Tag Archives: acrylic painting

Portrait of Cadbury Parfait, first sitting!

Portrait of Cadbury Parfait work in process June 2019 by Suzanne ForbesThe 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.

Cadbury’s next production is the all-queer-performer

Extravagant Shambles Presents: Pride, Not Prejudice on July 25 at Monster Ronsons!

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 Noeline la Bouche, as well as breathtakingly gorg out-of-towners like Betty Fvck and Lily Lustre, both of whom I’ve drawn once and been simply CRAVING to draw again!

This is a can’t-miss Pride event, and I’m so excited!

Portrait of Shakrah, third sitting.

Portrait of Shakrah Yves work in process third sitting by Suzanne Forbes April 29 2019Sometimes a portrait changes a lot during the process!

Suzanne Forbes painting Shakrah Yves photographed by Mirella Frangella June 2018 all rights reserved

Suzanne Forbes painting Shakrah Yves photographed by Mirella Frangella June 2018 all rights reserved

I was frustrated with this portrait of my friend Shakrah Yves because it’s on a small canvas (about 40x50cm) and I usually paint quite large.

I just couldn’t get comfortable with the composition.

Plus, during the second sitting, which was photographed by Mirella Frangella, I radically changed Shakrah’s pose and completely repainted her face.

But we convened for a third sitting last week and it came together, finally. WIP Portrait of Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes first and second sittings 2018

Here are the results of the first two sittings, above.

Really different right?? It’s not done yet, but Shakrah’s time-traveler beauty is emerging. In the ten months since we last worked on this picture, Shakrah and I have spent time hanging out, and I have come to know her face much better. I was truly feeling like her character and her beauty weren’t captured by the portrait to date, and seriously considering abandoning it. Plus, the pink velvet salon chair she was sitting on was destroyed by a giant hacker during our New Year’s Day epic brunch, so we needed to use a different chair!

But she was up for posing, after my work hiatus caused by the bus accident and after her very busy year, and I decided to see how it went. Because I know her face better, when I returned to the painting, I could see what was salvageable and good about the second iteration, and build on it. And we decided to remove her headpiece, even though she made it and it is beautiful, because its scale overpowered the small painting.

I’m glad I didn’t give up on this one! I posted the latest on my Instagram and one of my Patrons commented,

Portrait of Shakrah after third sitting detail by Suzanne Forbes April 29 2019 2

“Thank you for sharing your frustrations as a professional artist. It gives the rest of us newbies perspective and that we too should keep trying.”

I was glad to be of service, and also surprised. I started earning money as an artist when I was sixteen, so I’ve been working within my own insecurities and frustration my whole life. That’s why it’s WORK!

I guess I assume everybody knows that professional artists struggle constantly with not being as good as they want! Or not being able to resolve a piece! Or not being able to capture someone or something beautiful!

That’s the greatest frustration to me, that I can never capture the beauty of my subjects the way I see it.

I will never be able to show you exactly how beautiful and luminous and unique you are before me, but I will get closer and closer til the day I die, Goddess willing.

And I am able to do this because of the help of my Patrons on Patreon who provide the monthly sponsorship that allows me to tell women’s stories and grow as an artist!

 

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 🙂

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!