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.
Now we’re at the stage where I make serious refinements to scale and positioning.
You can see I’ve scaled down Jo’s body significantly and adjusted the room and furnishings as well. I made her enormous hands much smaller, although enormous hands are cool! I had made them so large I had to repaint them twice to get them normal size 🙂
One foot of at least one model always breaks the frame in every one of my portraits, and it was best if it was Sadie’s new Fleuvog boot, so I moved Jo’s knee and feet back.
You can see the previous pass of post sitting work above, the color clarification pass where I clean up muddy colors from the first sitting.
And the first sitting, which I painted almost entirely with sponges from the euro store and sponge brushes, in 2.5 hours.
Toy customizers, please note that I was able to preserve full shoulder and waist articulation under the miniature clothing. Use of stretch fabrics and gluing the clothes only to strategic, rigid areas of the figure allow her a full range of posability.
Like most of the toy industry, amazing toy company Mezco (who I love and have supported since their beginnings with Silent Screamers in 2000) has a gender problem. They make dolls, and have from the early days: they make Living Dead Dolls.
They also make action figures, and since 2015, they’ve been combining the two with the 1:12 Collective, a 6″ (DOLLHOUSE) scale line of action figures with cloth clothing. (In action figure parlance, dolly clothes are called “cloth applications”.) They started slow, with a Frank Miller Dark Knight Batman (red flag? more likely the chunky design was an easy pilot project).
Then in 2016 they started releasing a cavalcade of fantastic cloth-costumed takes on the heavy hitters of the Marvel and DC universes, plus Classic Trek! These figures are unreal. They are crazy good. For 2017 they announced even more upcoming licenses and figures. Ghostbusters, Space Ghost, Universal Monsters and more. But there was only one planned female figure announced in 2016 – Harley Quinn.
Once she was announced, I thought we’d see a wave of female figures. In 2017, as the success of the Wonder Woman movie exploded on mainstream media, they announced a 1:12 Wonder Woman. But neither Harley Quinn or WW have shipped yet.
And no other female figures have been announced, despite the release of multiple male Classic Trek figures and Marvel heroes AND villains. *cough*Uhura*cough*Storm*. Know who is expected to ship by December? The Red Skull. Who is the Red Skull? He is a fucking Nazi.
That’s right, 1:12 toy collectors will get a NAZI before Wonder Woman.
As a woman, as a comics fan and former DC comics professional, as a serious lifelong toy collector, I gotta say, the optics are bad.
Do better, Mezco. Do better, toy industry.
Meanwhile, guess I gotta make my own action figures with doll clothes “cloth applications”. Been plunging into male-dominated spaces since I became a graffiti writer in 1980, a hardcore comics fan in 1984 and a comics pro in 1993. Been genderqueering the toy space since the 1970s, when me and my best friend Bradley played with my Dawn Dolls. Not gonna stop, despite Nazis.
See my mini projects that use similar techniques here:
She played a set you can check out here and also my favorite cover, “The Cat Came Back”. She got down and twerked and waggled her cock at the audience. You might have thought it was pretty transgressive for a mainly-gay-men event, but the crowd loved it!
And I was surrounded by big, buff leathermen who were cheering Miss Natasha on and saying incredibly nice and supportive things about my drawings.
She told jokes about working in a house in New York, which I was greatly entertained by. It took me back to the 80s when my friends worked at a house in the Meatpacking District. She was wearing a bespoke latex gown from The Baroness!
I will have to get the name of the very young and very funny woman with the ukulele.
She was hilarious and pretty shocking!
See more drawings of Miss Natasha Enquist here and here and more Folsom Europe here.
This Sunday I started a big new portrait of my dear friend Sadie Lune and her wonderful partner Jo.
This is my first diptych painting. It is being done on two canvases, which will be hung together or separately at the choice of my curator Thorsten at @ludwig.berlin when we show the works in early October!
Sadie is wearing her beautiful black leather Alexandra corset by @darkgardencorsetry. Jo, a photographer, is wearing a marvelous outfit of a little ruffled white dress and a cage harness of black elastic, which I will paint in at the next sitting. And they will have Autumn headdresses of rosehips!
I have wanted to paint Sadie since I met her at “Nude Aid”, an art benefit for the Center for Sex and Culture, in 2007. She is an artist, performer, sex worker and activist and has marvelous style and presence. The day I met her she was working as both artist and model as she often does. She was wearing a cloche, I remember it so vividly!
As the drawings were all sold that day for a fundraiser, I don’t have a picture of it, alas.
We talked that day about a portrait collaboration, but with our busy, frantic, community-focussed, subsistence working lives as Bay Area artists, we were never able to make it happen in the US.
I did make several drawings of her at events, like the one above of her at her birthday party (also at the CSC) in a latex dress. That party was full of amazing performances, like Jiz Lee and Syd Blakovich doing a work from their Twincest collaboration with blood-drinking and fisting.
Sadie invited the audience to use her body as a canvas for “birthday bites” and we all decorated her with bite marks!
