Tag Archives: Berlin drawing

A New York city subway car underneath a dollhouse in Berlin.

Extreme Sets NYC subway car customized by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2020Sometimes it takes me a really long time to finish a project.

Extreme Sets NYC subway car customized by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2020 Virginia Slims adLike, years and years! Loved ones brought me Extreme Sets’ NYC subway car and subway station from the States in the Fall of 2017.

I customized and installed the station pretty quickly, but then there were problems with the lighting. (There are ALWAYS problems with miniature lighting.) I decided to wait a bit and see what I could figure out.

I researched many different types of lights. I got a new type of LED strips for the station, then decided they wouldn’t work. It still has no lights!

I did permanently assemble the subway car seats, using a combination of hot glue and carpet tape to really square them up nicely, and filled in gaps with my beloved Apoxie Sculpt, a cleaner and more paintable finish than spackle. And I spent several years finding vintage 1980s ads to line the headers and side panels. Brooke Shields for Calvin! Take the Plane to the Train! And of course, Crazy Eddie! He’s practically GIVING this stuff away!!!

But I was nervous about the lights. I studied the solutions in use by action figure diorama people, and battery-operated flexible LED strips with adhesive backs seemed the clear winner.

So I did the final customizing and light install on the car…this month!!

I decided Winter 2020 would be my midlife nostalgia and taking stock time.

Extreme Sets NYC subway car customized by Suzanne Forbes Feb 2020 doorsSomehow, I found the psychic strength and motivation to tackle the huge archive project I’d been putting off since the summer of 2015.

The New Mutants movie is finally coming out.

And hub and I got to the third season of The Deuce, where they are in 1984. The silhouettes of the coats and the way people’s bangs moved gave me such a stab in the heart of grief, loss and unstuck-in-time that I had to stop our watching for a month.

Then once I’d dug into the archives for a couple weeks I was like fine, I can take it, I’m literally soaking in it anyway.

So we watched the rest of The Deuce, and I’m on twitter talking to the New Mutants fans, and on Instagram talking to the wonderful storyboard artist for the movie, Ashley Guillory, and it’s just 80s all over the place. It is poignant, piquant, sickening, and motivating.

I made the arms for the seats by softening styrene cylinders with a lighter, and yikes they looked like my old drug pipe, lying around.

I had to quickly throw out the failed tries (bending styrene is hard!) because seeing them out of the corner of my eye was freaking me out. Once spraypainted silver, though, they look great!

I didn’t tag the subway car with real writer’s tags, for the most part.

I was drained by the emotional work of connecting with all this material, and unnerved by the shockingly real look of the car. I just made up lots of random tags. “SEO” actually appears multiple times, because it looked good! I put up the tags of my dead boyfriends and old friends here and there, in the layers of gray-scale marker, but I let it not be the focus. I needed to get this project done, at last.

It is shocking that I survived, and critical that I work, for all the ones who didn’t.

Having this piece done, and putting it in its cubicle underneath the dollhouse, is like sealing up the now-recorded archives of 80s and 90s artwork. It creates a way forward where nostalgia and grief are gently given their places, and respectfully packaged, out of view of my daily life.

You can read more about my dollhouses and their function as memory palace (Gedächtnispalast), Valhalla and memorial below.

My first action figure dollhouse. My action figure subway station. The X-Men’s dollhouse.

My Rahne and Dani lovebird action figure customs, Douglock custom, and queer New Mutants art from my archives.

The New York subway I knew, in the 80s.

Truly underground model drawing, with Barsketcher Alexandra Ru and Chiqui Love!

Watercolor marker drawing of Chiqui Love in red by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020I have been meaning to go to one of Alexandra’s drawing sessions for YEARS!

Alexandra is a terrific artist who organizes drawing meetups, sessions and classes all over town – museum days, bar nights, life drawing and more. Just by accident last night I saw a post from Chiqui Love of the BSC, who said she was about to model for one, burlesque themed! I dropped everything, packed up my new gear and skibbled across town!

Watercolor marker drawing of Chiqui Love by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020For years I have been loving the watercolor washes other artists use for life drawing.

