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.
There’s nothing as convenient for us ladies of a certain age as a rack of pamphlets to fan ourselves with!
Perimenopause is a journey of arriving in rooms that are much hotter than you could possibly anticipate, like my GP’s office last Wednesday.
Doctor’s offices mean paperwork everywhere, particularly in Germany!
In our orthopedist’s Thursday I had to sign a stack of papers for my upcoming knee surgery. Including a prescription for crutches – the co-pay is 5 euros, and some Germans find this outrageous!!!! Our orthopedist is a hilariously brusque guy. When I told him I didn’t want a prescription for opiate painkillers, he was like, “HA HA we don’t give you those! Live with it! Use ice!!” Which is fine. My pain level after my previous surgery here was negligible.
What a character, right? Always bring a book!
In the 80s my boyfriend Paul and I had this thing, not a joke thing, about always carrying a paperback. In case you were arrested copping and stuck in the Tombs for a 72-hour hold. When I did get popped during a sweep in January of 1989, just two weeks before I got sober, I was so glad to have that paperback in my pocket. I read it three times over as I detoxed cold turkey in the jammed cell. It was either Larry Niven or Norman Spinrad, and it was not very good. For decades I remembered the exact title, even though I never read it again, but I have now finally forgotten it.
My documentary drawings of everyday Berlin life are courtesy of my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support allows me to make this free art available
I was so excited to be a guest of international NY/Berlin drag festivalBushwig this summer. I knew superstar drag performer and makeup artist Hungry would be performing; I’ve been dreaming of drawing her for years. And I knew I’d get to see and draw a whole armada of international drag talents for the first time.
I got to speak to her briefly and show her my drawing after, and I have to admit I was a gibbering fangirl.
You just can’t imagine how beautiful, how ethereal, how meta-human and naiad-like and perfumed with colors she is.
Her makeup is painterly perfection, her skin glows, her brocade corset by MistyCouture has an extraordinary pipestem waist, her smooth bone-tattooed chest is flecked with gold leaf and petals. Her nail gloves were made by Vie of Unicorns Poop Glitter and they waved like undersea fronds in the air!
Hungry is simply a living orchid, a baroque marvel, and the kind of talent you meet only a few times in a lifetime. And she was so sweet and kind!
Read about the development of her style and her collaboration with Björk here.
I got to draw Europe’s Cheekbone Queen, the beautiful Betty Fvck, twice in one week!
Always a thrill to see this beauty work it. Drawing her at both Bushwig and Extravagant Shambles “Pride, Not Prejudice” was a total drawing Lotto win! Betty is so elegant!!
I was seated right up against the stage, and had such a great view of everyone. The venue, Festsaal Kreuzberg, is really lovely, a kind of industrial/tiki forbidden island on the river.
The variety and diversity of talent was marvelous.
This angel bby drag goblin is Dirt from the Ground. You can see them perform here!
I was very charmed by Frida Pussy, who was assigned acts of contrition for unsafe acts: “Repeat, ‘I’m on PREP it’s fine’ fifteen times”.
Nun to devil transformation is a classic for a reason, baby!
I loved Donna Trump, a sass queen from Manchester’s thriving drag scene.
I was pretty damn wobbly near the end of this show, as I have been sick on and off all summer and it was very, very hot in the venue.
I was lucky enough to have a kind stranger be my support team – basically as my health has deteriorated this past couple years the type of embedded, in-the-splash-zone, eight-hours-nonstop drawing I do has become much harder.
A stranger (or friend!) showing appreciation for the value of my work, offering to get me a non-alcoholic drink, helping to buffer my drawing hand against surging crowds, fanning me with a flyer, holding my seat while I hit the loo, giving me a Euro or two to help my crowd-funding – all matter so much. Thank you, Arthur!
I am not much of a play-goer, but Robert Farrar is one of the cleverest lyricists I know, so I was confident his drawing-room comedy would entertain! The set for the play was ingeniously designed and the venue was as old-school Berlin as it gets, full of character – the house dog has his own chair.
Drawing the actors was wonderful. I loved the range of expressions and the luxurious amount of time I had to draw everyone, especially after Berlin Burlesque Week when I had an average of four minutes to capture each performer! Above, left to right, Achim Krämer, Robert Farrar and Tom Eggert.
I had a marvelous time!
