I was shocked to find these drawings, hiding in a sketchbook I thought contained nothing of importance. (I also found an unfinished unterwegs that I genuinely don’t remember drawing!)
As you can see to left, the drawing of Le Pustra and Mama Ulita was mostly finished. The others were more scribbly, just pencil. But now that I have actually seen the live performance of the Kabarett, I felt I should try finishing them up.
Why had I abandoned them?
Was it frustration that I can never really capture the wild glamour of these performers, in their soft silk robes and stockings, with their immaculate white tie and tails?
I feel terrible frustration trying to convey exactly how it feels to see Mama Ulita perform. When she whips off her bob wig to reveal her own seal-slick black cap of hair, the audience gasps. I honestly want to be David Downton, at moments like that. This drawing doesn’t have a fraction of her elegance.
But it is a valid attempt, and it was worth finishing to see where it went, so I don’t know why that didn’t happen. Maybe these drawings just overtaken by events, as they say in the military? It’s been a tough year or two, healthwise.
I’m working hard to figure out how to add color to my drawings, but I am still so unsure. I used markers, pastels and a water reservoir brush to add color to several of them. Color is such an important part of the visual design of the Kabarett, with bright wigs by Nina Budden Hair and pale ostrich boas. I don’t really know how to convey these soft vintage shades alongside the graphic black and white tuxedoes.
Sometimes hints of color, little accents, are best.
Sometimes I try to do more and don’t feel I succeeded. The trouble is, even terrific photographers can’t capture everything the eye sees at a show like this. There are a thousand moments, each so beautiful, and I can’t show you them all.
Still, I do my best, and I hope you enjoy this tender moment with Le Pustra and Lars Schwuchow, above.
I am so grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, who make it possible for me to document Berlin’s queer intersectional performance scene and release the artwork free to all.
Well, actually only two January unterwegs and one mystery underwegs!
I met lovely ladies on the S-Bahn!
The city always has a gift. I went across town to see House of Living Colors‘ Endangered Species show at Sophiensaele, but there were no tickets available. However, on the S-Bahn I met these glamorous ladies, who were heading to Alex for their event at Berlin Fashion Week.
The lady with the hat is StellaAhangi, the powerhouse creative behind Club der Glamourösen Exzentriker. Apparently they have Glam Walks with lots of stylish older people, that start right by our house!! The lady with the blue hair is Brigitta Kuesgen.
I am always fascinated by the rhythms of machine-usage, like this group of people: headphones phone, headphones phone, phone, headphones!
The one above is the mystery unterwegs.
When I first saw it in the sketchbook last week, I had no memory at all of drawing it. When I set to work to finish it, some vague recall came back: it was on one of the new buses, and I remember being fascinated by how much the reader had going on, clothes-wise. Those wooden toggle buttons on her canvas coat! Her hat! But when it happened, where I was going, whether it was early last spring or early last Fall – I have no idea.
You can see hundreds more unterwegs drawings celebrating life on Berlin’s public transit system here. All unterwegs drawings are courtesy of my Patrons on Patreon whose monthly financial support allows me to make this free art available!
This large flowering alien carnivorous alien plant is made of marbled shades of green Sculpey, mixed with 40% translucent Sculpey to let some light through, and the teeth are made of translucent Sculpey mixed with white Sculpey Bake-and-Bend. I ran the floral wire stems of the Audreiis through ready-made plastic succulents, added “silk” flowers leaves, and wrapped everything together with floral tape.
Then I drilled a hole into the wood base to hold the stem. You can see a little bit of not-yet-painted Apoxie Sculpt where I filled in the gap in the base intended for fairy light wire. I’m quite happy with this creature and I’m keeping it for our house. Creepalicious right???
I also made four fascinator hats, using the sculpted Venus Flytraps, “silk” leaves, velvet, fleece, felt and trims.
I stuck everything together with my favorite textile glue, UHU Alleskleber (which is similar to Quick Grab/Quick Grip in the States).
They have little satin garter tabs at the back, to put a bobby pin through for extra stability.
The wires at the bases of the plants go through a hole pierced in the fascinator base and are spiraled, glued down and covered with felt. I hate the idea of something I make not holding up to wear!
I put two up for sale, one goes in my birthday party art giveaway, and I’m keeping one. 25€ from each sale went to Give Something Back to Berlin, an organization supporting refugees.
The one above sold to a lovely collector of my work who is giving it as a gift – it makes me so happy, as did making the donation to GSBTB!
And I made potted Alien Carnivorous Plants!
I used ceramic pots, tinfoil as filler/stabilizer, spackle/glue on top and some very, very old ground cover from the “California Missions” kits sold in CA craft stores.
One of these was sold to a friend who collects my work, for a Christmas gift for his hubby! The other is going in the art giveaway I’m having on my birthday.
Places that were institutions when we arrived in 2015 are closing down, or having to move. I grew up in Manhattan, and I have seen this story unfold in Chelsea in the 80s, and in San Francisco in the 90s.
