Author Archives: Suzanne Forbes

About Suzanne Forbes

Suzanne Forbes is a traditionally trained figurative artist, writer and bricoleur. She is an expat New Yorker living and thriving in Berlin with her third husband and their two cats. In previous lives she was a courtroom artist for CBS and CNN, a penciller for DC Comics on Star Trek, and a live-drawing chronicler of Bay Area alternative culture.

Back to work! Portrait of Daria, second sitting.

Work in progress portrait of Daria second sitting close up April 9 2019 by Suzanne ForbesI took an eight-day Make-Cation, where all I did was bricolage and assemblage.

Work in progress portrait of Daria April 9 2019 by Suzanne ForbesIt was so relaxing and fun! So I was strong and ready to dive in the second sitting with Daria.

To the left you can see the portrait about halfway through our second sitting, after an hour or so.

It is easier painting someone you know well, someone you have spent hundreds of hours with. It doesn’t actually feel easier, but better results happen without being aware of how.

So this challenging foreshortened facial view, with Daria’s head bent over her ipad, and part of her face obscured by her hanging hair, was very doable.

 

I expect we will finish in one more sitting!

You can see the first sitting here and Daria’s website and Instagram here. Her witchy boots are starting to emerge, below! I still need to paint in her jewelry and tattoos.

As always, this portrait is painted alla prima (without any preliminary drawing or underpainting), in straight-from-the-tube acrylic mixed only on the canvas. I am continuing to tone my canvas with acrylic paint to an even 50% grey before painting and absolutely loving the results as it increases my speed even more. The large painting seen below is about five hours total work.Work in progress portrait of Daria second sitting April 9 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

Unterwegs for March 2019!

Unterwegs March 16 2019 by Suzanne ForbesThis guy reminded me of a boy named Raj I had a crush on my first semester at Stuyvesant.

Something about his slightly flipped, slightly 80s hair. Raj was so cute; I used to watch him play Asteroids in Tony’s Cafe next to Stuyvesant. He went back to India at the beginning of 1981, when I was fourteen, and I never saw him again. So many people we know over a lifetime! Isn’t it amazing? And I was so fascinated by how this young guy’s body language echoes the redheaded Persephone a while back!

Unterwegs March 26 2019 Women on the phone by Suzanne ForbesI guess there are only so many ways that people can sit or stand on a subway, because I have also seen and drawn this stance before!

Drawing this woman, I felt so mesmerized and exhilarated by the unique lines of every human. I just love seeing people and recording their being so much.

Unterwegs March 26 2019 Goth mom by Suzanne ForbesThis goth mom was with her hairless dad and blond daughter.

She was like a burst of jet hair and clothes among them, very serene. She knew I was drawing them too! Mostly people don’t.

I am so grateful to my Patrons, who crowdfund my documentary art project of Berlin public transit! You can help, with any amount you like per month, a dollar or euro is great 🙂

Previous unterwegs below, all unterwegs courtesy of my Patrons on Patreon whose monthly financial support allows me to make this free art available!

Jan 2019 bonus round

Jan 2019

Dec 2018

Fall 2018

September 2018

August 2018 unterwegs

July 2018 bonus round

July 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018 bonus round

February 2018

January 2018 bonus round

January 2018 round 1

December 2017

November 2017

September 2017

July bonus round

July

June

May bonus round

May round one

April

March 2

March

January

December

November

The Shimmy Shake Show at Ballhaus Berlin, with Scotty the Blue Bunny!

Scotty the Blue Bunny at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne ForbesYou can never really get used to the sight of a very tall, loud, slightly drunk gay man in a glittering velvet bunny suit.

As often I as see, and draw, Scotty the Blue Bunny performing, there is still a pleasant frisson of shock at just how much blue bunny he is. Even in flats!

The beauty below is La Viola Vixen, mâitresse of Shimmy Shake School.

La Viola Vixen at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne ForbesThis was my first time making it to the Shimmy Shake Show, which features students, graduates and teachers from Berlin burlesque school The Shimmy Shake School. It is held at the beautiful vintage venue Ballhaus Berlin, where I go multiple times a year for Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin.