Suzanne Forbes drawing at Midori’s “Taken” performance at Femina Potens/ Photo by Zille Defeu Sept 29 2010
We both were constantly donating time and arttofundraisersforthesex-positive and queer artcommunity in the Bay Area in 2006-2010. My policy for five years was, if someone in the community asked me for any art or art labor, I said yes. So we were doing the same events in the scene all the time. Here’s another shot of me drawing at another Art of Restraint. You can see my red flowered head in this one from another Nude Aid. These events were so beautiful and magical, so queer and body-positive and great for community resources. They didn’t leave us as much time for personal projects as we would have liked, though!
Sadie moved to Berlin years before anyone else I knew, and was a great inspiration to me.
She was tremendously helpful in the year before we moved here, providing critical advice about how to prepare for life here and apply for an artist’s visa. (By the way I was granted a two-year artist’s visa of my own on August 28th!)
It has taken us until now to sort out doing a portrait at last, because we both face health challenges and Sadie has a little one, who is now four.
And that’s fine. It takes time to come together for personal-project portraits.
it took a year to schedule and another two years to finish the sittings for my portrait of Midori, for example!
I believe it always happens at exactly the right time.
I’ve been working on this corset project all month; hand-applying hundreds of Swarovski crystals is the most time-consuming way of adding magic I know of. And I’m waiting for some sky-blue Venise lace to arrive from England, then I think it will be finished fairly quickly.
Meanwhile, look what happened when I set it down on my work table next to my asthma med diskus and the wrapper from a MIlka chocolate bar I had just finished eating.
I got the idea to do this corset at this point in time because a couple of pieces I wrote this summer led me to a new understanding about myself.
I realized, living in the Bay Area, I’d committed a lot of queer erasure on my own life.
Being in the sex-positive, kink and queer community, I was surrounded by people who were living an out and proud life. All around, people were living and loving all genders, and there I was dating all these men. I felt like as a person who hadn’t had sex with a girl in this century, I was a “retired” bisexual. I often referred to myself as “the straightest person I know.”
Even when I had sex with a girl – a girl half my age! in a coffin that was in a dumpster full of dirt! on a street in SoMA! being livestreamed onto a nearby building for a watching crowd! for a sex artproject!- in 2010, I still felt like people would call me straight.
It did not occur to me that a straight person does not make a split-second decision to have public, filmed strap-on sex with a same-sex acquaintance.
Or that a straight person probably wouldn’t have had a harness and a purple dildo in the trunk of her car. (What? I worked for a website that reviewed sex toys!)
I even made Rahne and Dani fan art and when I posted it on Instagram the director followed me!!
Then I made this puppyplay fan art because fan art is a slippery slope!
My joy helped me remember that I am a person who has loved women deeply and been lovers with women.
The fact that I have married three men doesn’t change that. As I did some more writing and sorting of archives this summer, I connected with my memories of so many young loves.
I was incredibly blessed and fortunate to live my teens with my mom. I lived in New York City, where I could – and did- kiss my girlfriends on the street.
I identified very clearly and strongly as bisexual from age thirteen, and because both my parents were queer-friendly, I never felt the slightest discomfort about it. I realise what a privilege that is, especially in the 80s. Or even now.
i want to honor the loves I’ve had, and doing a very detailed and meticulous project of fabulous, excessive beauty seems a good way.
The endless hours it takes to hand-sew lace appliques, to apply hundreds of crystals, is a kind of meditation and awareness. The finished corset will be perfect to wear to events like Pride, the Lesbian and Gay Festival, and Christoper St. Day.
For now, here’s a story about just how queer I am.
My second exhusband was from Australia. In Australia, as in England, dairy cream comes in different types than in the US. The first time my exhb saw American “heavy” cream, he was appalled. “What is this runny shit?!!” He couldn’t believe we didn’t have Double Cream. He raved about how rich and delicious and thick and silky it was.
So when we went to Australia the first time, he wanted to make sure I tried some proper cream. We sorted it on a day trip in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. We were nearly in the countryside, driving, and stopped at a roadside antique store/teahouse. It was as cute and dainty a little cafe as you could possibly imagine. We went inside and ordered an afternoon tea, with scones and little sandwiches and of course, double cream.
It was a weekday, mid-afternoon, and the little cafe was filled with elderly ladies. There were actual lace curtains. The waitress brought the tea service and set down an etagere of scones. She put a little ramekin of creamy, gleaming cream on the table. I picked it up and licked it.
I’ve never been comfortable with dogs or known how to interact with them and I’m always a little scared of them. However back when my art business cratered in the Great Recession and I went back to work as a barista, I worked at Wicked Grounds. And the puppyplay munches held there transformed my experience of dogs.
I learned to play with human puppies, how to scratch them and throw things for them and yell “Good DOG!”.
Many of the puppies were over 200 pounds, and as they frolicked in the back seating area (we moved the chairs and tables out) they made the old floorboards creak. Their joy and exuberance was so delightful to me.