Above, Robert Farrar and Zofia Huddon. Working on these I felt great freedom from my usual pressure of perfectionism. There is a giddy spirit in them usually absent from my work. My art is increasingly political (all artis political) as I have more spoons available to be furious and horrified about much of the world. So it was nice to take a break and draw some comedy.
Above, Achim Krämer in final costume, or nearly final.
There was so much quick change gender-blender dressplay towards the end, it was hard to keep track!
It’s the monthly financial support of my gorgeous Patrons that allows me to make documentary art of Queer Berlin and distribute it for free.
If you can help to crowdfund me, by joining my Patreon or just by buying me an alcohol-free beverage or passing a hat when you see me out at a club, I will love you even more!
SUCH a beautiful party for the official release of the gorgeous coffee table book of photographs by Jo Pollux and text by Sadie Lune.
It was held at cherished all-inclusive queer art gallery/bar/clubhouse Ludwig Berlin in Neukölln, and featured the artist and her muses! The book showcases Jo’s Film Noir aesthetic and Sadie’s dark prose. In attendance were models from the book, including Sadie,Bishop Black, Manon, Finn Peaks, and more.
There was a wonderful crowd of queer Berliners, plus visitors from all over.
There were performances, including this one by Finn Peaks.
Finn had pink eye makeup on making him look even more like Anne Carlisle in Liquid Sky!
And afterwards the crowd retired to the back room to witness à la carte acts of dominant play by Sadie, always a huge hit.
My live-drawing of queer Berlin’s art scene is courtesy of my Patrons on Patreon whose monthly financial support allows me to make this free art available! You can help for as little as a dollar/euro a month.
I’m working on some more drawings from the back room, but since they are sensual and involve passionate interactive I am not creating them for my Patreon. You will be able to find them on my other website, the one with my name, soon 🙂
The minute I met Berlin burlesque producer and performer Cadbury Parfait, I wanted to paint her picture.
She is exceptionally beautiful, and she has fantastic personal style, grace and power. She performs and produces wonderfully naughty, sexy, political, intersectional burlesque shows. Plus, she’s funny!
So we scheduled a sitting, which is challenging because she’s one of the busiest people in the Berlin burlesque scene, and got started. I had a fine large canvas given to me by one of my Patrons, and it is thrilling to be working large again.
I really prefer to paint on the biggest canvas possible for a home studio, so the subject’s figure is one third to one half life-size. We settled on her 1930s style Voodoo Vixen gown in sapphire blue velvet for Cadbury’s outfit, and kept everything else simple and natural.
As sometimes happen, I lost the thread during the process – I made good headway to capturing her likeness and proportions, then screwed it up. This is an almost inevitable part of the portrait painting process; there’s generally at least one point where I almost have it and then lose it, either by accident or design.
So while much of the structure you see is a good foundation, the essential spirit and humor of Cadbury’s personality is currently AWOL. Working back in forth in that uncertainty of recovering the good bit, tolerating the fact that you’ve fucked it up, is part of the process. Keats called our ability to tolerate uncertainty the “negative capacity”.
Whistler used to wipe down the canvas to a shadow after every sitting, then start over.
His process was the process of seeing the sitter and painting the sitter, and he stopped when he did it enough times to hit the sweet spot, know it and call it. I often have to explain this to my sitters, who may be startled that what looked like a really promising portrait has turned weird, or awkward, or lost an arm. Cadbury, who has a striking way with words, got it instantly and phrased it this way: “It’s like the Rubik’s Cube – you have to destroy it in order to fix it! You almost have it except that one orange square – but you have to break the whole thing to get that part right.”
That’s exactly, exactly how it is. I’m used to it, so I trust the process.
and all profits from this show are going to an LGBTQ+ cause! And it’s at beloved East Berlin queer clubhouse Monster Ronsons, which has some shitty A/C, which is 200% better than 99% of Berlin venues! Some of my very fave local performers will be onstage, like Noelinela Bouche, as well as breathtakingly gorg out-of-towners like Betty Fvck and LilyLustre, both of whom I’ve drawn once and been simply CRAVING to draw again!
This night circus was a Bizarre World of Wonder! The most gothic show of the week, it featured circus, neo-burlesque and dark cabaret. Above is MisSa Blue in glittering gold. She is an amazing performer and swallowed a flaming sword! There was Dunja Von K, who I’ve drawn often, doing a spooky uncanny Valley routine! I knew she wouldn’t mind my doing a kinda creepy take on this routine.
You genuinely cannot imagine how hard she worked this whole week. And how beautifully the events focused on embracing diversity, creating safe spaces, and representation.