You can call the bar to order a drink with the antique telephones on the tables, though the bar is always too busy to bring you a beverage when I’ve been there!

As you can see, the audience members were dressed for the show.Attendee at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

I was invited to draw at the show by Shimmy Shake teacher La Loba LucĂ­a, who I became a mad fan of after I saw her perform at Extravagant Shambles. She is the most leonine, ferocious, superheroic burlesque performer I have seen so far. Drawings of her act coming soon!

Meanwhile, here is another instructor, Anja Pavlova, performing a ballet-like burlesque that had a rococo Rites-of-Spring feel!

Anja Pavlova at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne ForbesAnd here is Cadbury Parfait, who produces Extravagant Shambles.

I have been invited to draw at Extravagant Shambles several times now and really love the crew.

Cadbury Parfait at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 30 2019 by Suzanne ForbesI also know Stella Von Fersen, seen below as a pearl emerging from satin oyster fans, from the Shambles.Stella von Fersen at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

There was a Neo-burlesque duet, below, that was passionate and lovely, gotta get the names of the performers.Duet at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

And btw, check out Scott’s beautiful gay portrait sanctuary, Love Gay People, here.

Lots of love to my beautiful Patrons on Patreon, who make it possible for me to document Berlin’s queer intersectional burlesque scene and release the artwork free to all!

A special night at Monster Ronson’s!

My friend and Patron Robert Wimpory is a bastion of the indie music scene in Berlin.

He goes to see everyone’s shows, all the time. (“I try to support the scene”, he will say modestly when complimented on his showing up for the community.) Plus he has a band or two and is in the OK!Chorus and often co-hosts Uke Boogie and of course, also has a (really cool) job! And he is an archivist and curator of his own history, like I am, and has a wild collection of video and film from the 80’s. Here’s his YouTube channel!

So his birthday had to be celebrated at queer Berlin clubhouse Monster Ronsons, home of Pansy’s House of Presents, Merlin’s Berlin, Loving The Alien, and so much more. This is Robert with bumBlechum, above. They played “Disco Knicks” and threw masses of underwear aka pants out into the crowd.

Disco knicks! Shake your disco rear!

The crowd had a blast, as you can see!

One of my very favorite things about going to events in Berlin is that the crowds are of all ages. It’s rare that I am the only middle-aged person; often there are lots of us!Party at Monster Ronsons by Suzanne Forbes March 25 2019

And this is the lead singer of Pump Gang, below, who played some serious 90s hits.

I was listening to alt-radio for the 90s so I didn’t know most of them! Plus, there is a whole Euro-dance thing that is very specific to this side of the Atlantic, like the Vengaboys, who I only learned about last year. Apparently, they were a THING!

Pump Gang at Monster Ronsons by Suzanne Fprbes Marc 14 2019I had to tip out suddenly partway through Pump Gang’s set, as the decibel level was just too much for me. But nobody ever judges me for doing what’s best for me, in this community <3

I am so very grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to document Berlin life and art!

Painting Daria, while I can.

Portrait of Daria first sitting Suzanne Forbes March 19 2019Daria, who has been the heart and the jumpstart of my life in Berlin, is moving to Hamburg.

They warn you when you come to live here, it’s a transient city, you make friends and then they move away. We haven’t seen that much, luckily, because most of our community loves Berlin like we love Berlin. Not Daria, though. Daria, who is from Moscow, hates Berlin like I hated San Francisco, being from New York. It’s completely hilarious how much her disdain for the way Berlin does city is like my mine for SF. She even makes the same face I do.

Portrait of Daria first sitting second image Suzanne Forbes March 19 2019I have always understood that Daria’s talent is too big for Berlin, where nobody has any money.

I want her to have the massive success and fame she deserves even more than I want her to be near me. I want her to get to live in a city she loves, like I do.

She likes Hamburg, and moreover, she works with a tattoo studio there that is the right scale for her exploding career. She needs a platform that suits her expanding clientele. So that’s right, and as it should be, and I know I will see her when she comes to Berlin to see clients, because she’ll be sleeping on our couch!