Beloved dancehall Clärchens Ballhaus is one of the institutions in transition. The building has been sold. The current operator, Christian Schulz, says his lease expires at the end of this year. The ragged old beauty of a building is going to be renovated, and more will be revealed. We can only hope for the best, a space that the community can continue to enjoy and not condos.
I desperately wanted to go before they close at the end of the year, to draw a dance session.
But with my health issues and endless medical appointments, making a plan to attend a dance session was very tough.
Instead, my hub and I used a gift from my mom-in-law to go to a fancy dinner-with-dancing for our five year wedding anniversary. It was held in the SpiegelSaal or Hall of Mirrors, with fantastic music, and lucky for me, there were some terrific dancers!
Above, my husband enjoys the music.
His rapt expression is because he‘s listening to the amazing band play The Flight of the Bumblebee, which he says is extraordinarily difficult to play on the piano. The band was Pan Marek on Drums, Alexej Wagner on guitar and Eugen Miller on double bass and vocals, as well as the marvelous piano player whose name I gotta get. He looked like a biker Deadhead but he was superb on the keys!
Clärchens Ballhaus is, as it were, a kind of story machine, a site of conjecture. The German illustrator and photographer Heinrich Zille had his regular place at the bar, where he used to sit and draw. And Otto Dix painted the poster in 1931, which is still used today.
To become part of a community is to open the door to loss.
Community is fluid, like gender, like cities. A local business becomes a hub of connection and expression, and then economic forces make that business unsustainable. Ludwig was a bar, an art gallery, a performance space, a clubhouse for Queer Berliners. It existed from 02.06.16 to 21.09.19. And it was located in a rapidly gentrifying area where construction has overshadowed street access for the last several years.
You don’t know sad til you’ve heard a trans girl sing “Send in the Clowns” on the last night of one of the safest spaces you’ve ever known.
Everyone tried to save Ludwig, but it’s not always possible to keep things. Running a business is brutally hard on small business owners, and when we love those people, when they’re artists and part of our community, we want them to be saved too, not used up fighting economic and structural factors. It’s a story that happens every day in every city, and it breaks our hearts.
The last night at Ludwig was very fucking sad.
My husband came out with me, only the second time he came out in 2019, because, well, it was important. He even dressed up super spiffy. As always, Maurus Knowles brought me my favorite non-alcoholic beverage, Ostmost Apfel-Minze schorle. Ceven Knowles made a playlist that began with “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing”, so perfect it seared my heart. Dear Transophonix, above, made a processional to the stage and performed a dirge, filling the space.
The tables out front were packed, spilling over, with colorful queens and queers and non-binary folx. We were all heavy with loss, and yet also exuberant, because of the community we have. Dan and I left pretty early, because my heart was spilling over too.
Thank you, Maurus and Ceven, for giving me the place my life in Berlin truly began.
I am incredibly sad that my beloved Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin is ending.
Lala Vox has poured her heart and soul into it for ten years, creating an event beyond anyone’s imaginings, and needs to let it go now. Co-producer Syren Joey, who has done fantastic work the last couple years, also has reasons to not be producing a big elaborate event.
Liliana is a friend and muse who I have drawn many times because she is one of the hardest-working entertainers in Berlin. I’ve caught her doing stand-up, producing variety shows, hosting New Year’s events, teaching the tango at her live talk show, and more.
She is also a professional life model, who worked for seven years at the top New York art schools, including the Art Student’s League and the School of Visual Arts, two of the places where I went to school!
There is nothing like the grace and elegance of an experienced artists’ model, who can tell a story in their gaze or the arch of a foot.
Liliana is also now teaching self-defense to women and minorities at Pretty Deadly Self Defense, a valuable Berlin resource I am hoping to check out soon!
Here is a picture of me at my usual table at a Sketchy’s earlier this year, by Maren Michaelis.
I absolutely encourage all Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin folks who haven’t yet been to visit Drink and Draw Berlin’s gorgeous and welcoming historic boat. The boat is docked on the river Spree, and is set up as a permanent life drawing space, with model platforms, hanging drapery, props, easels, and a variety of seating including very comfy! There are weekly drawing classes, events and more.
I splashed out and bought a front-row seat for the ten-year anniversary of Berlin’s PorYes Awards.
The awards were held this year in the beautiful HAU1 theater of the woman-run Hebbel am Ufer. Since 2009, the PorYes award (which is a sparkling, open crystal oyster!) stands for respectful portrayal of all genders and a diverse sexuality.
She created the first lesbian adult film production company, Fatale Media. I absolutely adored seeing clips of her filmsfrom the 80s – they are funny and playful and sexy, with safer sex education and wonderful characters.
Dr. Loree Erickson is doing such important work in empowering queercrips.
Her critical academicwork is in practices of resistance such as the “sexy femmegimp politics of flaunting it”, she makes art that fearlessly articulates desire for historically forbidden bodies, and she was wearing leopard and metallic fucshia which is my favorite.
Wayne Yung talked about the reactions he got when he began bringing feminist gay films to festivals.
He said it was not initially an easy concept to sell! I highly recommend a visit to his site to check out his deep catalog of video art – he has produced an incredible body of work.
