Tag Archives: acrylic painting

Archiving some very early portrait paintings.

Portrait of John Talbot Wallis by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel Ketchum fall 1989One of the very first portraits I ever painted.

In late summer or early Fall 1989 I did this painting of my beloved, cherished friend John Talbot Wallis. He was staying with me at my little basement apartment in St. Paul, trying to kick heroin. It didn’t work out for him, and he went back to NY and relapsed immediately. I desperately hope he is still alive. Last I heard, in the mid-90s, he was very deep in addiction and had apparently lost most of his teeth. The odds aren’t good, but we junkies are tough as cockroaches. I’ve said a prayer for him every night for almost thirty years.

This was one of the earliest portraits I ever painted, though I had drawn quite a few by this point. To get ready for going back to art school full time, I was taking a painting class in downtown St. Paul, an extension class from the Minneapolis College of Design, with a wonderful woman professor.

I started out painting in acrylic, though there is tremendous bias against acrylics in the figurative and especially portrait painting community.

I really appreciated my teacher’s willingness to let me use acrylics. I was afraid I would have problems with my sobriety if I used oil paints, which involve solvents. I had never been an inhalant abuser, but I was less than a year sober and I wasn’t taking any chances!

I liked acrylics and it turned they are perfectly suited for my run-and-gun, punk rock style of painting, so I’ve never looked back. Detail portrait of John Talbot Wallis by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel Ketchum Fall 1989My palette was a lot more Fauvist early on, partly because I didn’t know how to mix colors or how to see color temperature in shadows.

I had never intended to be a painter – I was gonna be a comic penciller, and have colorists to take care of that!  So I had paid little attention to my color theory class at Parsons and stubbornly avoided working in color as much as possible. It was really an accident that led me to becoming a painter, that the only class in the extension program that Fall was a painting class, and that I loved my teacher.  I also just really love Fauvism, and I still think my early paintings are terrific examples.

This portrait of John, an homage to The Green Stripe aka Portrait of Madame Matisse, is probably one of the top ten likenesses I’ve ever achieved.

This IS John, who I met at Stuyvesant a day or two after my fourteenth birthday and was close friends and sometimes friends with benefits with til I was 23. He was literally the jolliest drunk I have ever met, a vibrant, loving, wildly creative guy without a mean bone in his body. He was a drummer, an artist, a rapper, and a lover who adored pleasing women.

He turned me on to NWA and The Tubes, and we walked thousands of miles together over Manhattan Island in the 80s. We logged thousands of hours hanging out, writing graffiti, drinking beer, roaming the city or watching MTV. We used to do acid and heroin and watch Jaws 3 in 3D with the colors on the television reversed, laughing hysterically. He had a heart the size of Central Park. Merciful Goddess, I hope he is still alive.

detail Portrait of Brad Geiken by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel Ketchum Fall 1990Another redhead, fellow MCAD painter Brad Geiken.

I painted this in the fall of 1990, I think, when Brad and I were together. Brad was a terrific, terrific painter and a really nice boyfriend. He looks mean here but that is the fault of me as the painter, not the man. Or he was mad because I was a shitty girlfriend and he deserved better. He had the most beautiful red hair.

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.

Until today, no record of these paintings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

Painting live at Berlin Burlesque Week with Rafa Alvarez!

Suzanne Forbes and Rafa Alvarez painting at Ballhaus Berlin May 28 2017During Berlin Burlesque Week I did a live painting session with my friend and colleague from ESDIPBerlin, illustrator Rafa Alvarez.

Rafa had been approached by Laura, who runs Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin, and asked to do a painting during the Dr. Sketchy’s session. He suggested I join in, and so I did! Suzanne Forbes and Rafa Alvarez painting at Ballhaus Berlin May 28 2017

It was a nice day and we had a lovely time!

The theme was Garden of Desire, so of course I had to dress up in some leafy flowery business. I brought a leaf crown for Rafa too. His partner came (her parents were watching their little lad, who you can see in this drawing) and took these great pictures. Paintings by Suzanne Forbes and Rafa Alvarez for Dr Sketchys Berlin May 2017

Isn’t it amazing how two artists can create such different works, on the same theme in the same amount of time?

I love Rafa’s style so much. He used these acrylic paint markers, which he got at the graffiti store (we have two in Berlin!) and which I had never seen before. Last pose Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 28 2017

I also snuck inside the (gorgeous, historic, old school cabaret) venue and did drawings of the last two poses.

The tables have these telephones you can use to call the bar and order a drink, and apparently they still work though a bit crackly. The globes light up, of course! Ballhaus Berlin is simply a mad spectacular place to hold a drawing session.At Dr Sketchys Berlin Burlesque Week by Suzanne Forbes May 28 2017

The models, lighting, props, set and music were amazing.

Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin is a seriously nice event, going strong for over seven years, and I absolutely plan to make the next one. Hopefully next year I’ll actually make some of the performances at Berlin Burlesque Week. I know I missed some fantastic ones. Darn lack of spoons. More spoons next year!

Here is a lovely photo Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin House Photographer Nina Zimmermann took of all of us!

photo by Nina Zimmermann from DrSketchys Berlin May 2017

photo by Nina Zimmermann from DrSketchys Berlin May 2017

Venus finished, and an eye painting study.

I finished the painting of Bunny just a day after she left, in a sugar-fueled dawn-light sprint.

enus of Wilmersdorf by Suzanne Forbes April 21 2016

Venus of Wilmersdorf by Suzanne Forbes April 21 2016

Although I much prefer to paint my models at night, in electric light, I often finish the details of paintings in as much bright daylight as I can tolerate. While I was working on the details, I remembered a couple of things from when she was here.

As we worked, during the second sitting, Bunny talked about her days with the Glamour-Bombing group. And when she left, she paused in the hallway to take a long look at one of my very few creepy paintings, the one called Chupacabra.enus of Wilmersdorf by Suzanne Forbes April 21 2016

So I decided to give her fey eyes.

Or rather, the brush decided for me, surprising me, and I was pleased.

enus of Wilmersdorf by Suzanne Forbes April 21 2016

 

enus of Wilmersdorf by Suzanne Forbes unfinished 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left you can she has a large, centered single highlight on each pupil and on the right, one small and one large on each pupil. You can also see the shadowing of her corneas has increased slightly on the left, making the the highlights seem brighter. This gives the effect that the pupils reflect light the way a cat’s eyes do (which is because the back of their eyeball has this reflective layer called the tapetum lucidum).

Then, because I was still thinking about the “spooky eyes” phenomenon today, I made a couple of eye studies.Suzanne Forbes eye study April 2016

 

As you can see, the highlight in the “regular” eye is offset to the left and double. In addition, it is placed below the shadow meridian cast by the eyelid. The whites of the cornea are most prominent to the sides of the pupil, while in the “spooky” eye the brightest whites gather below the pupil, emphasizing the reflective property of the eye.

I’m not a fantasy artist, but I thought this analysis, based on the style of old-school horror and fantasy artists like Bernie Wrightson and Jeffrey Catherine Jones, might be helpful!