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.
This time at Vaudeville Variety Revue, I got to come to the Wintergarten early for dress rehearsal.
I mostly drew the performers practising, as seen with the aerial duo LIttle Finch at the bottom of this page. But I did also capture a couple of special moments in the empty venue.
I don’t know why Sheila Wolf, the event’s producer, has a floating robot shark.
It looked really cool though! As did everyone who wrangled it.
Previous drawings from this event here and here, and more to come as soon as I get a second to finish them! Having the extra hours of dress rehearsal really gave me time to get into each performer’s style.
Another amazing edition, the sixty-somethingth, of Berlin’s superb Dr. Sketchy’s.
Once again at beautiful Ballhaus Berlin, with the theme of Victorian Spiritualists, two days before Halloween. Fantastic models, fabulous theme, gorgeous venue. Does it get any better?
Yes, cause lots of my very talented badass-drawing colleagues from ESDIP Berlin were on hand and we set up at a table and just blew the roof off the place with our drawing powers.
Not gonna lie, my goal when I go to an event like this is to draw better, faster and more confidently than any man there, including my valued colleagues.
Here in Berlin, where many people who attend drawing events can draw like hell, it’s the kind of challenge I can set my teeth into.
In San Francisco I was always the best draftsman in the room; here I gotta fight hard for that, and it is food for my soul. I locked into pure flow state very early on and spent the whole session riding the armature of my training and abilities. When this happens I watch myself work effortlessly, the only challenge being to trust what’s happening. I really hit the mainline at the end.
Look at this straight up Leyendecker shit. I drew it in ten minutes.
Lots more drawings coming soon. Check my insta for previews and the Dr. Sketchys Berlin insta for lotsa cool art!
Thank you LaLaVox and Le Pustra for another incredible night! What a gift you give us!
And thanks to my Patrons on Patreon whose financial support makes it possible for me to go to events like this and draw like hell!
As a longtime fan of beautiful alternative model and burlesque performer Miss Mosh, I had always wanted to draw her. Sheila Wolf, the producer of Berlin’s fabulous Vaudeville Variety Revue, was kind enough to have me as her guest again.
This time I got to come five hours early and draw the dress rehearsal! It was wonderful to be in the beautiful Wintergarten Berlin when it was mostly empty; I got to take a really good look at all the gorgeous details. And I was able to make preliminary sketches of the performers and get a sense of their movements.
Here is Mosh using a screwdriver to adjust the struts of her enormous feather fans.
Like most beautiful famous people I have met in person, Mosh is tiny!
She is like a little absinthe fairy you can imagine perching on a wrought iron balustrade. And yet also, like most performers I’ve met, plainly and obviously strong as hell. She appeared onstage in an oyster silk playsuit and ballet flats, with her hair in rollers, and lit up the stage. I always want to draw dress rehearsal now, it is the best! You can see my drawings from the previous Vaudeville Variety Revue here! More from this one coming soon.
Thank you Sheila Wolf for your hospitality, Miss Mosh for your kindness, and my beautiful Patrons on Patreon for providing the financial support that makes it possible for me to make this work!
My mother was born in Scotland, and we are both wiry Scots thistles, determined and resilient.
As I was making this work, my first fully-scratch embroidery piece in a couple months, I was astonished at how much becoming interdisciplinary has improved my art.
Working in mixed media, textiles and sculpture has given me a confidence and freedom around using color in my paintings I never had before.
And working on all these different types of projects has allowed me a priceless feeling of flexibility and relaxation with my composition.
I was so rigid and so afraid when I first went to Parsons at seventeen. I used a six-zero Rapidograph to draw, and when I was supposed to do collage or sculpture projects I would stubbornly insist on making them figurative and realist.
Abstraction terrified me. It still does!
But practising disciplines of the decorative arts has given me trust in my own ability to makes shapes and patterns.
My mom watched me working on this and said, “You just sew it on there without any kind of pattern or reference?” I said, “Yup!” Artistic freedom is delicious.
I made this portrait of her at Cafe Bilderbuch in Schöneberg. We were having coffee. We love coffee! This is the first time I tried black ballpoint on the Canson Toned Gray paper, and I really enjoyed using a ballpoint on that surface.
It’s a heavy paper that feels smooth to the touch, yet accepts a lot of pigment from pastels, which usually need a surface with tooth. I added oil pastel and chalk pastel when we got home.
Cat supervisors were on hand.
Our horrible Morgan and adorable Viviane enjoyed their time with Grandma, who is a Cat Person of the highest order, very much. Morgan hardly even bit her.
This embroidered bug was finished a while back, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.
Then i decided a shadow box was the way to go. I used lots of assorted bits of lace, beads and real plants plus a background of dragonfly satin and I love the way it came out.
This lightning heart was started at the same time as this piece.
It’s a callback to a piece called “Fist Heart Mighty Dawn Dart” that was purchased as a gift for a beloved friend-muse-patron by their partner.
I bought a jean jacket and embellished it with a collage of sequined appliques.
There are three pieces that make up the back, fitted together similar to how I did this floral embroidery leather jacket. The front has a sequined star, bullion stars, metal star studs and bug appliques I enhanced with black thread. I’m pretty thrilled with how it came out!
Portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux before bifurcation by Suzanne Forbes, Oct 17 2017
I finished my biggest painting in like twelve years!
At 30″ by 80″ (76cm by 204cm), these conjoined canvases form a fine large surface. I could have gone the traditional route, setting my sitters deep within the pictorial space with plenty of air around them. But I wanted something more demanding of my abilities and more interrogative of the viewer, a compressed space with an exploded perspective that tips the viewer into the painting’s world.
Into the dangerous, powerful air breathed by artists Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux.
I set up the perspective of the picture with the idea that Sadie and Jo should take up as much space in it as possible.
At some point in the 90s I read a quote from Roseanne Barr, where she advised young actresses to “take up as much space as you possibly can.”
I think this is a great idea for women, to just occupy space with our presence and authority and strength and certainty, and in Sadie’s case, coiled professional menace.
I had done a painting that utilized an exploded perspective in 2005, the portrait of Khris Brown that is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever done (below right).
I approached the portrait I did of Rah Hell this summer the same way, opening and flattening the pictorial space to force the viewer to acknowledge her carelessly confident drummer’s body (below left). Our Art Nouveau herringbone wood floors work even better for distorting the perspective than the floors in my Berkeley Craftsman did.
To get the exaggerated foreshortening of my model’s forms, I simply alternate between sitting and standing with the easel very close to the model.
Then I make decisions about scale and positioning, as described in the previous post, and position one foot to break the frame, my signature! This is a straightforward way of suggesting that the power of the woman in the portrait can’t be contained by the picture plane. And it also references my career in comics and my love for comic panel design.
You can see here how close I was to the model chair.
During the long third sitting, Sadie and Jo and I talked about art and sex and power.
Sadie and I reminisced about the wonderful Oughts’-era climate for sex-positive kinky art in San Francisco. We talked about the many performances and shows we did for Madison Young’s queer art gallery Femina Potens and the events, like Sadie’s birthday party, at the Center For Sex and Culture. For a while the background of the painting looked like the Leather Pride Flag!
Jo, who is a photographer, told us an amazing story of when she met Nan Goldin.
The whole process of making the painting has been nourishing and strengthening, a collaborative meeting of minds and talents. Sadie and Jo both brought their A game to the work, serving tremendous presence and face and great physical stamina.
After the final sitting I dug in and sorted out the background and details. As much as I liked the Leather Pride colors, I wanted to paint the realistic space of my salon, to ground the figures in a real world and place the viewer in it with them.
I adjusted the perspective of the floor over and over, to give the immanence I wanted to Sadie and Jo.
And I repainted Jo’s hands like a million times, so they would only be substantial artist’s hands, not disorientingly large! I had fun painting the Autumn goddess head-dresses of leaves and rosehips Jo and Sadie wore to Folsom Europe for a performance this year.
I very carefully composed the shadows at Sadie’s feet to guide the eye to the vicious tip of her singletail, which actually is the dark blue and black colors I painted it.
I gave Jo a branch to hold because I was like, “Needs moar witch!” Once the details were done, it was time to separate the two canvases for transport to Ludwig, where they will be shown. I didn’t know what would happen once they were separated; the painting looked finished and resolved with them conjoined but….
With the canvases separated, the blue background wall panel behind Jo (right side) became a dead space!I had to activate it visually with shadows.
Which was good, really, as it made the unused pink velvet boudoir chair more significant. I like to include pink velvet furniture, like my sadly lost dustyrosevelvetmodel’sarmchair, in my paintings. Not only is pink velvet a great visual reference to pussy, it references a powerful moment in my experience as an artist.
In 1993 I went to Philadelphia with my first husband. We went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where we saw the Cornells, Duchamp’s Étant donnés and the Degas known as both“Interior”and “The Rape”. I can’t begin to describe the impact that group of works had on me, but I can tell you the most important thing I carried away: that women need to make paintings of women.
For decades I have been both inspired by the great male painters and furious that men have made most of the great paintings of women.
My spiritual master as an artist, John Singer Sargent, was not sexually involved with women. He made pictures of them as beings. Numinous, sensual, prickly, elegant, fearless beings. I am hoping in the next few years to really move into my abilities as a painter, and to begin painting women with all the strength I see in them.
It really helps to make big paintings, when you want to depict strength and grace, and I hope this diptych is a step towards that.
This work was made possible by the generosity of my Patrons on Patreon, who contribute monthly support to enable me to make art. I am so, so grateful.
FInally had a minute to finish the last of the drawings I made at Folsom Europe. I really enjoyed my time there.
It was a very comfortable and relaxed scene. On my way in I saw what I thought for a moment was security frisking backpacks. Then I realized it was just a group of uniform fetish players looking for their beer or gear or something!
Folsom Europe really shines with Tom of Finland archetypes.
Because I was a child in Chelsea in the 70s, I really love the classic leather daddy and uniform looks. It feels like being wrapped in a warm blanket to see gay men rocking the old school Christopher St Clone style.
However there were also plenty of casually dressed lovers just sporting crew socks and sweats, as seen in the first picture!
I was very casual myself, unlike my friend Sadie Lune who wore gorgeous high leather regalia and an Autumn goddess headpiece, which inspired the big diptych of her and her girlfriend Jo Pollux I just finished. You can see my previous Folsom Europe posts here: