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.
We took one of the widely available and affordable boat cruises on the Spree, the river that winds around Berlin. It was a beautiful October day, and the river is incredibly peaceful. There’s pretty much nobody on it but cruise boats at this time of year! We sat by the windows and looked out at the city I love so much. My mama is holding an audio aid to her ear, learning about Berlin landmarks.
I want to do portraits on the boat all the time now, it’s so restorative!
If you want your portrait drawn or painted, on a boat or elsewhere, you can learn more here.
You know how sometimes you go to meet your gorgeous friend and they are with their new hotness and they’re smooching on each other and you’re so happy to see beautiful humans being happy together your mind is just blown? Anto, seen above preparing inhalable refreshments, didn’t know Sue or Zuzana before, but since I know Anto it seemed completely natural to me that they were all hanging out together!
And of course Anto was wearing one of her amazing wearable art crochet art pieces, which I always love to draw.
You can see more drawings of her, at Bordello Bizarre, here and here.
Nico, below, is from Oz and actually a friend of Gaff-E, who I drew a while back, also at Bordello Bizarre.
We chatted while in the line and he told me his lovely coming-out-to-his-best-friend story and also about his fabulous outfit which was entirely borrowed except for his shoes. The ombre shrug, made of a gradient of vintage leather opera gloves and organza ruffles, was a showstopper.And then there were all these other beautiful queer nonbinary agender drag kinky folx who were dressed in feathers and glitter and balloons, and everybody was really happy like it’s when Pride falls on perfect weather or all your friends meet up at your favorite con or something.
Well that’s a Peaches show in Berlin!
The show itself was amazing, and it turned out I knew several of the dance/movement performers, and I made lots of drawings, but they are pretty sketchy so it will take a while to finish them up. I wanted to finish these two first while my memory of the vibrant colors was strong enough to give me the courage to try and capture them! I am not sure I succeeded, you can’t imagine how vivid and luminous and alive everyone was out there on the street against the grey cobblestones, but I tried. And I will keep trying.
thank you, my Patreon Patrons, for making it possible for me to do this work and draw these beautiful people!!
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.
I 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.
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.
After 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.
We 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.
I 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.
And 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!
This 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!
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.
Cat 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.
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!