I 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?
Was 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.
Sometimes 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.
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.
Places that were institutions when we arrived in 2015 are closing down, or having to move. I grew up in Manhattan, and I have seen this story unfold in Chelsea in the 80s, and in San Francisco in the 90s.
Beloved dancehall Clärchens Ballhaus is one of the institutions in transition. The building has been sold. The current operator, Christian Schulz, says his lease expires at the end of this year. The ragged old beauty of a building is going to be renovated, and more will be revealed. We can only hope for the best, a space that the community can continue to enjoy and not condos.
I desperately wanted to go before they close at the end of the year, to draw a dance session.
But with my health issues and endless medical appointments, making a plan to attend a dance session was very tough.
Instead, my hub and I used a gift from my mom-in-law to go to a fancy dinner-with-dancing for our five year wedding anniversary. It was held in the SpiegelSaal or Hall of Mirrors, with fantastic music, and lucky for me, there were some terrific dancers!
Above, my husband enjoys the music.
His rapt expression is because he‘s listening to the amazing band play The Flight of the Bumblebee, which he says is extraordinarily difficult to play on the piano. The band was Pan Marek on Drums, Alexej Wagner on guitar and Eugen Miller on double bass and vocals, as well as the marvelous piano player whose name I gotta get. He looked like a biker Deadhead but he was superb on the keys!
Clärchens Ballhaus is, as it were, a kind of story machine, a site of conjecture. The German illustrator and photographer Heinrich Zille had his regular place at the bar, where he used to sit and draw. And Otto Dix painted the poster in 1931, which is still used today.
To become part of a community is to open the door to loss.
Community is fluid, like gender, like cities. A local business becomes a hub of connection and expression, and then economic forces make that business unsustainable. Ludwig was a bar, an art gallery, a performance space, a clubhouse for Queer Berliners. It existed from 02.06.16 to 21.09.19. And it was located in a rapidly gentrifying area where construction has overshadowed street access for the last several years.
You don’t know sad til you’ve heard a trans girl sing “Send in the Clowns” on the last night of one of the safest spaces you’ve ever known.
Everyone tried to save Ludwig, but it’s not always possible to keep things. Running a business is brutally hard on small business owners, and when we love those people, when they’re artists and part of our community, we want them to be saved too, not used up fighting economic and structural factors. It’s a story that happens every day in every city, and it breaks our hearts.
The last night at Ludwig was very fucking sad.
My husband came out with me, only the second time he came out in 2019, because, well, it was important. He even dressed up super spiffy. As always, Maurus Knowles brought me my favorite non-alcoholic beverage, Ostmost Apfel-Minze schorle. Ceven Knowles made a playlist that began with “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing”, so perfect it seared my heart. Dear Transophonix, above, made a processional to the stage and performed a dirge, filling the space.
The tables out front were packed, spilling over, with colorful queens and queers and non-binary folx. We were all heavy with loss, and yet also exuberant, because of the community we have. Dan and I left pretty early, because my heart was spilling over too.
Thank you, Maurus and Ceven, for giving me the place my life in Berlin truly began.
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.
Liliana 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.
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.
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!!
My 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.
And 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!
You 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 artistReverRso, who unrolled a strip of cutwork cotton from his mouth as he danced in a lace dress, then blindfolded himself.
That is producer and torch song singer Le Pustra above, limned in glitter.
Wigs for the show are done by hair artistNina 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!
I was so excited when Cadbury Parfait told me she was producing a fantasy-themed Extravagant Shambles!
There is nothing I love like some dark fantasy and mythology – mix with burlesque and drag acts and you get pure entertainment mithril! (lil geek joke there for ya. Very little.) This Shambles was in the Club at Kunsthaus ACUD MACHT NEU, an epic Berlin queer art space. I don’t get to Mitte much, but I had been previously been to an art show there with artist and curator Suzanne Wegh – they are the source of all my art event hot tips. Above, Alan Lee (but not THAT Alan Lee) as Alexa Spread did a terrifying, grasping Gollum, then rose into a column of light and became Galadriel.
Darell Haynes, Louisiana born but now singing his heart out in Berlin, sang “I See Fire” from the second Hobbit flick.