Portrait of Daria first sitting first image by Suzanne Forbes March 19 2019As we are closing on the date she and her partner leave for their new city, we are making time for a portrait.

Like the portraits of our Bay Area loved ones that hang all over the house, a portrait of Daria will be a companion and comfort. We had talked about doing a glamorous one too, but with time growing short the highest priority was this vision of her. Like a Russian ballerina witch ninja vampire, absorbed in creating – she is editing photos on her iPad. Like I have watched her so many times in so many cafes all over the city that I came to know with her. Our next sitting is in April, and hopefully that will finish it; if not, we’ll finish it when she’s sleeping on our couch!

Daria’s website, her tatto insta and her art insta.

Here are some of our adventures together over the last three years.

Our first art collab, which was my first Berlin art collab and art trade

Our first Drawing Adventure

When we had the first art collab in my finished kitchen/workshop and I wrote, “I am the happiest I’ve been since I was 19.”

And more about how great that was!

When we did Berlin Graphic Days Night Market

When she called me on overworking hands

The house reveal after our first Joint Daria&Dan Birthday Party

My first watercolor in 25 years, live drawing with Daria at Altes Finanzamt

When I had the courage to try watercolors again because of her, at Drink and Draw.

When we made watercolors in Schöneberg

One of the days when I had bad grief and PTSD and Daria made all the difference

The frame I made for her moth drawing

On the way to a secret cemetery cafe

How I had my first Berlin art show at her tattoo studio

Daria says the right thing, always

When she did the lettering for my She-Krampus

When we drew Amanda Palmer backstage

one of the times we went to the Apple store for her damn phone

When my gothic skull was a little passe, but there’s no pleasing the young

Life drawing happytimes at ESDIP in 2017

Life drawing at the Drink and Draw Midnight Salon

At the Women’s Halloween Art Salon

When she took all the photos at the Dollhouse Lab reveal party

Live-drawing Miss Natasha at our A(RT)fair event

When we went to Life Drawing at Lydia’s

Where I talk about how having a true peer forces me to grow

How her giving me a personal doll-wigging workshop enabled me to finish a years-old project

Drawing Daria tattooing in the Friechrichshain studio, with friends

 

The Hunger Moon at Full Moon Cabaret!

Viva Lamore at Full Moon Cabaret Hunger Moon event by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019This was my first time at one of Full Moon Cabaret’s secret suppers.

I have been to Berlin’s most transgressive burlesque show before, in another very cool secret venue, and I love to draw producer Viva Lamore, who is a fellow New Yorker. (That’s her above with her gong! She told me she was having so much fun with “the fucking GONG!”) The acts are always fierce and freaky.

Plus, there’s a mooning contest which is pretty exciting!

So I was psyched to see this show and I was not disappointed.

Guests at Full Moon Cabaret Hunger Moon event by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019Behind a secret door was a long room with a stage, lined with a very long dining table.

I took a seat on the sidelines so I could draw. (I learned my lesson about trying to eat and draw simultaneously at a LOTR-themed immersive dinner theater event put on by the Greater Bay Area Costumers’ Guild in 2005 or 6!) Most of the Full Moon attendees were in ’30s finery and there was a crew of gorgeous performers in really wonderful Shanghai 1930s style. That’s stage manager Maylisss standing in the background above; she is an expert at vintage clothing and costuming.

Below, more lovely audience and attendees!Audience at Full Moon Cabaret by Suzanne Forbes March 15 2019Chika at Full Moon Cabaret Hunger Moon event by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019

That’s Chika, above helping with the mooning-hole!

and below with legend Vanessa Jupiter in the long gloves who is a trained massage therapist and was doing massages for the guests.Performers at Full Moon Cabaret Hunger Moon event by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019Viva and her crew are so vibrant and sexy, and there is a kink vibe to the shows so I feel right at home!

Marianne Cheesecake at Full Moon Cabaret Hunger Moon event by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019This was one of those events where I wanted to draw everyone a dozen times.

Marianne Cheesecake, performing with a very badly behaved dragon puppet, was SO beautiful!