Alexandra does a particularly nice job. So I decided to take a step towards that approach, and ordered a bunch of watercolor brush pens, and some Strathmore Toned Gray paper for wet media. I figured it might be a disaster, but what the hell!

Watercolor marker and ink sketch of Chiqui Love by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020This session was put on by Alexandra and Liana Gilman, who share a studio space called Sketcherei, where they also host drawing.

Watercolor marker and ink sketch of Chiqui Love by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020The venue was a bar near Gorlitzer Park called “It’s A Bar”. The night was dark and rainy and I was not a little skittish about being closer to Gorli than I ever have on foot – not that I am afraid of drug dealers, I just don’t have any reason to interact with them.

I found the bar though, and made my way down the most rickety flight of stairs I have ever seen, into an underground chamber seemingly carved out of several random basements and infrastructure.

People say Berlin is gentrified now, but they don’t realize how different gentrified here and gentrified in the States is. Berlin is like West Oakland in 1997, plus a war.

There’s no visible awareness of law enforcement, building codes, fire safety regulations, or secondary exits in most places, and people have just been digging out the rubble and building shit for 75 YEARS. It’s like the East Village in 1984.

There is still a lot of magic in Berlin. And still a lot of accessibility issues. I am more aware of the access issues all the time.

Watercolor marker drawing of Chiqui Love by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020 detailAlexandra had kindly reserved the one chair with a back for me, and I made it down the stairs once, but no way was I trying them again for a beverage or the toilet! Most of the Barsketcher crew is lovely young people, who skittered up and down the coffin-like stairwell like mountain goats and sat comfortably about the levels of the underground grotto.

The secret space made a terrific drawing area and the lighting was bright and clear. Chiqui is a wonderful model, and she had excellent costumes and tunes.

I had no idea how to manage my watercolor brush pens, my water glass for refilling the water reservoir, plus my usual tools. And no idea how to use the brush pens! Which was great.

It’s terrific to use new tools, because I am VERY stuck in my routines. It was kinda hilarious though, water flying everywhere, me pouring water in my palm and then just smearing it across the lines to get a wash. I also quickly found myself scruffing the nylon bristles of the brushes across the smooth paper.

I’d love to see how the brush pens perform on paper with some tooth.

I would have liked to do more quick gestures, but the only sketchbook I brought was the Strathmore Mixed Media, at a almost a euro per page, so the loose sketches are actually on the backs of the finished drawings!

I also wish I’d brought just sepia, brown and beige watercolor pens, rather than having a whole color palette. I don’t have the transparent media color mixing skills, especially under club conditions! On the grey paper, with transparent media, I definitely felt the absence of a high white value.

Mixed media drawing of Chiqui Love in red by Suzanne Forbes Jan 28 2020So I added white chalk marker and pastels to the watercolor pen drawings.

I’m not sure about the results – I feel like now they just look like my regular marker and pastel drawings. Which is not bad, it’s just the native temperament of the watercolor is lost. Also @chiquilovelovelove looks a little stocky here, and she is actually muscular but slimmer.

So adding the whites changed the visual impact of the forms in a way it doesn’t with my usual style. Fascinating!!

I want to try the watercolor approach again, but on white not gray paper. The Strathmore toned gray mixed media paper held up really well though.

Thank you @barsketcher and Liana for the lovely drawing sesh!

And always, always thank you so much to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to experiment and grow as an artist, and to document Berlin life.

 

 

 

Color experiments and Weimar Glamour with Kabarett der Namenlosen.

Le Pustra and Mama Ulita at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2020I found a bunch of unfinished drawings from a Kabarett der Namenlosen session of Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin!

Work in progress Suzanne Forbes drawing of Le Pustra and Mama Ulita 2019I 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?Le Pustra at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2020

Mama Ulita at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2020 back viewWas 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.

I am committed to the process of making color an integral part of my live drawing, and it’s tough!

Mama Ulita at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2020Sometimes 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.Le Pustra and Dekolars at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Jan 15 2020

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.

January 2020 unterwegs!

Unterwegs with Stella Ahangi and Brigitta Kuesgen Jan 20 2020 by Suzanne ForbesWell, actually only two three 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 Stella Ahangi, 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.

