Monthly Archives: December 2017

A New York subway station under a dollhouse in Berlin.

Peter Parker Rogues Gallery in customized action figure subway Suzanne Forbes Dec 2017Earlier this year I discovered that action figure photography is a thing.

Like, a huge thing. There are all these groups on Instagram of guys – it’s only guys, as far as I can tell – taking serious photos of their 6″ (dollhouse) scale action figures. As the toy photography culture has grown, props for it have also become a thing. And a company called Extreme-Sets (which tells you a lot about the dudebro culture of the toy photo groups) has emerged, creating pop-up cardboard sets for your action figure photo shoots.

When they came out with a subway station that had a NYC subway map and a subway car that looked like a classic NY car, I knew I had to have them.

Look at this, you can practically hear Electro saying “Ayy, whaddaya whaddaya?”

But shipping was ruinously expensive. Lucky for me, some friend-muse-patrons were coming to Berlin for Thanksgiving!

Once I opened my new sets, I set about kitbashing them. Kitbashing is a term from the model car world, I believe, that I learned after it found its way into dollhouse culture.

My dollhouse, for example, is a radical kitbash of a standard dollhouse kit.

I trimmed down some elements of the Extreme-Sets station and changed their proportions so it would feel truer to an 80s’-era station.

I customized my station by cutting the panels apart and melding them back together in new forms. That way I could feature the subway map and have the parts of the panels I liked best clearly displayed.

I added a poster for the original Terminator movie. It’s 1984 in my subway station.

I mounted the panels on the deconstructed interior of the IKEA door modules on the bottom center cubbies of my dollhouse, using carpet tape. I spackled the grooves where the panels met and colored the spackle to match.

Customized memorial subway station panels Suzanne Forbes dec 2017Then I tagged the station and the train car with the tags of my 80s graffiti writer boyfriends and people I knew back in the day, and my own tag, with my crew, Acid Writers. I posted what I was working on Instagram, with the hashtag “AcidWriters”. It showed up as an official hashtag, so I browsed through the images, and saw people I recognized.

That’s when I found out another one of my boyfriends from the 80s was dead.

We had a high-risk lifestyle. I don’t know why I had expected he’d be alive. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about what he was doing in many years. There’s so much grief and loss from those days; I don’t borrow trouble. Matt was drinking hard by the time he was twelve.

Making art, and my dollhouse in particular, is a way of processing grief and turning it into tribute.

My dollhouse is a safe house for my memories and stories, a home for all the things that matter. How much I loved Peter Parker and the New Mutants when I was seventeen. The refuge that fantasy books provided, starting with the Narnia books when I was eight. The impossible, inconsolable grief of the death of my best friend and love of my young life at nineteen. The New York we roamed and loved, and the way Berlin recalls it.

Berlin is a recursive, palimpsest city, drilled down deep into the underworld, like New York.It seems completely right to build a tunnel to the past under my dollhouse here, a secret shrine with coded messages.

Stories are the immortality of love, and telling my stories are my tribute to the dead.

 

Last assless chaps of the year!

Dancer at DILF party Club Gretchen Dec 29 2017 by Suzanne ForbesMiss Natasha Enquist was performing at the DILF/Testosterone party at Club Gretchen last night.

I arrived at the club, which is a beautiful venue in old military stables, to find it full of great-looking classic leather daddies in Tom of FInland gear.

Last assless chaps of the year at Club Gretchen Dec 29 2017 by Suzanne ForbesI was a little nervous at first with so many NYC policemen uniforms- anyone who was arrested as often as I was by the NYPD would be!

It was dark and I kept it loose, using mostly broad-tip markers. The club manager came over and gave me a tea towel to put my markers on, so I wouldn’t mark up the white lucite bar – not that I would have!

Miss Natasha Enquist performing at Club Gretchen Dec 29 2017 by Suzanne ForbesMiss Natasha came onstage looking like if Rolls-Royce made hood ornaments for Star Destroyers.

Miss Natasha Enquist performing at Club Gretchen Dec 29 2017 by Suzanne ForbesAs a portraitist, it’s so important to draw the same person over and over. It’s critical to understanding what makes each face, body and library of gestures unique.

You can see I didn’t really get her face right in this picture, or I drew her head too large, but her body is completely right.

