Tag Archives: acrylic portrait painting

More self portraits from the late 80s and early 90s.

Horizontal self portrait acrylic on paper by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 1989 or 1990The sheer quantity of self-portraits figurative artists do in art school is mind-boggling.

These were either Fall 1989 or Spring 1990, in the Minneapolis College of Art and Design Painting classes of Elizabeth Erickson or Jackie Kielkopf. It’s hard to see but the one above has collaged paper on it, bits of golden light and green shadow.

Self portrait acrylic on paper prob early 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

What’s fascinating about the one above is that it has a secret collage element – the collar of my shirt.

In those years I very often wore pale blue button-down shirts accrued from boyfriends’ fathers’ closets. The collar here is made of the inside of what I am quite sure was my paycheck envelope from the bakery where I worked. It was a hidden acknowledgement of how proud I was to have it together enough to hold a job, attached to the painting as a crisp collar.

I don’t think the two perspectives of my face were meant to represent any kind of duality, though – I just had to do two angles and one came out kinda weird!

Self portrait collage on paper prob early 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesAll these painted/collaged self-portraits on paper from this period seem to be about studying color temperature in light and shadow.

I have vague memories of setting up a strong light source in my very dark first apartment.

Vertical self portrait acrylic on paper by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 1989 or 1990And this one I have no idea. Same period.

My hair was permed! I loved it honestly. It was great. Self portrait acrylic on paper horizontal prob early 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Self portrait prob Fall 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesProbably also Fall 1989 or winter 1990, a sweet and happy self-portrait on paper.

Self portrait summer 1990 painting apartment by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 1989 or 1990This one is from summer 1990, in ballpoint.

I drew myself, painting my new apartment completely white. Although I really was that thin at that point, it’s not a good self-portrait – I normally draw my short, thick neck accurately!!

Below, a self portrait with thoughts of various men I was involved with, from that summer. 
Self portrait with thoughts of men summer 1991 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

But now for something completely different!

Wow, 2.5 years of intensive CSA survivor therapy, lots of sexual harassment from comic editors, some feminist art school community, two years of chosen celibacy, a haircut, Thelma and Louise, and one Take Back the Night into my recovery, I was really, really fucking angry!!!

Vertical fantastical self portrait acrylic on paper by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 1992I actually remember the suit I am wearing in this painting, where I’m hacking at the lake of blood the patriarchy has created.

It was camel-colored, I literally had a beige suit, with those folded-to-the-elbow sleeves that were big in women’s suits in the early 90s. I wore a lot of suits for a while, when I was working as a courtroom artist and trying to finally break into comics. I had those polyester “shells” too, little sexless cami things you wore under your suit jackets.

I was interested in “passing privilege” and what it would feel like to be mistaken for a straight!

Just the ghost of my own wrath Summer 1991 Self portrait Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThese two watercolor drawings are attached together on a piece of illustration board, like a comic.

I believe they were done at the same time, Fall 1991, but the first image shows me a year younger, in 1990, and the second in Corte Madera after seeing “Terminator 2”.

I feel that way all the time July 1991 Self portrait Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

These last two drawings are from my last year of art school, ’91-’92. Self portrait with artists block prob 1992 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

They are about the struggle of artist’s block.Self portrait with dead artists prob 1992 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Look at that mournful baby Suz! Or baby Rach, as I was known at the time.

I don’t struggle a lot with self esteem around my work – I believe I’m an important artist. But we all have hard days at the easel.

Only two of these pieces have 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 pictures.

As a highly-vulnerable person with asthma and auto immune 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.

 

For the Archives: other people’s addictions.

Clock me and Max Fall 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesWow, that situation was a hot mess.

I have generally only experimented with codependancy for short periods. Other people’s problems tend to get in the way of my own addictive nature, and the ego strength and ambition I’ve been pulled along by my whole life.

Max Vampire painting with police Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesStill, I took a pass at a bad boy now and then, back in the day.

If they were hot enough. And Max was VERY hot.