Unterwegs boys on the U Bahn Jan 30 2020 Suzanne ForbesI also saw these boys on the platform, during this trip.

They were such a story, such a world of two, so intent. One well-cared-for, with neat braids; one with outgrown haircut and trousers. People are infinite.

Unterwegs with headphones and phones Jan 10 2020 by Suzanne ForbesThe scene above is from my travels to Kay’s t-birthday party.

I am always fascinated by the rhythms of machine-usage, like this group of people: headphones phone, headphones phone, phone, headphones!

Unterwegs with book and phones Jan 20 2020 by Suzanne ForbesThe 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!

First event of 2020 – a private party at Maze for Kay’s T-Birthday!

My pov at Kays birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne ForbesMy friend Sadie’s co-parent Kay invited me to his T-Birthday party.

It was my first time at a t-birthday! And I got to see someone get their first testosterone shot too, isn’t that cool? Lots of Berlin queer legends were in effect, that’s Laura Méritt of the PorYes Awards dancing above.

I asked the guy sitting next to me if he knew Kay and was there for the party. No, he said, he was here with his friend to talk to the club about hiring the space, and they decided to have a beer. “This is the third beer…” he said. Everyone in Berlin is wearing berets lately!

Kay at his 11th T birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne ForbesHere is the birthday boy, in his first outfit!

He wore multiple looks during the event of course.

Kaey performs at Kays birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne ForbesThe MC was lovely Kaey, in the most incredible Space Invaders graphic houndstooth dress.

She sang a tender version of “Creep” for all us weirdoes 🙂

Ceven performs at Kay birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne ForbesI saw Ceven perform for the first time since he began his drag journey.

He slipped out of a bunny onesie (he’s in the drawing below), then a flight suit!Crowd at Kays birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne Forbes

I was drawing loose and sketchy, because the light was mostly red light and fog machine.

And I was squished up with the beret guy and his friend on a squishy low couch. My pens kept falling between us and then I had to fish them out from under his butt.

The underground brick vault of a club, Maze, used to be BangBang, and before that it was legendary Queer Berlin homespace Schwuz. Schwuz is now a huge fancy place, but Kay and Sadie remember the basement days 🙂 and I was mistaken for Nina Hagen in the courtyard.

Kay P Rinha performs at Kays birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne ForbesThis is performer Kay P. Rinha, shaking it tough!

There were many Kays last night, and they were all amazing.

I was able to be there and document them because of my Patrons. As a queer, disabled artist, crowdfunded support is the only way I can make this work and release it for free. 

You can join my Patreon Patrons, for as little as a dollar/euro a month, to keep me working and releasing my documentary art of Queer Berlin as Free Art.

 

 

December 2019 Unterwegs: Buff Gay Lovebirds and Cannibal Kids!

Child eats dads head unterwegs by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2019I saw this sweet family on the bus one night recently.

Apparently, when you have a child, they sometimes try to eat your head. And the child’s mother thinks it’s funny, so there’s no help there.

Buff lovebirds on the U Bahn by uzanne Forbes Dec 2 2019I saw these buff sweethearts on the subway this summer, then the drawing languished unfinished til December!

They were happy to pose and I gave them my card, I hope they‘re not disappointed it took a while to get posted!

I am so grateful that the monthly financial support of my Patreon Patrons makes it possible for me to document Berlin people like this.

I believe these people and their stories matter, and I’m able to make these drawings and share them because I’m crowdfunded and can be flexible in managing my limited resources. Click here to help, for as little as a dollar/euro per month.

J, who fights to save our free expression online.

jillian by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2019We are blessed to have friends who do important work around freedom of speech.

One of them stopped by to pose today! You can visit onlinecensorship.org to learn about how to fight platform censorship, and join Electronic Frontier Foundation to help protect all our digital civil liberties.

Thank you, always, to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to document Berlin culture and people.

Drawing Liliana Velásquez at Dr. Sketchy’s x Drink and Draw Berlin!

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.

