I was recently in a group show at Schöneberg gallery The Ballery.
The works shown included a beautiful series of portraits by photographer Eva Brunner. Barbara, above, was the model. During the finissage evening of the exhibit, Barbara performed some deft comic numbers.
This is an example of a drawing where I could take my time with the background and really work out the details. As all my dear ones know, I love to draw people playing music and have had far less chances to do so this year, since I’ve been ill so much.
I added the color when I got home, based on memory and little scribbly notes on the drawings.
I swear to you that the colors appeared exactly as they do here: the glowing red light in the Ballery’s cloakroom, the oversize bottle of Campari, Barbara’s signature red/orange look, the red accent on her mike, and the red nailpolish in the portrait behind her. Other than that it was all grays and whites and blacks.
A marvelous scene I was lucky to capture, including Barbara’s gorgeous gams!! Thanks to my Patrons on Patreon, who make my documentary art possible <3
She is the Motha of the House of Bushwig, a LatinX punk and International Queen who came to Berlin to light things up this summer. I got a good likeness of her, but I could not find photo reference of her outfit, so the look I have drawn her in is a composite of several of her incredible pastel explosions of creativity. I hope the Queen will find that ok!
This extremely cute boy Nām was one of two backup dancers for queen Ocean.
As a guest of international NY/Berlin drag festivalBushwig this summer, I drew more performers in a single day than I have EVER drawn before, but I couldn’t draw everybody. I felt bad I couldn’t capture the beauty of the queen herself, but sometimes even the best stage-side seat doesn’t give me a decent view of a performer, and that was the case here.
ReveRso is a Berlin drag legend, bringing a very different style.
There was a whole other part of ReverRso’s performance, involving actual fireworks in personal areas, that I could not draw for this Patreon-sponsored site. Perhaps you will find it elsewhere 😉
I didn’t get this performer’s name but they danced tremendously in those sky-high boots!
This guy is incredibly tall and an amazing dancer, he was BEATING the stage into submission in the brutal heat, just moving and slamming. Drop splits!!
I am still working on finishing all the Bushwig Berlin drawings and spraying them with fixativ and scanning them! I actually still have another five performers. The first Bushwig Berlin post is here and the second is here.
As usual these drawings are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) for all to share and enjoy!
In addition, I release the copyright on each drawing to the performer shown and they may use the drawings for their own profit and pleeeasssure in any way they choose.
As a fat, queer, disabled artist, crowdfunded support is the only way I can make this work and release it for free.
I adore the delicate and sophisticated (and sometimes naughty) sound of Loreleila Voix and Syren Joey, and it’s a thrill to see them perform in full sea-worthy costume. This session of Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin featured the Sea Salts duo performing quite a few lovely numbers. Above, Lorelei in her “blangmange” costume, a marvelous pink hoopskirt froth with a mermaid tail.
Plus, lady with a rapier! Always love a woman with a sword.
Syren Joey is a great performer and I always love to draw her. However, I was struggling quite a lot with these drawings, as I am pushing iterations of my mixed media technique and experiencing the danger of over-confidence. “Don’t get cocky, kid!”
Using chalk markers, pastels and india ink pens, I’m developing an additive/subtractive approach to drawing that lets me work in a more painterly way.
I’m constantly changing and correcting as I draw. It’s actually a derivative of the correction-tape method I developed when doing pen-and-ink work on Guidolon. If I made a mistake, I ran the correction tape over it and was redrawing on top in seconds. It worked great for drawings that were being scanned and transmitted digitally, because no-one ever saw the tape. Not so good for art people are gonna buy the originals of! (and they do; if you want to buy one of my existing drawings from an event, go here, towards the bottom.)
The chalk markers, with their tremendous opacity and extremely fast dry-down, give me similar powers to correction tape. And at the previousDr. Sketchy’s, with just two models in neutral colors, I was flying! But Sunday I jumped in with the same fearless vigor, and a lot went wrong. Damage to the surface of the paper from too much water in the brown chalk marker, problems with my line as I moved too quickly even for myself, and weird scumbling effects from the pastels I was using.
I just kept rolling, working and reworking the same drawings, trying to figure it out, because I am invested in the process.
It did mean, however, that I didn’t make nearly as many drawings as usual. There are these three of the Sea Salts, and a couple portraits of Bishop Black, and one of beautiful Gizam Akman, and that’s it!
You can see the drawings of Bishop and Gizam here.
Bishopis a multi-disciplinaryartistwho works incredibly hard in so many swim lanes! And he is fantastically handsome and muscular 🙂 You can see my drawings of him from the Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin Red Hot Love session here and here.
I was experimenting a lot with materials for this session (read more at this post) and struggling to resolve values.
Rendering skin tones and clothing shadows is something I can do easily in paint, but I am a novice at pastels and color drawing still.
A big part of the reason I’m adding color to my drawings now is to give performers of color a more vibrant representation. My approach is ever-evolving, and I always invite POC performers to check me if I get their undertones wrong!
I only got one drawing of beautiful mermaid model Gizem Akram, seen below, because my usual table by the dj stand just didn’t work well for most of her poses.