Luckily my friend Sadie Lune and her partner Jo were there, dressed as amazing Autumn Leather Goddesses, and Sadie told me where to go.
“There is a puppy play area where you can see puppies at play and at rest”, she said with great warmth and affection. And I went there and played with pups and skritched their heads and drew them and they were SO WONDERFUL.
So curious, so alert, watching me draw with great interest, ears cocked.
The puppies in the first picture above were in the play area and were wonderfully friendly and well trained.
Usually human puppies are much better trained than animal puppies, and I’ve rarely had a human puppy jump up, which scares me. Here in Germany the dogs are generally well-trained, whether human or animal, and I feel very safe around them.
The pups in the second picture were more aloof, maybe they were sporting dogs of some kind? They had those sleek racing stripes!
Obviously, Morgan doesn’t like dogs of any kind, so she had to display her dominance over the works in progress!
You can learn more about Smarty the Pup and his adventures here!
These are the last of the drawings from Drink and Draw Berlin’s Secret Society event, all finished up finally!
I took the opportunity to really experiment on these. Things like changing background color, adding large areas of midtones and heavy darks. Using pastels for the midtones and oil pastels to strengthen the blacks gives a really high-contrast image, much faster and more even than using markers.
I feel like I am getting much better at suggesting the atmosphere of dark clubs and parties!
You can see how this approach would have improved a drawing like this one from the Skin Two fashion show in London in 2007. Both the drawings above and the one from ten years ago are times when I don’t have enough time to get good visual information for the background of a scene.
Choosing areas to treat as dark values and midtones gives the scene much more energy and resolution.
I’ve switched from the beige Canson Kraft to a new Canson Toned Grey sketchbook, so I’ll be posting drawings done on an actual grey midtone soon. It’s like a 30% grey; maybe after I finish that sketchbook I’ll try one with black paper!
I went to frontwoman Dawn’s 51st birthday party gig at her favorite Berlin bar, Leydicke. You can’t explain Leydicke; it’s one of those Berlin places that just breathes magic. I had met Dawn at the Donut Heart video release party and liked her very much, and i was excited to hear her music. We are the same age and share much cultural and aesthetic furniture. I missed two of their Berlin gigs this summer due to my ever-present perimenopause health variances, and they are frequently playing in London and soon again touring Japan. It’s hard to get paying gigs for bands in Berlin, whereas in Tokyo serious rock is always in demand.
So I was determined to make this gig in my own part of Berlin, the West. I arrived at midnight, in time for the second set, and it was fantastic. Das Fluff has a sound that is both very modern and very responsive to the era Dawn and I became adults in, the 80s. And it is FILTHY and raging.
The crowd was all ages, as so often in Berlin, and international, and multi-gendered.
Berlin is a dress-down town, so most people were in leather jacket and black jeans mufti, except a couple gorgeous genderqueer belles in gothabilly style.
I was so happy I got to chat briefly with Dawn after the set. There is nothing like talking to a woman your own age, who has as much hard-won experience and personal power as you do. We are both here in Berlin, doing our art in the most truthful and authentic and finally distilled way, after long hiatuses from our work. We are beautiful and strong and staying the course.
There is a story to the woman in her 80s who was rocking out hard to Das Fluff, but I’m not going to tell it. She was there, she was dancing. She is part of the mystery of Leydicke, part of the mystery of Berlin. Sometimes both art and life are long.
Chantal’s House of Shame happens every Thursday, without fail since 1999. It is at the Bassy Club, which is usually a swing/rockabilly kinda place but is taken over by filthy techno and sweaty naked men for Chantal’s. Bassy is kinda divey but also really awesome. It reminded me a little of my beloved Lone Star Cafe in NY.
Miss Natasha appeared on stage at 2am. She was clad in golden sequins like a vision of 30s glamour in the dark club, her shaven head glinting. Then she stripped off her golden batwing gown to reveal a gorgeous gold leather harness and booty shorts outfit she made herself!
A sassy, saucy, sparkling Deco Belle from Outer Space, the electro-accordion chanteuse also accompanied herself on a delightful version of “The Cat Came Back”.
The boys were howling, “NATASHA!! QUEENNNN!!!”
One of them was kind enough to hold his phone over my sketchbook so I could see to draw for Miss Natasha’s entire performance. In all the dark clubs and sex parties and alleys I’ve drawn in, no-one has ever done this before! I really appreciated it.
Why does it have to be so hot in the dance clubs in Berlin? It’s like hot yoga or something. I do not like it, but I was so comfortable at Chantal’s and the boys were all so incredibly nice to me I was able to stand it.
The place was wall-to-wall beautiful young men in peak physical condition, dancing their brains out and smooching.
Everyone was super friendly, I had a lovely talk with a gleaming young god on the sidewalk at 4am about the casting of the upcoming Teen Titans tv show. More cute dancing boy drawings soon!
You can listen to Miss Natasha on Spotify here and on Bandcamp here, and watch a bit of the performance here.