The specific is the key to the deep spiritual magic of touching the universal humanity in each of us. And practise and observation is the sacred work of portraitists. I have so enjoyed drawing Miss Natasha this year!

I would have liked to draw some of the DILFs in more detail, but they were all too busy dancing!

I’ll have to wait til the next Cigar Lounge!

MNE dancing at Club Gretchen Dec 29 2017 by Suzanne Forbes

Working with a new muse, Shakrah Yves!

WIP Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes Dec 27 2017There is nothing more thrilling than finding another woman I’m excited to make pictures of!

I met Shakrah at a Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin earlier this year, and immediately did my weird thing of being like “Hi total stranger, can I paint your picture?”.WIP Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes Dec 27 2017

She moved here from San Francisco a couple years ago, and has also lived in New York and Amsterdam.

She is a woman of many talents, including singing 20s and 30s jazz. She has an absolute treasury of gorgeous outfits she has created.

As you all know, an outfit treasury and the costume styling cognizance that goes with is very precious to me in a model!

You can see her singing in one of her marvelous outfits below, and hear her band The Cat’s Meow on bandcamp here.

When Shakrah arrived with her incredible emerald outfit for a planned pastel portrait, I knew I had to commit to the pastels.

Her outfit creation deserves full color. I already had a set of colored pastels in my Amazon cart and had added a bunch of pan pastels to my German Amazon art supplies wishlist. But I had been hesitating.

My childhood dislike of “dust sticks”, my concern that pastels would be…pastel, rather than the dramatic jewel tones and Manet-level darks I like, my fear of working with color and my concerns about my ability to manage color…

all those factors kept me using just black, grey, dark red and umber all year. Here’s what’s left of the sticks I bought early this year! So I’m gonna get some colored pastels and Shakrah and I will reconvene next week.

My US Amazon art supplies wish list is here, I think all the sellers ship to Germany! My 51st birthday is January 8 🙂

*why do you mostly paint women, Suz?

Men are too easy – women’s faces are much harder to capture.

Women’s stories and identities are most important to me in terms of the kind of creative legacy I want to leave.

I value making new woman friends enormously and painting a portrait of a woman I meet who I admire is a great way to get to know new people.

Men are somewhat less likely to have the kind of carefully crafted, creative performative identity (and attire to support it) that interests me.

Happy, happy holidays from your artist friend in Berlin!

Tired elf Miss Natasha Enquist drawn by Suzanne Forbes Dec 24 2017Here is Miss Natasha Enquist resting peacefully in the cozy corner at Ludwig.

This was the last pose of our Women’s Art Lounge, and we all loved it so much we asked her to hold it for an extra twenty minutes. You can see three other woman artists interpreting it in the first post about the Art Lounge.

And for good measure, here are two more elf drawings.

Miss Natasha Enquist elf butt Dec 22 2017 by Suzanne ForbesMiss Natasha Enquist with lights Dec 22 2017 by Suzanne ForbesI wish all of you reading this the happiest holidays, at this beautiful inward-looking time, the turning of the year.

Tango dancers and more, from an amazing holiday party at TangoLoft Berlin.

Holiday party drawings by Suzanne Forbes Dec 14 to 22 2017My husband works for a wonderful company.

And every year the company throws a really terrific holiday party. (They throw parties all year, actually, but the December one is the fanciest!).

Tango dancers at Tango Loft Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Dec 22 2017The venue is always super cool, the food is always FANTASTIC, the music and entertainment is great.

This year’s party was at TangoLoft Berlin, which is soooooo beautiful! They had some of their tango dancers do a demonstration for us, above – I hadn’t drawn the tango in over a decade, and I had to hustle to get it going! Did you know the tango is hugely popular in Berlin?

M and team holiday party Dec 14 2017 by Suzanne ForbesH and I dancing at holiday party Dec 14 2017 by Suzanne ForbesThe theme was 1920s so lots of the guys wore suspenders and bowties, which is a great look!

I actually cried with happiness while I was drawing at one point during this party, because I am so incredibly grateful that my hard-working guy works for good people after all the evil startup asshats he worked for in the Bay.*R and S dancing at holiday party by Suzanne Forbes Dec 14 2017

Guest at holiday party by Suzanne Forbes Dec 15 2017Dj Steven at holiday party by Suzanne Forbes Dec 14 2017

smoker at holiday party Dec 14 2017 by Suzanne ForbesWe had a delightful time, as always, and I drew Steven twice because he’s so handsome. My husband danced quite a bit, on his new cyborg body part, and it was just beautiful to see.

