Tag Archives: mixed media portrait

A big pastel drawing finished!

Viva Lamore by Suzanne Forbes detail pastel on Mi Teintes June 26 2018Using pastels on dark paper is so weird.

I started this drawing of Viva Lamore at Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin “Broken Baroque” session quite a while back. She is the producer of Full Moon Cabaret as well as lots of other artistic projects, and a frequent Dr. Sketchy’s model; I love to draw her. I worked on this one a good bit at home, but couldn’t figure out how to resolve it.

So I tabled it for a while, to see if I got more comfortable using pastels.

One of my beloved Friend-Muse-Patrons sent me a box of Prismacolor Nupastels for my birthday. Those were my favorite pastels in college, if I could have been said to have a favorite in a media I do not love. They are square in profile rather than round and both harder and more waxy than most pastels. I find them much easier to control and they lay down a lot of pigment on my toothy Canson Mi Teintes paper.

Viva Lamore by Suzanne Forbes mixed media 32cm x 41cm June 26 2018I also knew I needed a workable fixatif to freeze each layer of color as I laid it on.

But I was having trouble finding the kind of workable fix I used in art school.

Eventually I figured out that Winsor and Newton “soft fixative” is the same product. It’s sold as Professional Fixative now in the US, I believe. It’s a (virtually odorless! brave new world!) spray fixative that holds the dusty pigments in place, and creates a new layer of tooth for the next layer of pastel to catch on and adhere to. I ordered some and went back to the picture of Viva this week.

Portrait of Viva Lamore in media media and pastel work in process by Suzanne Forbes 2017 to 2018

The process of adding layers of Prismacolor Nupastels to a portrait on Canson Mi Teintes paper by Suzanne Forbes, 2018

Pastels are imprecise anyway, so I can use them fairly well with my injured hand.

The problem with workable fixatif, or any fixatif, is that when you spray them on, they adhere the pigment particles to the paper with an adhesive medium. Which has the effect of darkening the pigments. I hadn’t had much trouble with the Lascaux fix I’d been using, but the new can totally knocked out my highlights.

Portrait of Viva Lamore in media media and pastel work in process by Suzanne Forbes 2017 to 2018After each spray of fix I had to go in and restore the highlights. The paper got coarser and coarser, although as promised the fix does build a new layer of tooth. You can continue to add pigment on the surface for a long time. The lightest values in the drawing you see in the photographs aren’t properly fixed; they could easily be rubbed or wiped off. But that is a problem for another day.

I feel like this is a nice depiction of Viva’s beauty and mischief!

Thanks so very much to my Patrons on Patreon whose financial support makes it possible for me to experiment and grow as an artist. You sustain me.

A deeper dive into pastels with Iris Perez.

Portrait of Iris Perez by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2017We are lucky to enjoy visitors from the Bay Area so often here in Berlin.

Our dear friend Nathan was in town and was joined by powerful creative force Iris Perez. I asked her if she would pose for a quick painting and she said yes.

However, on the night she arrived for painting, my perimenopause fatigue was severe.

suzanne forbes drawing iris perez dec 2017I didn’t have the physical energy to set up a palette or the strength for the larger arm and shoulder movements of moving around the long brushes I use.

Fortunately I’ve been gradually experimenting with pastels for the first time since childhood this year.

Suzanne Forbes drawing Iris Perez with Morgan Dec 2017And I have a nice large pad of legendary Canson Mi Teintes, a pad of various sepia and buff toned papers with marvelous tooth.

Just like I had at the Art Students League during Summer Drawing for Children in 1977!

Portrait of Iris Perez by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2017 detailThis year I came to feel that pastels could have the kind of power I want in an image, and the kind of creepy sexy cool style I love. It happened through seeing the work of artist Barnaby Whitfield on Instagram . There are some other pastel artists I am enjoying as well, like Elena Pancorbo who has really impeccable technique.

I can’t say I will ever become anything like a real pastel painter, but I am enjoying experimenting with them as part of my mixed media toolbox!

Iris is wearing a Dollymop for Dark Garden corset and leather glovettes by Xenolux.

A portrait of my mom in Berlin!

Pat Ketchum by Suzanne Forbes West Berlin Oct 26 2017My mom came to visit! It was wonderful.

I made this portrait of her at Cafe Bilderbuch in Schöneberg. We were having coffee. We love coffee!  This is the first time I tried black ballpoint on the Canson Toned Gray paper, and I really enjoyed using a ballpoint on that surface.

It’s a heavy paper that feels smooth to the touch, yet accepts a lot of pigment from pastels, which usually need a surface with tooth. I added oil pastel and chalk pastel when we got home.

Pat Ketchum by Suzanne Forbes West Berlin detail Oct 26 2017Cat supervisors were on hand.

Our horrible Morgan and adorable Viviane enjoyed their time with Grandma, who is a Cat Person of the highest order, very much. Morgan hardly even bit her.

Drawing Donut Heart for Pride Month!

donut heart at gay and lesbian festival july 15 berlin by Suzanne ForbesI went to draw Donut Heart performing again!

suz in pink dress july 2017 by Dan SchickThis 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!)

donut heart berlin july 15 detail by Suzanne Forbes

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

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.

But with additive transparent media like watercolor and markers I feel wobbly. There’s a pass at watercolor painting Ian so bad only my Patreon Patrons got to see the whole thing.

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 courtroom drawings of course, and those were on beige and buff illustration board.

Courtroom drawing by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel Ketchum for WCCO-TV, 1992

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

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.

Me and Dara, former Donut Heart bassist, by Dara!

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! donut heart drawing by Suzanne Forbes July 15 2017