The finale performance, by Crystal Tassels, was fantastic. Sadly, I cannot show you the drawing on a Patreon post. (It involved a cake and a chair!)

As always, I am so grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to document Berlin life and art!

Live-drawing PĂŞdra Costa and Sadie Lune at the Schwules Museum!

Pedra Costa performing at Schwules Museum by Suzanne Forbes Mar 7 2019Valentine’s Day was the finissage of the EXTRA + TERRESTRIAL exhibit by COVEN BERLIN at Berlin’s Gay Museum, the Schwules Museum.

I was invited by Harley Aussoleil of COVEN BERLIN to do documentary drawing. (You can see my drawings from the Spoken Word event of the show here.)

PĂŞdra Costa, a Brazilian performance artist, performed hers work de_colon_isation. You can see hers beginning the piece above, with technical support from Maya Guttman.

In the background, on the wall, are drawn works by the incredible Mexican artist Rurru Mipanochia; you can see photos of them here!

Pedra Costa dancing in performance at Schwules Museum by Suzanne Forbes Feb 27 2019Here is PĂŞdra dancing as the scent of “Brazilian Bum Bum” cream fills the air.

I loved how the sensory experience of smell was incorporated into the work. There are photos on Instagram!

Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux filmed by Marit Ostberg at Schwules Museum by Suzanne Forbes March 7 2019My friend Sadie Lune, who is part of COVEN, was being filmed by the documentary crew of multidisciplinary queer artist Marit Ă–stberg.

Here you can see Sadie, eight months pregnant, being interviewed as she and photographer Jo Pollux lie within Sadie’s piece, “Weird Sisters”. I feel like it looks like they’re in a field at night and Sadie is pointing out the constellations to Jo, telling her a story about the baby’s star sign.

Many thanks to Harley Aussoleil, who was in charge of the event programming for this exhibit and provided wonderful support to me as I worked! These drawings, like 95% of my art, are licensed Creative Commons for you to freely use and share if you credit me as artist.

And always, always, thank you to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly subscription support makes my work documenting queer Berlin possible.

Scenes around town, February 2019

Bartenders at the Lori Cafe by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019Here are the bartenders at the Lori Cafe in Kreuzberg.

I drew this waiting to be let through the secret door for the Full Moon Cabaret, and it feels like I drew it before I entered another world!

At the endocrinologist in Mitte by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019These ladies were waiting to see the endocrinologist, like me.

My endocrinologist is in a bizarre, deeply ugly modern building with walls – the walls inside!!!- literally covered in stainless steel. It’s the Galeries Lafayette building, but in the store at least a lot of the ugly is covered in fancy and you can buy delicious cake.

Audience at Le Grand Mess by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019Some audience members at Le Grand Mess.

The young woman shown here is a standup comedian. Going to live-draw at a standup open mic is one of those things that’s on my list of things to draw, like drawing at a tango session again, like visiting the circus center and drawing people doing aerials again, like drawing people ice-skating which I’ve never done, like drawing people playing pool again…there is enough time, but not always energy! And first, before any of those things, I’ve been invited to draw The Berlin Bruisers, Europe’s only gay-inclusive rugby league!!

As always, my deepest thanks to my beloved Patrons on Patreon, who make it financially possible for me to document Berlin life.

New dollhouse progress!

Work in process X Men dollhouse by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019Did the X-Men make it home for Christmas?

They did, though they were stuck in the dark! The new action figure dollhouse isn’t quite finished yet, but it is through no fault of mine. Boy howdy, are dollhouse lights a pain in the ass. I was so thrilled about my decision to go with battery-operated miniature LEDS and external battery adapters, as detailed in this post. LEDs last forever, stay cool, and use so little power!Work in process X Men dollhouse by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019

But I never considered that some battery powered dollhouse LED lights might not FIT the external adapters!

That’s right, some take smaller batteries, and some just have incompatible housings. So it turned out that some lights I ordered, and waited forever for the arrival of, were incompatible. And then I had to order more external housings, not because I needed more battery boxes – I think four is fine for the 20-odd lights – but because I need the adapter plates. Which don’t seem to be available anywhere, at least not yet.