The Tango Loft folks were super kind and the food, which was 90% vegan, came out of the small kitchen in smooth waves of scrumptiousness. We had roast goose, and it was SO good!

There was a smoking lounge, which I visited several times to enjoy the pleasure of vicarious smoking. The cigarette holder seen here was antique, a telescoping brass thing of great elegance.

Dancing coders holiday party Dec 14 2017 by Suzanne ForbesCheck out the fabulous Dancing Dev Team!

This was after the big “Despacito” sing-along. I was not familiar with Despacito, but apparently it was THE hit of the summer! There was also dancing to The Spice Girls song that has that line about family, idk? I kinda missed the whole Spice Girls thing. Anyway, we had a fabulous time.

Previous holiday and company party drawings herehere and here!

*Here is a story I will not stop telling until work/life balance changes in the US. In 2012 my hub and I had gone to the East Coast for Christmas to visit our families. We were at his parents’ house on Christmas Eve when his boss at the tech startup called him to ask him a question about the server. And hung up without saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”. Jesus forgive me, I hated that fucking guy so much, and I hated that my man had to work for him and be exploited by him so we could have health insurance. Pretty much every conversation my hub and I have about his work here ends with, “We’re in Germany, thank God.”

Unterwegs, three different ways!

Grandmother and child by Suzanne Forbes Dec 21 2017This stylish grandma and young lady were drawn from inside the bus as I waited for it to leave.

So she couldn’t see me carefully noting the details of her all-black outfit. It was one of those very gray Berlin days, but not very cold.

Grandpa and little bud by Suzanne Forbes Dec 21 2017This grandpa and his little bud were so cute.

I drew them mostly from a memory snapshot, since it would be creepy to keep looking over at a little kid. You can see I’m not very good at drawing Minions.

phone people by Suzanne Forbes Dec 21 2017Phone people never notice me drawing them.

So it’s too bad for them if they don’t want the interesting angles of their limbs recorded for posterity.

You can see previous unterwegs here:

December 2017

September 2017

July bonus round

July

June

May bonus round

May round one

April

March 2

March

January

December

November

Sexy male people and a colorful textile artist at Bordello Bizarre!

Unicorn at Bordello Bizarre by Suzanne Forbes Dec 20 2017Just finished up the rest of the drawings from Bordello Bizarre at Bassy Club.

The colorful woman below is an Australian textile and multimedia artist named Anto Christ; she made her marvelous outfit.Dancers at Bordello Bizarre by Suzanne Forbes Dec 20 2017

Ludwig performed an opera!

Ludwig opera at Bordello Bizarre by Suzanne Forbes Dec 20 2017This gent with bowler and cane brought the gun show!

Gent with bowler and cane at Bordello Bizarre by Suzanne Forbes Dec 20 2017You can see the previous Bordello Bizarre drawings here.

Thank you for having me at the Bordello Bizarre party, Joseph!

Women’s Art Lounge at Ludwig, with a Wonder-Elf!

Artists and elf Dec 17 2017 by Suzanne ForbesThis past Sunday I organized the first Women’s Art Lounge at Ludwig Berlin.

Here are artists Suzanne Wegh and Alexandra Ru sketching our holiday elf, who is reading a very long naughty list! Other art friends present included Giulia Caruso, The Artist Minotaur.

Miss Natasha Enquist by Giulia Caruso dec 17 2017

Miss Natasha Enquist by Giulia Caruso, Dec 17 2017

Cheeky Elf Miss Natasha Enquist by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2017I engaged my favorite life model, Miss Natasha Enquist, and our lovely group of woman-identifying Berlin artists gathered to draw.

Miss Natasha wore her fabulous Elf outfit! Her Fluevog boots made the best elf boots ever.

I don’t know why so many of my models wear Fluevog, I swear I’ve drawn at least twenty people in them!

Miss Natasha also had a string of red and green lights AND the battery pack for the lights fit perfectly in the back pocket of her candy-apple red shorts which just slayed me! Professional at work.

 

Check out this gorgeous digital drawing from illustrator Kelsey Bass.