This happens occasionally wherever I draw; sometimes I just can’t get a good “shot” of one or more performers.
It’s challenging to draw scantily-clad people in multi-colored stage lighting, but I did my best; you know who is awesome at it?
Yet some more obscure characters still may not get their own full figures. So Hasbro, the toy company that has the mass-market 6″ scale Marvel license, is making kit-bashable assets for fans to DIY.
Marvel Legends Mystique picture from TheFwoosh!
Lilandra, Majestrix Sh’iar, was on the 90’s cartoon, so she’s fairly well known. Well enough to justify making her head and including it with shape-shifter Mystique. (Visit SUPERB action figure site The Fwoosh for their reviewof this fig, which I stole this photo from!)
Mystique was released around the same time as an old school Spider-Man villainess, Silver Sable. Hasbro correctly assumed collectors would combine the two, as even mass-market figures are designed for easy head and hand swaps these days. Hasbro gets sell two Silver Sables, and collectors get a quick-fix Lilandra by removing Sable’s tactical pouches and adding a cape.
A similar principle is in effect for obscure and weird 80s villainess Typhoid Mary, whose release as a toy is inexplicable until you consider how toy releases are tied to tv/movie deals and behind-the-scenes Marvel Studios machinations.
Typhoid Mary figure pic from OAFE.net, an action figure site worth your visit!
Mary, a character I never liked, is a natural dupe for New Mutants/X-Men foe/ally Lila Cheney, who you can see above with her friend Dazzler, putting on some makeup!
My vision of Lila in full 80s rockstar regalia was exhilarating!
I jumped on it. All I had to do in terms of painting Lila was paint her face so it was an even color, matching her body, paint her hair black, and add some purple 80s makeup.
Her likeness already landed perfectly between Joan Jett and Sage Montclair, who plays Lila in the video you can see a bit further down.
Sculpting wise, I removed the figure’s bizarre forelock, resculpted the ends of her hair, and added a thicker flange around her hip joints so I’d have some surface to attach her skirt to.
If you have love in your heart for the New Mutants and X-Men of the 80s, and you haven’t seen this video, I implore you to watch it.
It is the most charming thing you will ever see.
I’m super pleased with my Lila figure!
Since I am not a professional customizer, I didn’t seal her face – the satin finish of the artist’s acrylic was such a good match shine-wise for her existing flesh areas.
So if she falls over she might get a paint rub on her nose. But since she will live in my X-Men dollhouse where everything is glued down, I hope she will be ok.
The belt stars and studs are little brads from Rio Rondo, the model horse tack supply company, who still haven’t updated their website. the belt is Illyana’s, and the padlock is from ebay. The two sizes of tiny studs on her jacket are from a nail art set I got for like a euro on ebay.
I lost the collar Typhoid Mary came with while removing her head at some point (it happens, with tiny things). I had intended to stud it for Lila’s signature look. Now I have to buy ANOTHER Typhoid Mary figure, which is ok because I can use the parts for other projects. Then Lila’s little star necklace will become a classic 90s “Y necklace”!
For Lilandra, I decided to go the extra mile and use my fave epoxy clay, Apoxie Sculpt, to build out her cuirass, stomach armor plate and hip flanges.
Oh and her boot tops. Oh and her sword arm armor. And paint her dark blue bodysuit. And repaint all her armor in a uniform silver. Since this was my first time painting any body paint on a figure, I was nervous! But sculpting the detail enabled me to paint clean lines really easily.
I used Liquitex Matte Varnish, which is similar to Testor’s Dullcote in performance, to prime Lilandra’s figure and Lila’s head.
It created a surface with good tooth for adhesion of the regular artist’s acrylic I used for the painting.
I did push the boat out and order Tamiya Chrome Silver model paint for Lilandra’s armor, and it was kinda overkill; I think I would have been satisfied with the results from any silver tube acrylic.
Or my universal-surface acrylic craft spraypaint. It’s called Dupli-Color Deco-Matt, but isn’t available in the US. Here’s a good piece on UK sprays for plastic!
Evil but sexy goth-twink figure of Reeve Carney from Penny Dreadful holds his glass of absinthe in one hand and the drying cape of my Lilandra custom action figure in the other.
I have seen real customizers get gorgeous results with proper model paint, but for midnight blue metallic I just mixed the same kinda acrylic interference paint I used in art school in 1990 with blue artists acrylic.
I have said this before, but making one‘s own #actionfigurecustoms is a fool‘s errand, even with a full professional artist setup.
There’s a really good article about interference paints on Golden’s site. It’s super relevant in this time when “color-change” and “chameleon” finishes are so popular.
The tiny learning I have acquired about painting tiny things with a tiny brush: move the paint, not the brush.
You need to have a bolus of fairly liquid paint well towards the tip of the brush and touch that to your piece, then gently move it around with the brush. You really don’t want the tip of the brush to touch the surface, because then the fibers it’s made of splay out. You lose the value of the “point” of the brush, and you lose your control. This is actually the same principle used in painting edging and trim in house-painting. When I was eleven feet up on the ladder trying to paint up to the ceiling molding in our library, I experienced it over and over. Don’t get lazy and try to use all the paint on the brush, so the brush fibers touch your surface; keep enough paint on the brush so you’re moving the line of the paint, not the brush.
