transparent with her fan base about. Inspiring as fuck! I can’t work as hard as she does, but I am working as hard as I can.
Seeing those clear, bright flag stripes pass by in my Instagram feed day after day – seems like queer people are playing a lot of baseball lately, or something – is surprisingly comforting.
I give back 10% of my Patreon income to young queer and trans cartoonists and comic artists. Scout is one of them. So is Sam Orchard. Because fuck, the only people who have a harder and shittier time making a living as artists (especially as comic artists) than women are trans people.
My Patrons made it possible for me to spend fifty hours sculpting, painting and dressing Catherine. I hope she gives back some strength and inspiration.
Wow, I have made SO MUCH ART this month! Thank you, amazing Patreon Patrons, for making this possible.
Here are some more drawings from the Anita Berber Salon Session of Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin. Above, Bridge Markland portraying Anita Berber amid a group of young women drawing. The life drawing scene in Berlin is absolutely being taken over by women!
For this one I pulled out my Winsor & Newton Series 7 Sable No. #7, which I have kept and cared for since I bought it when I was a student at Parsons in 1984. It is beat to shit but still shakes out to a nice point and holds a wash like nobody’s business. I haven’t done a wash drawing in decades and have no ink, so I used a bit of black acrylic (bad! don’t use acrylic on a sable brush!). It came out lovely I think! The craft paper isn’t sturdy enough to hold up to a wash so I had to press the drawing under a bunch of my doorstop Rose Levy Beranbaum cookbooks after.
Here’s another drawing of the amazing Bridge, illuminating beautiful Cafe Kalwil with her classic art modelling chops.
Alfred Ladylike posed for Natascha Artworx as her human canvas.
Natascha was wearing an amazing art dress she had customized and painted. The person who owned the dress was getting divorced and planned to burn it, and it got turned into art instead!
Miss Natasha Enquist posing and Alfred Ladylike as human canvas for Natascha Artworx, Aug. 19 2017
30 minute portrait of Miss Natasha Enquist by Suzanne Forbes and the Fluid Gallery at Ludwig Berlin, Aug. 19 2017
The finished 30 minute portrait of Miss Natasha Enquist, above.
We gave out free raffle tickets and raffled it off at the end of the night! Free art! And there was even a secret surprise performance by Alfred! Her Donut Heart bandmateRah Hell was represented in portraiture by both myself and Natascha, and performed the raffle ticket drawing. What a heavenly evening.
My infinite thanks to Suzanne Wegh and Natascha Artworx for managing this event. If you’d like to help support their creative work, here’s Suzanne’s Patreon and Natascha’s Patreon. Visit Miss Natasha Enquist’s Spotify here and Donut Heart on bandcamp here.
It 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.
I 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.
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!
Seriously, nukes could fly any second. The world is ON FIRE because of some dimwitted psychopaths. Life has returned to 80’s conditions, a world of “tomorrow I’ll ____, unless nukes. Thursday I’ll _____, unless nukes.”
And yet, I am full of joy, and I got to see an amazing show, and I made art.
“Teckel” means “dachshund” and there has never been a bar as dachshund-themed as Posh Teckel ever in the history of the world.
It is pretty damn delightful, and also it is a bar that cares a lot about music. It is smaller than our flat but charming. The music sounded great. Alfred performed a few songs but I only made one drawing because it was entirely red and dark and very, very hot in the music part of the bar!
Luckily the music space cooled off a bit as the evening went on. I asserted my needs and dragged in a bar chair to sit on in front of the stage. No-one minded. It’s Berlin, we do what we like.
Then Moldover played and wow he is a crackerjack musician and terrific live performer.
He was really just extremely good. I knew pretty much nothing about controllerism, or that Moldover is known worldwide as the Godfather of Controllerism. But I know musicians, and I know performers, and I was just thrilled to see such a terrific show out of the blue on a Thursday night in Berlin when we might all die in a nuclear firestorm tomorrow.
Boy howdy, I sure hope I get to go back and read this six months from now and say “wasn’t it scary, thank heavens things are better now.”
Because this is the sweetest and brightest and most joyful and meaningful my life has ever been and I’m drawing like blue hot holy hell. I headed home at midnight; I stopped at our all-night bistro to get ice-cream. Mango eis in the velvet dark and coolness of the summer night, our neighborhood still quietly bustling. I was so happy I scared the cats my husband by dancing in the front door. It would be a shame to get radiation sickness at a time like this.
Anyway, If you like me going around and documenting Berlin life and art, you can help make it possible by supporting me on Patreon. It’s easy and you can pledge as a little as a buck a month; I’ll be thrilled! Moldover has a Patreon too and is on bandcamp and boththose corporations are being pretty decent world citizens, as corporations go, so far. So you could go support this fine musician here on Patreon (I did!) or buy his music and music devices on bandcamp. And watch this video, where Moldover wears a tinfoil jumpsuit and performs inside a giant computer chip.
Or maybe he’s really tiny? Whichever, check it out.
Droste 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.”
The session was in the very elegant salon setting of queer space Cafe Kalwil on Berlin’s historic gay boulevard Motzstraße.
Since 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!
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.