The costumes and sets, by Le Pustra, are simply unbelievable, and everyone has such a unique look. I knew I would be spoilt for choice!!
My jaw fell off my face when I saw Charly Voodoo walk onstage.
As a corset-lover (some might say hardcore corset fetishist!) I am always thrilled when I see someone seriously corseted. Charly Voodoo‘s whole look was incredible, with a lace head mask, high heels and stockings. He is absolutely beautiful (as is his husband Pierre-Louis, a dancer and plant-lover who revealed so much more! Sadly, I did not have a chance to draw Pierre-Louis!)
Charly’s corset is by Maxim Blotin, a young corsetmaker in Paris. It looked like satin coutil to me but apparently is made of something called leather satin! It is either corded or quilted, with gores, and a near-pipestem cut. I did not draw the details accurately, which pains me, but I think I got the shaping right. His mask, by Kevin Jacotot, was a thrilling challenge. I was so excited I really couldn’t even see straight.
Next to Charly above, singer and violinist Shir-Ran Yinon, woman of exquisite profile and fabulous pipes.
And then Charly Voodoo started to play the piano!!
Amazingly!! He is FAB. And then, I got a special ringside seat for a spectacular vignette involving Julietta la Doll, one telephone, two glasses of water and no pants!! But I can’t share anything about that on this family-friendly blog, so here’s another drawing of Bridge Markland!
You can find out what wild theater and performance Bridge is up to right here, if you’re not too afraid of her wild soul!
Her staging of an 1890s “German screwball comedy” with puppets is coming up Nov. 29- Dec. 1, at another beautiful Berlin venue, the Theater im Delphi.
Legendary Berlin performing artistReverRso, who unrolled a strip of cutwork cotton from his mouth as he danced in a lace dress, then blindfolded himself.
That is producer and torch song singer Le Pustra above, limned in glitter.
Wigs for the show are done by hair artistNina Butkovich-Budden. They are devastating, characters in their own right. The suberb stage managing is by Lady White Rabbit, who I hadn’t seen in ages – she took very good care of me! I can’t imagine this immersive, improvisational show anywhere but at the historic and louche Ballhaus Berlin. This theater is a treasure, and I hope it will be preserved as a venue for some time.
Speaking of which, I gotta get to Clärchens Ballhaus before they shut it down. Should I draw tango or swing?
As always, I’m incredibly grateful to my Patrons on Patreon. I couldn’t show up and tell these folx’ stories without the monthly financial support of my Patrons, especially as my health has declined this year. The subway was inexplicably just not working when I left Ballhaus tonight, and the fact that I could hail a taxi to go home means so much. I might otherwise have spent hours figuring out a sequence of trams, buses and trains to get home – I have before, and it’s brutal on my body and on my psyche.
I will be increasingly asking for disability accommodations at venues, as I simply can’t move, stand, or do the things I once could.
Le Pustra was kind enough to let me in the theater early to find a seat that was comfortable for me. Pure luck that I picked the one where Julietta was going to be making a very naughty phone call – my luck, that is! I was also very grateful to both Mayliss – stage manager Lady White Rabbit – and Julietta la Doll for warning me about the water in Julietta’s performance and making sure my art wasn’t damaged!
Got a chance to paint my precious mama on this visit, which was her longest so far.
I did a drawing on each of her previous visits – here and here– and this time I wanted to try a painting even though I have very little strength these days.
Painting takes a lot out of me physically, and with the endless upper respiratory infections I’ve had on top of my Hashimotos this year, I am always at zero physically.
I was willing to go into spoon-debt and suck up the recovery time for this though!
We did the sitting on the last night of her visit, so I could collapse after taking her to the airport the next day.
Here she is sitting in our salon, reading her Kindle.
Books are such a huge part of my mom and me’s life together, from the beginning. We shared books when I was a teen – Ed McBain, Dean Koontz, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, and most of all Dick Francis. In the 80s, we read every single thing every one of those writers had written.
And every Christmas there were stacks of paperbacks under the tree for me, all the Anne McCaffery and Isaac Asimov and Larry Niven and Heinlein. (Problematic as hell, but geek teens took what they could get!)
My mom still reads voraciously and lightning-fast, though I no longer do – I am too tired most of the time.
She discovers new writers, or new to her old writers, and burns through their work. The Kindle is great for her, as it is for another power-reader loved one, my Friend-Muse-Patron Barbara North.
My mom wore this pink striped sweater earlier in the week, and I asked her to wear it again for the sitting, I thought it would be nice against the pink model chair and the purple of her Kindle.
I need to do some finishing work on her sweater and paint in her hands properly, but I’m well satisfied with the likeness and how much I got done in the two-hour sitting. I took some photos of her jewelry and sweater for reference – as you all know, I never take reference photos for faces.
Even if I didn’t have a principle against it, I got enough of that on Star Trek!
I did some work on the backgrounds of two other paintings in progress the next day, even though I was dazed with tiredness – the portraits of Shakrah and Cadbury are now much closer to done. Having a palette with fresh paint on it was too much to resist!
I’m so grateful to my Patrons (including my mama and mom-in-law!) for supporting my work and making paintings like this possible.