The big learning I’ve made about model painting: always, always quit while you’re ahead.
The lineup was astonishing, and I stayed in my stageside seat by the piano, supported by kind stranger Arthur, for a good six or seven hours. There was no way I was leaving before drawing Hungry and Betty Fvck!
Check out Amber Alert, above! What a stunner! Amber talks about the early days of Brooklyn’s innovative drag scene and her drag journey here on Huffpost.
Rhama is so lovely!
An elegant nonbinary singer and dancer, you can see them on youtube here. Their latex dress is by a designer named Florian Máthé.
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
Fabulous muse Noélinela Bouche shook it in purple, amazing as always. Afterwards I visited her at her booth where she sells her beautiful fascinators and headpieces – check her insta to see what shows she’s selling at.
My absolutely cherished Beloved Friend-Muse-Patron Clear was in town with his lady companion Jen.
I have a lot going on right now, and I still have strep, but I can work under damn near any conditions, and there was nothing on this earth I wanted to do more than have the sacred, precious drawing-time with these two. There is a connection when I work with people, when we sit together and I draw them, and we talk, that is like nothing else I’ve experienced.
It creates a bond, the bond between artist and muse, that lasts and connects. I get to see them through the merciful eyes of a Higher Power, illuminated by their beauty and character. Their faces move and shift, and the portrait is a gestalt of all the moments that pass between us as we work.
I say we because my portraits are a collaboration, the result of the work of being together and their work being visible to me. It’s the most precious and important thing I know. And of course it’s why I don’t do portraits from photos, only from life. We gotta hang out!
This image is the drawing halfway through, before I added pastels. My technique is evolving and developing in a very unorthodox way as I figure out how to “paint” with a combination of toned paper, chalk markers, greyscale and sepiatone markers, and pastel. I am figuring out how to make the drawing process additive-subtractive with these new tools. It means rather than pass/fail, this-mark-is-final, I can keep shifting as I would with a painting.
I described the changes that have happened in my drawing style since Clear came for my 50th birthday two years ago and brought me my first set of greyscale markers. How then my Beloved Friend-Muse-Patron of 44 years, Victoria, gave me a set of pastels and I started shyly, almost apologetically, adding touches of color. How Lydia loaned me a chalk marker at a life drawing session in her home in 2018 and I fell in love with its painterly qualities.
“It sounds like you’ve been iterating really fast,” said Jen, who is very smart as well as funny and beautiful. “Yeah, I guess I have”, I said. It’s the hothouse environment of my Patreon, I realized; it lets me feel so supported I can take risks. It was so wonderful to have this time with these two, and to document them together. Clear’s been commissioning portraits from me since 2006!
And this is the other portrait I did this week, of my husband at the visa office, where we got startling bad news!
He is always gracious about posing, even though he really dislikes having his picture taken and being seen or shown on social media. I’ve been carrying this little Kraft paper sketchbook around this week, and it was the perfect size for a quick drawing. Although I generally like to work as large as possible, sometimes a little drawing is just right 🙂
You want your Suz to stay in Berlin, drawing your beautiful selves as you do your wonderful creative work, right?
Here’s how you can help!
My loves, there has been a big mess with the visa office, and I have only a three-month visa to stay in Berlin now. Yes, this is happening when I just had surgery and have had a year of serious health problems.
I have an appointment to renew my artist’s visa or restore my spousal visa on November 20, and before then I need bank statements showing more income as an artist/more media coverage of my work.
How I am asking you to help:
1. Buy an original drawing at my tax/visa sale price of only 40 euros – 20% less than the regular price. And pay by Paypal or bank transfer, stating “artwork sale”, if possible so I have a record of the sale. Paypal: email@example.com
Easy to view and search albums here. Scroll the whole stream of thousands of drawings here.
2. If you can’t afford that,sign up for my Patreon for one euro a month! If you’re already a Patron, you know how incredibly grateful I am to you for transforming my life and work.
4. FREE TO YOU and ideal for US folx!! ! Emailonline art magazines/websites about my work. I desperately, desperately need a break with some media coverage.
Got a gallery contact or a contact at the Schwules Museum? Tell ’em about me!
More info about my work, the loss of Patreon income SESTA/FOSTA has cost me, and how to promote me here:
Sample text/project descriptions for submission to art news websites:
Former courtroom artist makes a life’s work of open source documentary art, live-drawing scenes from sex parties to the Berlin subway.
Former DC comic artist documents alternative culture by drawing live on the scene, then distributes her work open-source.
Huge open source queer and alternative culture art archive in jeopardy from SESTA/FOSTA.
Suzanne Forbes is an expat New Yorker by way of the Bay Area, using the skills she developed as a courtroom artist to live-draw queer, trans and alternative culture. Much like the embedded combat artists who traveled with troops in World War One, she draws live on the scene for public distribution. Instead of newspapers, her drawings are published open source for anyone to print and share on flickr and her blog. Her documentary art project has been running since 2005, and is crowd-funded through Patreon. Her mission is to tell unique human stories, with a focus on visibility and representation.