Miss Natasha Enquist by Kelsey Bass Dec 17 2017

Miss Natasha Enquist by Kelsey Bass Dec 17 2017

Both Kelsey and Alexandra, who is known around Berlin as artist’s meetup organizer BarSketcher, were using iPad Pro tablets and Procreate software.

drawing by Suzanne Wegh Dec 17 2017

drawing by Suzanne Wegh Dec 17 2017

Daria got one of them early this year, and seeing her experiment with it has made me feel like digital drawing technology is finally at a place where I want to try it.

Now I just need a Patron to gift me one!

Alexandra has a cool time-lapse of her drawing on her insta. Meanwhile Suzanne went in the opposite direction, using white pencil on black paper for this lovely drawing of MNE’s hands.

 

It was very cozy in the middle room at Ludwig, with our group of woman-identifying artists gathered close.

Miss Natasha Enquist posing at Ludwig photo by Suzanne Wegh Dec 17 2017

Miss Natasha Enquist posing at Ludwig; photo by Suz Wegh Dec 17 2017

I made vegan peanut butter chocolate bars and flourless chocolate cake with pistachio icing to keep our strength up. Turns out it is quite easy to make vegan chocolate with cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

I had to request a drastic music change; Maurus was playing some kind of classical stuff I am not sophisticated enough to appreciate.

So we switched to Parliament which always makes everyone feel good!

 

It was a lovely time, and I look forward to our next gathering together, whether it’s in my salon like the Halloween Art Salon or at Ludwig, like this one and the A(RT)ffair Suzanne, NataschaArtworx and I put on last summer.

Wonder Elf by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2017

I can do things like things for Berlin’s art community and pay professional artist’s models like Miss Natasha because of the monthly support of my Patrons on Patreon.

Patreon is a subscription support service where you can automatically contribute financially to an artist. You can contribute as as little as a dollar (or euro) a month! And it has changed my life!!!

Pastel and mixed media experiments on Canson Mi-Teintes, with cats!

Miss Natasha Enquist with Cat by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2017I finally finished up these drawings of Miss Natasha Enquist from our Halloween Women’s Art Salon.

I was scared to work on big drawings with pastels, so I worked on them to procrastinate when I was even more scared of finishing the pastel portrait of Iris!

Miss Natasha Enquist with Cat by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2017 detailThey’re much too big for my scanner, so I had to photograph them.

Miss Natasha Enquist in Cat Mask by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2017Turns out photographing pastels is hard! I guess the dust sticks and grease sticks create a lot of surface specularity.

Miss Natasha Enquist in Cat Mask by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2017 detailI hope you get the idea anyway. I am pleased with them, and working on them moved me along the road of using pastels and gave me enough confidence to finish the picture of Iris. Which is much closer to a true pastel painting.

I love the process, even when I’m scared. And I love my Patreon Patrons for making possible the space I am working the process in.

A deeper dive into pastels with Iris Perez.

Portrait of Iris Perez by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2017We are lucky to enjoy visitors from the Bay Area so often here in Berlin.

Our dear friend Nathan was in town and was joined by powerful creative force Iris Perez. I asked her if she would pose for a quick painting and she said yes.

However, on the night she arrived for painting, my perimenopause fatigue was severe.

suzanne forbes drawing iris perez dec 2017I didn’t have the physical energy to set up a palette or the strength for the larger arm and shoulder movements of moving around the long brushes I use.

Fortunately I’ve been gradually experimenting with pastels for the first time since childhood this year.

Suzanne Forbes drawing Iris Perez with Morgan Dec 2017And I have a nice large pad of legendary Canson Mi Teintes, a pad of various sepia and buff toned papers with marvelous tooth.

Just like I had at the Art Students League during Summer Drawing for Children in 1977!

Portrait of Iris Perez by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2017 detailThis year I came to feel that pastels could have the kind of power I want in an image, and the kind of creepy sexy cool style I love. It happened through seeing the work of artist Barnaby Whitfield on Instagram . There are some other pastel artists I am enjoying as well, like Elena Pancorbo who has really impeccable technique.

I can’t say I will ever become anything like a real pastel painter, but I am enjoying experimenting with them as part of my mixed media toolbox!

Iris is wearing a Dollymop for Dark Garden corset and leather glovettes by Xenolux.