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.
Last Fall, a Patron gifted me a collection of vintage embroidery hoops, including some that were very old. One had a type of closure I’d never seen before. Instead of the usual screw to ratchet the outer hoop looser, you press down on the brass bar. This opens the hoop at the dovetailed joint. Fascinating, right?
It reminded me of the kind of old brass bar taps you see in an ancient Berlin gay bar, when you’re sitting at the bar drawing.
My plan is to gift it to a Berlin bear bar!
The boots are made of gold leather salvaged from a pair of gold booty shorts left behind by Miss Natasha Enquist when she left Berlin.
Always be makin’! Here’s me and Suzanne Wegh sitting in the air-conditioned library before we began our day of embroidering, sewing and drawing. It was 101 degrees in Berlin today!
A friend recently said we should refer to ourselves as “TwoZanne” when working like this. Awesome, right???
That’s the drawing on the left, in blues and greens. The Grace Bar is a very fancy place, and I never go anywhere fancy in Berlin, so it was an interesting experience. The rooftop bar was absolutely full of blue magic hour light, reflected from the blue-tinted glass of neighboring buildings and the long Berlin twilight.
It was very beautiful, but the scenesters and “influencers” at this invite-only party were completely ignoring that.
I had to leave after her first set because it was quite hot and the waiters were passing around all these frosty mojito thing drinks, which made me very thirsty! I very, very rarely feel any temptation to drink alcohol since I got sober in ’89, but a hot night and frozen drinks all around was a bad combo for me, so I went home! And quickly got to work on drawing the colors of the evening. I tried to capture that blue feel.
I was also inspired to finish an orphaned drawing from this April, when Miss Natasha performed a concert at the English Theater, with proper theatrical lighting. Me and several friends went to see her, including Giulia Caruso, a fellow artist and also fellow art collaborator with Miss Natasha. The lighting and visuals were really lovely, but unfortunately it was really dark in the seats!
So I finished the lighting and color on this from memory, my mental file of images of light particles falling on MNE’s elegant face. As a portraitist, it’s so important to me to draw the same models over and over, to really try to understand how light lies over the skin and bones of a face I know.
I’ve never been comfortable with dogs or known how to interact with them and I’m always a little scared of them. However back when my art business cratered in the Great Recession and I went back to work as a barista, I worked at Wicked Grounds. And the puppyplay munches held there transformed my experience of dogs.
I learned to play with human puppies, how to scratch them and throw things for them and yell “Good DOG!”.
Many of the puppies were over 200 pounds, and as they frolicked in the back seating area (we moved the chairs and tables out) they made the old floorboards creak. Their joy and exuberance was so delightful to me.
Luckily my friend Sadie Lune and her partner Jo were there, dressed as amazing Autumn Leather Goddesses, and Sadie told me where to go.
“There is a puppy play area where you can see puppies at play and at rest”, she said with great warmth and affection. And I went there and played with pups and skritched their heads and drew them and they were SO WONDERFUL.
So curious, so alert, watching me draw with great interest, ears cocked.
The puppies in the first picture above were in the play area and were wonderfully friendly and well trained.
Usually human puppies are much better trained than animal puppies, and I’ve rarely had a human puppy jump up, which scares me. Here in Germany the dogs are generally well-trained, whether human or animal, and I feel very safe around them.
The pups in the second picture were more aloof, maybe they were sporting dogs of some kind? They had those sleek racing stripes!
Obviously, Morgan doesn’t like dogs of any kind, so she had to display her dominance over the works in progress!
You can learn more about Smarty the Pup and his adventures here!
Droste was Anita Berber’s gay husband, a figure of crafted intrigue, tweaked out cocaine addict ferocity, and wild Expressionist talent.
Together they created a kind of Smut Dada that exhilarated and appalled the world, exactly as they intended. Lustmord, Sex and Death.
“Here as elsewhere, Droste materializes as a liminal figure, both male and female, human and god. In this and other scenarios of sacrifice, the accent falls not on redemption, but on sheer eroticism of self-extinction, the ecstasy of Lustmord.”
The session was in the very elegant salon setting of queer space Cafe Kalwil on Berlin’s historic gay boulevard Motzstraße.
Since we did not want to damage the silk satin and devoré velvet furniture, we used only graphite and pencils. I added some pastel and ink later, at home.
On Monday I went to my favorite art supply store near Winterfeldplatz specifically to get an oil pastel in a deep labial/glanz pink to accent the Sebastian drawings. It seemed like the right thing to do!
Both Le Pustra and Bridge have made a deep dive into the Berlin of the 20s and 30s.
They captured the feel of the time so beautifully, lounging in their silk robes on devore velvet furniture and sniping at each other. When they fought over a fox stole I almost died of happiness!
Since we were working in a very elegant salon setting, we used only graphite and pencils. I added some pastel and ink later, at home.
The exquisite setting was queer space Cafe Kalwil on Berlin’s historic gay boulevard Motzstraße.
So much gratitude and thanks to LaLaVox and Le Pustra for organizing such a dream event for artists! Thanks so much to Bridge Markland for bringing Anita to life in all her rage, sensitivity and passion! More drawings here! You can see my drawings from the previous Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin here, and here’s the Instagram for Dr Sketchy’s Berlin.
Art will come to life at 8pm on August 19 at Ludwig, Anzengrubenstrasse 3, in Neukölln.
Natasha Artworx body painting!
People will be the canvas, experiences will be documented on the spot, gender roles will be reversed. Come to Ludwig, join and meet us and have a toast to this whimsical art affair!