This is Jonny Porkpie, who is apparently the (self-proclaimed) Burlesque Mayor!
His act involved a strip down with flasks, vials and bottles of liquor concealed in ever-more ingenious places. Not very relevant to my interests as a recovering alcoholic but it was a charming performance!
Little Miss Piss did an act that was very different at the end than at its beginning.
It was PACKED with surprises! I cannot show you the drawing of the end here, sadly. You will have to find it on my not-safe-for-puritans erotic art channel and site 🙂 Perhaps you can find it by googling.
The Newcomer competition at Shimmy Shakedown was a Battle for the Best in Burlesque!
Newcomers from all over Europe and Germany competed for the title of ‘Burlesque Entertainer of the Year’. Above, you can see Noeline La Bouche, who won “Most BadAss” I believe!Here’s Setty Mois – she was my first drawing of the night and I wish I could have captured her in more detail.
I love hearts as a theme because I love love 🙂 Cadbury Parfait, who won “Most Classic”!
This performance was intensely moving. Watching The Velvet Unicorn use “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” in the Burlesque context, with their “costume” consisting of the kind of black hoodie that is so often racially profiled, was disquieting. As it should be.
As they stripped down and twerked I thought of both the appropriation of black dance moves by white performers and how white culture hyper-sexualizes people of color to other and alienate them. I was reminded of Karen Finley throwing glitter on her chocolate-covered, abused body at the end of “We Keep Our Victims Ready“ because “After everything they do to us, we’re supposed to get dressed and go out to dinner”. I was not surprised to learn The Velvet Unicorn works withsocial justice and trauma in their burlesque art. They have a radio show as well!
Here is beautiful CocoLectric, as a lovely flower during the Full Moon Cabaret “Nature” show! So many incredible performers traveled from all over the world to perform at Berlin Burlesque Week, and I was thrilled to meet them and get a chance to draw them.
This is AgathaFrisky, a gorgeous lady in a gorgeous outfit, as a Corpse Flower!!!
Her costume was exquisite, and she has an amazing shake!
With smiles for miles and legs for leagues, she lit up the stage. Meeting her I was so touched by her warmth, and her Instagram is full of powerful, compassionate social justice messages. She recently performed at Hubba Hubba Revue in San Francisco, where I cut my burlesque live-drawing teeth from 2005 to 2014!
Below, producer and hostess with the most, Viva Lamore.
Because of recentchanges in US law, I cannot create any drawings that show nudity, “implied nudity”, or breasts with pasties for my Patreon, which is how I have crowdfunded my free documentary art the last few years. I’ve created a new site for my documentary art about human sexuality and gender expression. I can’t link to it because of Patreon rules. Please don’t blame Patreon; blame SESTA-FOSTA. Maybe you could find the new site by googling!
There’s a post on my new site with new drawings from this Full Moon Cabaret too. It shows the breathtaking power and beauty of the performers at this show in all their glory. Skyclad, or in pasties.
I’ll continue to post on here too, sponsored and supported by my beloved, cherished Patrons, as right now that’s the only source of revenue for my art and I’ll always be interested in doing “work-safe” art as well as art with nudity such as life drawing. I’m working on a funding model for the new site.
Of course, you can always paypal me artist support money at suzanneforbes @ protonmail.com!
I had to sneak this portrait of her as she chatted with a friendly gay boy from Oz, because she looked so luminous. we went for Thai food beforehand and she looked like a movie star, I was like oh la lala, just havin some iced tea with my friend the movie star.
This is done in pastels, gel pens and other mixed media on Strathmore Toned Gray paper.
I love this paper but it’s too big for my scanner so I have to photograph the drawings and with their complex, mixed pigment surfaces they are hard to photograph. I am gonna have get a bigger scanner sometime soon!
Lady with a Baby
My friend S. with her little one, just a few weeks old. She has the most amazing kids. Seriously, the most amazing, beautiful, strong, full-of-identity from birth kids. I saw this one in the hospital and he was already right there. And the older kid- her glamour, character and self-possession are already legend among the Berlin demi-monde! “I saw her having lunch with Peaches one day, when she was just five years old”, someone whispered at a party. We are planning a portrait of mama and older child later this year.
This work, of making a record of the people I know, and telling the story of a moment in their lives – I cannot think of anything I am better suited to do, or any task more honorable.
I am so deeply grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, whose financial support makes it possible.