Suzanne Forbes, an expat New Yorker in Berlin. Made possible by the generous support of her Patrons. https://www.patreon.com/SuzanneForbes. Former DC Penciller for Star Trek, former courtroom artist, painting portraits and teaching drawing.
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.
Cadbury is a total professional and working with her is terrific.
The painting is coming along very well.
I have a new tool, a USB-powered LED light bar with multiple color temperatures.
It replaces the bulky, expensive full-spectrum OTT-Lites I used in the US, which I donated to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse when we left for Berlin. My new light has LED bulbs and is much lighter and smaller. It’s working great, and was super cheap.
Cadbury’s next Berlin solo show as a performer is at Zum Starken August on August 31.
And this Fall there is gonna be a fantasy-themed Extravagant Shambles, which I’m super excited about!
Funding for the panel and MisSa Blue’s work around the topic is through Paypal. Please feel free to contribute so that the speakers on this discussion are not doing this emotional labour for free. https://www.paypal.me/MisSaBlue
My own work was funded by my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly donations allow me to make documentary art of Berlin’s queer, intersectional burlesque scene and release it for free to all.
I met up withSuzanne in Prenzlauerberg for a visit to the Circus Bar!
There are two circus bars, actually, kitty-corner from each other as we used to say in the Old Country.
Zum Starken August has burlesque Friday and Saturday nights, with an MC like Martini Cherry Furter, above. Toast Hawaii has bands and also something called Pornokaroake which I don’t know what that even is. Toast Hawaii, btw, is a disgusting German dish. Do not google it.
I’ve drawn Martini before and it is always SUCH a pleasure. She is so beautiful, all glamour and cheekbones and legs and sass. The straight boys she was teasing as I drew this were blushing like little kids.
Here’s performer La Loba Lucía, one of my favorite people in Berlin to draw!
She always looks like a super hero, even doing her gangster routine here. She brought the routine out of retirement just for this night so I was super excited! It was so important to me to be there on this night, and yet I was so sick I almost gave up and went home. Only the support of my friend and fellow artist Suzanne Wegh kept me there.
The 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.
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 Noelinela Bouche, as well as breathtakingly gorg out-of-towners like Betty Fvck and LilyLustre, both of whom I’ve drawn once and been simply CRAVING to draw again!
This night circus was a Bizarre World of Wonder! The most gothic show of the week, it featured circus, neo-burlesque and dark cabaret. Above is MisSa Blue in glittering gold. She is an amazing performer and swallowed a flaming sword! There was Dunja Von K, who I’ve drawn often, doing a spooky uncanny Valley routine! I knew she wouldn’t mind my doing a kinda creepy take on this routine.
You genuinely cannot imagine how hard she worked this whole week. And how beautifully the events focused on embracing diversity, creating safe spaces, and representation.
This is Jonny Porkpie, who is apparently the (self-proclaimed) Burlesque Mayor!
His act involved a strip down with flasks, vials and bottles of liquor concealed in ever-more ingenious places. Not very relevant to my interests as a recovering alcoholic but it was a charming performance!
Little Miss Piss did an act that was very different at the end than at its beginning.
It was PACKED with surprises! I cannot show you the drawing of the end here, sadly. You will have to find it on my not-safe-for-puritans erotic art channel and site 🙂 Perhaps you can find it by googling.
The Newcomer competition at Shimmy Shakedown was a Battle for the Best in Burlesque!
Newcomers from all over Europe and Germany competed for the title of ‘Burlesque Entertainer of the Year’. Above, you can see Noeline La Bouche, who won “Most BadAss” I believe!Here’s Setty Mois – she was my first drawing of the night and I wish I could have captured her in more detail.
I love hearts as a theme because I love love 🙂 Cadbury Parfait, who won “Most Classic”!
This performance was intensely moving. Watching The Velvet Unicorn use “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” in the Burlesque context, with their “costume” consisting of the kind of black hoodie that is so often racially profiled, was disquieting. As it should be.
As they stripped down and twerked I thought of both the appropriation of black dance moves by white performers and how white culture hyper-sexualizes people of color to other and alienate them. I was reminded of Karen Finley throwing glitter on her chocolate-covered, abused body at the end of “We Keep Our Victims Ready“ because “After everything they do to us, we’re supposed to get dressed and go out to dinner”. I was not surprised to learn The Velvet Unicorn works withsocial justice and trauma in their burlesque art. They have a radio show as well!
Here is beautiful CocoLectric, as a lovely flower during the Full Moon Cabaret “Nature” show! So many incredible performers traveled from all over the world to perform at Berlin Burlesque Week, and I was thrilled to meet them and get a chance to draw them.
This is AgathaFrisky, a gorgeous lady in a gorgeous outfit, as a Corpse Flower!!!
Her costume was exquisite, and she has an amazing shake!
With smiles for miles and legs for leagues, she lit up the stage. Meeting her I was so touched by her warmth, and her Instagram is full of powerful, compassionate social justice messages. She recently performed at Hubba Hubba Revue in San Francisco, where I cut my burlesque live-drawing teeth from 2005 to 2014!
Below, producer and hostess with the most, Viva Lamore.
Because of recentchanges in US law, I cannot create any drawings that show nudity, “implied nudity”, or breasts with pasties for my Patreon, which is how I have crowdfunded my free documentary art the last few years. I’ve created a new site for my documentary art about human sexuality and gender expression. I can’t link to it because of Patreon rules. Please don’t blame Patreon; blame SESTA-FOSTA. Maybe you could find the new site by googling!
There’s a post on my new site with new drawings from this Full Moon Cabaret too. It shows the breathtaking power and beauty of the performers at this show in all their glory. Skyclad, or in pasties.
I’ll continue to post on here too, sponsored and supported by my beloved, cherished Patrons, as right now that’s the only source of revenue for my art and I’ll always be interested in doing “work-safe” art as well as art with nudity such as life drawing. I’m working on a funding model for the new site.
Of course, you can always paypal me artist support money at suzanneforbes @ protonmail.com!