Me and Max black and titanium buff acrylic on paper Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesHe was the manager at the St. Paul coffee shop I worked at in 1990, Dunn Bros. (now a big Minnesota chain!)

This crude painting of the two of us behind the counter at the store (as we called it) is still one of my favorite paintings from MCAD, the art school where I was in my second year at that Fall.

Max had white hair, and six-pack abs. He was 6’2″.

He was local, and a hard drinker, and a musician, and divorced, and like six or seven years older than me. Perfect.

Max Vampire painting with police Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesHe was a darksider, which is what the older generation of Twin Cities Goths were called in 1990.

They were kinda glam and kinda metal.

Painting of me and Max Fall 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesWhen he moved in with me all he brought were weights, leathers and a white Gibson electric guitar.

And some Flexidiscs of his band’s demo song.

max 9 24 90 playing guitar while his hair bleached by Rachel KetchumHe just seemed like good material.

I was still willing to risk a fair bit for good material, then.

Me and Max seated acrylic on paper Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesHe moved into my St. Paul apartment with me when we’d worked together for a couple months, and stayed a couple months.

Painting of me and Max Fall 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes detail MaxHe moved in after he got beaten up somewhere, by somebody, and it looked like he needed to get out of Minneapolis for a while. He paid half the rent without my asking, which was cool. He was mostly decent to me most of the time, despite being pretty much a jerk.

He was a binge drinker, so he’d be off with his local friends when he went out, and he didn’t wreck the house and I almost never saw him drunk.

I was pretty scared for him the first few times he didn’t come home, but then I kind of got used to it.

Nightmare assignment with me and Max Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis was for an assignment for Illustration class, about nightmares.

I did several versions, but this one was clearly about me and Max, two people who woke up screaming all the time. When we slept spoons, as we usually did, the razor scars on our left wrists lined up.

He was very into his damage, and I was interested in visualizing the material of my own trauma in a way I mostly ceased to be after art school.

Me and Max by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes September 1990These studies and painting roughs are about consent and power exchange, but not violence; Max never harmed me physically in any way.

Me and Max acrylic and ink on paper Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes The situation was some bullshit, but oddly enough, both of us were kind of playing it like we were doing a bit.

Me and Max clock acrylic on paper Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesMy dear friend Erin once said, “It’s no fun when there’s two sharks in the tank!”, and few statements have ever summed up my dating life like that.

I knew I wasn’t gonna fall in love with a fellow shark, and he knew I could handle his nonsense.

I used the drama of it for material for Illustration class assignments and he posed for my painting class homework, and we made each other laugh.

After two months or so he decided to get sober, and took off to Montana or somewhere. For years all I heard he was sober, and also being pretty weird.

Sketch of Max black acrylic on paper Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesHey, whatever it takes!

The relationship served a purpose for both of us. I saw him buying milk in the supermarket years later and he thanked me for saving his life, which I did not feel I deserved credit for.

Portrait of Max mixed media with spraypaint stencil Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThe art that I made about him formed the first student show I hung at MCAD, and I met one of my most influential art friends through it.

Figure sketch of Max Fall 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesI came upon Georgia Johnson Mrazkova and a friend standing in front of the paintings, discussing whether a man had done them and if so, did he know what a dick it made him look like.

“No, they’re mine.” I said.

And Georgia yelped with delight, and she said “I knew it! I knew it was a woman, and she knows EXACTLY what she’s doing!”

And we became art school friends, and I learned a lot from her, both about art and feminism.

I find it comforting that I did make a few images of Max that expressed his unique humanity, not just his role in a drama.Max sketches August to September 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

I drew him all the time when we were both home. Max August 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 4The white hair just killed me.

 

Me and Max in the kitchen Fall 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis painting of the two of us in the kitchen of my St. Paul apartment is another favorite of my art school works.

It was funny sometimes, how we were fucked up addicts in this crazy dynamic, and also, humans!!!max shadows 90 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

These paintings and drawings had never been photographed; until now, no record of them existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

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.