Ludwig is a lovely queer-embracing space that is designed to show art beautifully. We will be exhibiting brand new works by me, Natascha Artworx (who will also be doing bodypainting) and curator/artist Suzanne Wegh.
This time at the Lesbian and Trans* stage at the Berlin Lesbian and Gay Festival. The festival is one part of the Berlin Pride Month activities, which culminate the following weekend in Christopher Street Day.
There were a lot of stages, so I wasn’t sure how to find the Lesbian and Trans stage – until suddenly I walked into a crowd where I felt completely at home. Everyone had tattoos and brightly colored hair and they welcomed me with warm smiles.
I dressed up fancy! Photo by Dan Schick from when we went to see Spider-Man Homecoming earlier that afternoon – a charming must-see!
This is by far the most complicated color drawing I’ve done since college and my days as a courtroom artist.
I wanted to capture the details and vividness of the scene as much as possible. (DJ Chroma wasn’t actually performing at the same time as Donut Heart of course, I just added her cause she is so great looking!)
Detail before adding pastels on top of marker, pencil, colored pencil and ink.
I keep pushing the limits with the mixed media experiments on Canson kraft paper and it keeps going mostly ok.
Portrait of Tess and Colin Jan 2017 by Suzanne Forbes photo by Colin Fahrion
I’m very confident with color when I’m using opaque paints, as in this portrait commission of loved ones from January.
You can see the first drawing I did at the Lesben-Schwule Fest here; it has some colors added.
I grabbed a few Sharpies from my deskside drawer and spotted in a bit of pink and green.
I used color in my courtroomdrawings of course, and those were on beige and buff illustration board.
Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum for WCCO-TV, 1992
I think the midtone beige of the kraft paper helps to mediate my limited color skills.
Suzanne Forbes drawing Donut Heart July 15 2017 by Dara
Alfred Ladylike was wearing her silver dress from Loving the Alien, and the additive/subtractive nature of pastels worked pretty well for it. Not as much success capturing Rah Hell‘s gold sequin fedora!
I’m using two shades of grey and two shades of umber in regular pastels, white conte crayon, a black oil pastel and alcohol based DeSerres markers in shades of warm and cold grey, and a red-brown Caran d’Ache colored pencil.
All this goes over the PITT brush pens and .05 HB mechanical pencils I normally use, on Canson kraft paper. It has some tooth and a texture, like a cotton paper.
Most significantly maybe I am using the clear-ish “blender” shade of the DeSerres markers OVER the pastels. I run it over the black oil pastel and the solvent in it dissolves some of the pastel base, creating a wash.
I also use a blender marker or 10% grey over the chalk pastels, to help blend and incorporate. For this Donut Heart drawing I bought a pack of colored markers at the Euro-Store for one euro, and added those in.
It was scary experimenting like this, and it took me ten days to finish the drawing once I started adding color. I was nervous about making an ugly, muddy mess or a primary-colored cartoon. I’m pleased with the result though, and now I have colored markers….’cause-
I needed all the colors for the full rainbow of the Pride flag!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
We spent about five hours at Charité, Berlin’s huge teaching hospital, last week.
My hub has to have major surgery. We had waited almost four months for the appointment to see this particular surgeon’s group, because we trust our orthopedist and his recommendation.
I couldn’t sleep at all the night before, and so I was pretty wasted when we got there.
Of course, the email had said the group would be in the “new building” after February 2, so first we went to the info desk at the shiny new skyscraper.
Where they laughed and sent us down the street to the ancient Winchester Mystery House-esque “old buildings”. Go through the cafe, they said.
Of course the new offices weren’t ready yet! Of course they hadn’t moved! Construction and renovation in Germany is…extremely, extremely slow.
Remember that new airport? Ha ha ha!!
I had allowed extra time for this possibility, so we arrived at the registration window precisely on time and gave them our info.
We were directed to the waiting room. All German offices have waiting rooms, often multiple, numbered waiting rooms.
Every other doctor’s or dentist’s office we’ve been to has been extremely nice, fancy and dressy. Like my Fifth Avenue ob-gyn when I was a teen.
But this warteraum was old and grubby and governmental looking.
So we just went into Ausländerbehörde mode and figured it would take as long as it took.
Then we waited. And waited. When the dozen people who were there before us had all been seen, and they were starting to call people who had arrived after us, we investigated.
Turns out we had been forgotten! “We broke the system!”, hub said. They were very apologetic and in moments sent us in to see the surgeon.
And the surgeon was very nice and very on top of things and we were promptly sent along to Radiology for new x-rays and given a stack of paperwork and returned to the surgeon and in what seemed like no time at all, given a choice of dates for surgery.
The need for this surgery and future ones is one of the critical reasons we moved here; we’ve been talking about it, planning for it, most of the time we’ve been together.
To suddenly, finally, have it scheduled, with eight days of hospital care and three weeks of inpatient rehab and an entire year of pt offered, and six weeks of paid work leave guaranteed, with absolutely nothing to pay, seems like another Berlin miracle.
We used to live near Charité the summer we first moved here, and there was a student center across the street from our apartment.
At term’s end there were International med students having trolley races in the street at four am, singing “Eye of the Tiger” in the universal key of beer.
We have very fond feelings about Charité, and we are hopeful that the shiny new building will actually be done by the time of the operation. But if it is not I will be making drawings from some still perfectly serviceable hundred year old waiting room on June 20, Goddess willing.