This is why you NEVER USE A TRANSITIONAL TECHNOLOGY FOR A PERMANENT INSTALLATION!

But I never considered that some battery powered dollhouse LED lights might not FIT the external adapters!You can see one of the adapter plates and the light fixture housing it sits in to the left, in the library. This one is for a tabletop lamp, which why it has a long cord and is loose in the room.

Another problem is that the adapter plates are reliant on a minuscule thread of live wire and a tiny dot of solder to make their connection, and can easily (especially in the process of ceiling installation) be twisted so the connection is broken. I got mad and took one apart, and I haven’t been able to get it to work again. I am fairly good at things like this – I used to rewire antique lamps I bought at Berkeley Flea Market – so I am really peeved. So peeved I’m gonna get a new soldering iron (I gave my old one to beloved friend-muse-Patron Monique Motil) and started reinforcing all the adapters I install from here on.

dollhouse wiring with external adapter for LED lights Suzanne ForbesWhich is…four of twenty-odd. Because the others are installed, and the carpet laid over them, and the door frames over that, and then the moldings. This system, which is the time-honored method of giving dollhouses a clean finish, means that the floor covers up your messy wires, the door frame goes in next so you know how much to cut the moldings on either side of it, and the moldings provide a clean edge where floor meets wall and cover any imperfections in floor-cutting. I made a diagram, above! It’s a great system, except when you’re dealing with wiring, because if something goes wrong with the wiring, you have to tear everything out.

I am not pleased, now that I have seen that fragile dab of solder my electricity hinges on.

I did this whole thing to avoid the fragility and propensity to failure of tape-wire dollhouse lighting, which is what the old house has. When I built the old house I learned to solder and soldered all the tapewire connections, because tapewire is notorious for failure when you use the system of brads it comes with. Anyway, tapewire is being deprecated in the States, where it’s much more commonly used than the round wire you see in the UK and Europe. Because of the LED lights coming in.

Work in process X Men dollhouse interior by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019But nobody has designed a system for someone who wants to wire a whole house with battery LEDS and operate it from one switch.

YET. Never use a transitional technology for a permanent installation. Sigh. As you can see, the house is now mostly lit, but most of the light fixtures are cheap round placeholder lights. It seems I can only really get the compatible lights from Canada. And, the mail is so much worse than usual.

I normally order most of my dollhouse stuff from the UK, because we don’t have to pay duties (until March 29, and then who knows what the hell happens, Theresa May sure has no fucking idea). But ordering stuff from the UK four Sundays before Brexit, while DHL is even more fucked up than usual…well. It certainly does mean a lot of days stuck in mail jail, which is what we call it in Berlin when they say they’re bringing your package and you don’t dare leave the house cause if they leave it with a neighbor or a paketshop you’ll have no idea which one.

Lucky for me, folks visiting from the US are kind enough to bring me things 🙂 Among the things brought by friend & Patron Dan Shick after the holidays are the roof shingles, which I’ve been putting on. You can see them below, I love how they look!Work in process X Men dollhouse bay windows by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019

Hopefully the light sich will get sorted out and finished soon!

New portrait painting: Lolita in Latex!

Work in process detail Lolita Vavoom by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019The moment I saw Lolita Vavoom performing, I knew I wanted to paint her.

She is a VERY busy person, with producing the Berlin Burlesque Week, Jews! Jews! Jews! and touring all over as a performer, so it took time to schedule. We got started with a first sitting last night though, with Lolita wearing custom latex by a local artist.

Work in process face detail Lolita Vavoom by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019I actually took pictures of the process periodically, which I don’t often remember to do.

I thought my Patrons on Patreon, who provide the funding for my art, might enjoy them.work in process 4 stages of portrait of Lolita Vavoom by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019

I reconvene with Lolita at the end of the month, as she’ll be touring all over between now and then.

Here’s her Insta for peeks! Meanwhile, if you’re in Berlin, mark your calendars for Berlin Burlesque Week in May! Here’s the Instagram for updates and news! And here’s my first drawing of Lolita, performing with Full Moon Cabaret – speaking of which, some pretty exciting Full Moon drawings coming soon 🙂