Category Archives: New York in the 80s

From the Archives: Earliest Fantasy and Science Fiction drawings.

Blonde girl with fairy drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes circa 1983Well, that’s kinda creepy!

As a teenager I made several drawings of old-fashioned schoolgirls with fairies, around 1983. There was this naughty blonde, and a 1920s-styled bobbed brunette in a sailor dress, who was holding out her palm, gently cupping the fairy. I gave the brunette to my best friend Skenney, and he framed it and for years when he needed to cut cocaine he would take down the frame and use the glass.

Girl with fairy by water by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes approx 1983This one was probably the earliest of the fairy drawings, 1982 or 1983.

Jenny and the Dragon drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes est 1981Watercolors have always been the bane of my existence, probably because I started using them without knowing how.

This drawing from 1981 of my friend Jenny telling a dragon to fuck off was abandoned when trying to add color went wrong.

Sketchbook 1981 Hansel and Gretel take LSD by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis drawing, titled “Hansel and Gretel take LSD”, is from the same spring of 1981 as the drawing of Jenny.

And was abandoned for the same reason, my frustration that I just didn’t have the skills to depict the scene the way I wanted, particularly when it came to color.

Sketchbook 1981 reverse apple by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesReverse apple, 1981!

Abandoned for the same reason.

Weeping Princess drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes circa 1982The Weeping Princess, version two.

In 1981 I made a drawing of a weeping princess that was one of those drawings where as an artist you feel like you’re making a leap forward, finally getting somewhere. I loved it, but I gave it to Robert, an extremely kind old hippy (ha, he was probably 35! but he meant no harm at all to my fourteen-year-old self) who lived across the street from Stuyvesant.

I took another pass at it a year later, but couldn’t finish it – I got frustrated by trying to manage the watercolors, again.

Elfquest drawing prob 1983 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is an Elfquest style drawing, made for Jenny I think, in 1983.

Alien schoolgirl from approx 1984 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumI did a series of drawings of kids with creatures, in the mid-80s, for my mom.

The one above wasn’t finished, because of the color handling issue.Girl with dragon by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes approx 1984

The girl with a dragon shows a new approach to color, using only faint washes of color pencil. Color pencils were easier to control, but I did not like the way their waxy base obscured my careful Rapidograph linework.

I think this was drawn in 1984, shortly before I started reading comics, in the years when I read every damn Anne McCaffery book in the world, although damn some of them are problematic. I went back and re-read The Dragonriders of Pern last year and I was like, internalized misogyny much? And yet, Moreta stands up!

I gave it to my mom, and she took this photo of it in her house, where it has hung for decades, for my archiving project!

Boy with alien by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes approx 1985This drawing of a boy with an alien is actually a critique of American colonialism! The boy and the alien are each from a settlement on a new planet, and he has built a sand castle with a crude Earth flag.

He’s feeding the horse-like alien seductive sugar cubes! The alien has reservations, justifiably.

Below, the study I used to create the final drawing. The study has a note in the corner:
“My sentient being parental unit can beat up your sentient being parental unit!”

My mom took this picture of the drawing on her wall in Hartford for my archives.Study for boy with alien mid 1980s by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Aravis and Lasaraleen from from the Horse and his Boy after Pauline Baynes drawing prob mid 80s by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesAravis and Lasaraleen in the palace, from The Horse and his Boy.

After Pauline Baynes. I loved that book as a kid, but now I am acutely conscious of the anti-Arab tone that permeates it. Aravis is such a marvelous character, though.

This drawing, with some problematic stereotypes, has a rough too. The rough has the note “Drunk teenage witch practicing her spells.”
Witch by fire drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes circa 1985

The version above has notes all over, for the intended colors, but I never started coloring it.

Metal bra drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes probably 1985 or winter 1986

Girl in a brass bra. From late 1985 or winter 1986 – after I had encountered Ghita of Alizarr, for sure!

Sleeping Beauty future-tech!

From around 1986, I think. The dwarves are very creepy! Before 1984, when I started reading comics and quickly decided to become a comic artist, I expected to be an illustrator. Maybe children’s books, maybe science fiction or fantasy. Or a fashion illustrator. I read more hard SF than fantasy, and knew I loved to draw women. But I produced very little voluntary work.

Making art has always felt like work to me, something done to achieve some kind of reward, not for fun.

So these drawings represent the few moments of play over the years from fourteen to twenty, my rare recreational drawings.

None of these drawings had ever been photographed; until now, no record of them existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

I am so grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.


Portraits of Victoria, from 1986 to this weekend.

Remote drawing of Victoria Aronoff by Suzanne Forbes March 29 2020I feel like the drawing-through-Zoom thing is working!

At least for people I know, and I’ve known Victoria since 1975! We had a wonderful visit over Zoom on Sunday and I made this drawing, on Strathmore Toned Gray Mixed Media paper.

This one is on illustration board, from 1987.

Note the X-Men comic and the careful rendering of the china set my Mom had then!

Portrait of Victoria prob 1987 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is from 1986 or 1987.

Can’t remember if it is a black and white study or this is a photo of a photocopy, I found it on the hard drive from my last attempt at archiving all my work, in 2010. Found the original and photographed it!

Victoria Fall 1986 19th st and 8th avenue by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is a two-color watercolor study from Fall 1986.

Victoria was my primary model during my NYC art school years. She posed for a lot of portraits. This one was done at one of the Cuban-Chinese train car diners my Chelsea neighbourhood used to be full of. I used to give her downers to help her hold still, so her expression may be the result of a lot of Valium.

drawing of Victoria Aronoff by Suzanne Forbes 1993I did this one in January 1993.

I had at that point met and moved in with my first husband, Steve, and we were living in a big duplex in St. Paul. I think this was in NY, although Victoria lived in DC at the time. She came up to the city because I had gone to a comic convention in New York; I was just about to finally break into comics.

Rachel Ketchum with Victoria on Great Jones St. 1980Here’s Victoria and I in her mother’s painting studio at their loft on Great Jones St. in 1980.

Photo by her mom, the artist J. Nebraska Gifford. I was thirteen and she was fourteen. We would say we were staying at each other’s houses and just stay out all night wandering the Village.

Victoria Aronoff NYE 1995 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumThis is Victoria on New Year’s Eve 1995, in DC.

We had made strange and elaborate hats out of newspaper, and there was some kind of walkie-talkie game?

Victoria and Gideon Aronoff NYE 1995 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumAnd this one is Victoria and her former husband, Gideon.

You can see some of Victoria’s recent art on this guest post here. We are about to start a collaboration – I’m gonna embroider one of her drawings!

Only a couple of these portraits had ever been photographed; no modern media record of the rest existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever. And of course, I am the only person who knows when they were made and why, the story of the moments in the pictures.

As a highly-vulnerable person with asthma and autoimmune illness, it seems more important than ever to document my life’s work. Not morbid, just pragmatic!

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.