So the last two events are being held as special intimate sessions of Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin at the Drink and Draw Berlin kunsthaus, and this Sunday’s starred model Liliana Velásquez.

Liliana Velasquez at Take It Easy Baby Tom Petty Tribute by Suzanne Forbes April 20 2018Liliana 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.

Thanks so much to Lala Vox and Syren Joey for their hard work on Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin, and to Liliana Velásquez and the great folks of Drink and Draw Berlin!

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.

November Unterwegs!

Unterwegs November 24 2019 lady with gloves by Suzanne ForbesI know, there haven’t been any unterwegs for so long!

And some of my Patrons as well as many of my followers really enjoy them; I’m sorry I haven’t been making them. Unfortunately the last nine months or so have just been a mess with my health, and I haven’t gone anywhere except to doctors, most of whom are walking distance or one subway stop away. I’m feeling better now, and have had a little bit of energy for going to things. And since we live where all the doctors are but none of the nightlife is, that means riding the U-Bahn!

Above, a lady with gloves I saw while heading to the Drink And Draw Berlin boat for a Dr. Sketchy’s/D&D Berlin session. The guy behind her was just staring at me. Not like people usually stare at me – because watching someone draw is vaguely interesting, or because seeing someone draw on the subway is unusual, or I am wearing a giant fly made of Swarovski crystals on my head or whatever. This guy was staring at me like I was one more random event in a day that didn’t make sense. I felt for him, but I liked the way his arm was just hanging there, so I drew him anyway. I do not believe the bottle was his; it had rolled from a different part of the car.

Unterwegs October 26 2019 guy with backpack by Suzanne ForbesThis guy was very aware that I was drawing him.

I had caught his eye when I sat down across from him because I swung my bag around to get my sketchbook out and accidentally bonked the lady next to me. I apologized loudly in my American way, saying “Entschuldigung! Tut mir leid!” while the lady snorted and everyone looked over. Then I saw the guy sitting back so serenely, and started drawing him. And he realized it, and actually posed! Which happens occasionally, but not often, on the U-Bahn.

Here’s the previous unterwegs, and you can see the unterwegs gallery on flickr here.

As always I am so grateful to my Patrons for their crowdfunded support, which lets me make this work and release it as Free Art. 

You can join my Patreon Patrons, for as little as a dollar/euro a month, to keep me making my documentary art of Berlin.

Kabarett der Namenlosen!

Bridge Markland in slip at Kabarett der Namenlosen November 17 2019 by Suzanne ForbesI made it to Kabarett der Namenlosen!

The show is a time-travelling fever dream of Once Upon a TIme Queer Berlin. I was so excited to draw Bridge Markland, above, again!! Bridge is a barn-burner of a performer, a terror and a treasure.

Lars and Mlle Vicky Butterfly dancing at Kabarett der Namenlosen November 17 2019 by Suzanne ForbesThe pre-show experience began with Lars and lovely Mlle. Vicky Butterfly dancing before the Ballhaus Berlin stage, shrouded in fog.

Lars at Kabarett der Namenlosen November 17 2019 by Suzanne ForbesI warmed up with this profile of Lars Schwuchow, then the loose marker drawing above.

Lars is a serious Art Deco guy, and he has an Arrow shirt ad elegance I always want to capture, but I didn’t quite get it this time.

I had drawn several of tonight’s performers before, at Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin sessions; you can see Lars, Mama Ulita and Le Pustra here and here, and Bridge Markland as Anita Berber here.

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!!

Charly Voodoo and Shir-Ran Yinon at Kabarett der Namenlosen November 17 2019 by Suzanne ForbesMy 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.

Charly Voodoo playing piano at Kabarett der Namenlosen November 17 2019 by Suzanne ForbesAnd 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!

Bridge Markland at Kabarett der Namenlosen November 17 2019 by Suzanne ForbesYou 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 artist ReverRso, who unrolled a strip of cutwork cotton from his mouth as he danced in a lace dress, then blindfolded himself.

Le Pustra at Kabarett der Namenlosen November 17 2019 by Suzanne ForbesThat is producer and torch song singer Le Pustra above, limned in glitter.

Wigs for the show are done by hair artist Nina 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!