He just filled the room; it was one of those moments that makes the hairs on your arms stand up. He is an actual trained professional opera singer, which is not what you are expecting in the club where the entrance always smells a little like piss. Darell was on German tv show Supertalent last year, with the group Mo’Voce! You can see them sing and get a standing ovation here.
I always love to draw her. My friend and Patron Daniel Paikov was there taking pictures with his usual sang-froid, managing despite the fact that the ACUD Club is a dark cave of bloody light. We nightlife documenters find a way!
She was an ethereal Persephone who stripped down for a deep dive into the darkness of Winter. I so much appreciate coming to her productions, as they are always inclusive and amazing, and she makes sure I feel welcome and have a seat.
I didn’t draw everyone at this show – and I didn’t draw my muse Noéline la Bouche for an unusual reason. Noéline performed as the Goddess “Yemaya – mère de l’eau”, and I was so captivated by her dance choreography and costume for this number I actually decided to just watch! But you can see photos of her doing the act!
This has been a terrible year for me healthwise as a disabled artist, and crowdfunded support is the only way I can make this work and release it for free. I’m so grateful to my Patrons, who make my work happen.
Shine started out with some gems about filming adult media that I never would have thought of!
I was absolutely fascinated to hear her talk about the secrets of a happy set and how to troubleshoot when things go sideways. Shine on IMDB here! You would not believe how much creative work she has done as a producer and director of sexy erotic cinema.
“There is power in creating images, and for a woman of color and a queer to take that power… I don’t find it exploitative; I think it’s necessary.” – Shine Louise Houston
Here’s Shine with Jiz Lee, demonstrating the concept of the 180-degree Line.
Although all I know about film-making is what I’ve seen on queer porn sets, I know this concept from my career as a comic-book penciller! I drew Jiz Lee often in the Oughts in the Bay, because we both donated lots of time to benefits for local sex-positive institutions like The Center for Sex and Culture. I keep up with them daily on twitter and Instagram, because Jiz is always on top of news and opportunities for sex-positive activism and education.
Seriously, if you want to be learning and growing about how to support trans and nonbinary folx and QPOC erotic cinema, Jiz Lee is your first stop.
They were the first out nonbinary person I knew IRL, and their clear voice is always educating me on how to be of use and of help. Step one: PAY FOR YOUR PORN!!!
Suzanne Forbes photographed by Jiz Lee at Shine Camera Work class Oct 26 2019
Jiz Lee took this cool over-the-shoulder shot of me drawing!
It was a total treat that one of the demo models for Shine’s class was Bishop Black!
Always a pleasure to see that gentleman creative, who is one of the hardest working artists in Berlin’s incredibly rich queer life.
People I know have been shooting with Shine Louise Houston forever!
Sadly my health got worse and worse in my last years in the Bay, and I never managed to be somewhere Shine was working. It was an honor to at last document her historic and powerful artistic presence. I loved hearing her talk about intuitive and spiritual approaches to cinema; even if you’re not a film-maker the class is so interesting and I highly recommend it!
These drawings are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
That means they’re 100% FREE for all to share and enjoy! In addition, I release the copyright on each drawing to the performer shown and they may use the drawings for their own profit and pleeeasssure in any way they choose.
As a fat, queer, disabled artist, crowdfunded support is the only way I can make this work and release it for free.
I was recently in a group show at Schöneberg gallery The Ballery.
The works shown included a beautiful series of portraits by photographer Eva Brunner. Barbara, above, was the model. During the finissage evening of the exhibit, Barbara performed some deft comic numbers.
This is an example of a drawing where I could take my time with the background and really work out the details. As all my dear ones know, I love to draw people playing music and have had far less chances to do so this year, since I’ve been ill so much.
I added the color when I got home, based on memory and little scribbly notes on the drawings.
I swear to you that the colors appeared exactly as they do here: the glowing red light in the Ballery’s cloakroom, the oversize bottle of Campari, Barbara’s signature red/orange look, the red accent on her mike, and the red nailpolish in the portrait behind her. Other than that it was all grays and whites and blacks.
A marvelous scene I was lucky to capture, including Barbara’s gorgeous gams!! Thanks to my Patrons on Patreon, who make my documentary art possible <3
She is the Motha of the House of Bushwig, a LatinX punk and International Queen who came to Berlin to light things up this summer. I got a good likeness of her, but I could not find photo reference of her outfit, so the look I have drawn her in is a composite of several of her incredible pastel explosions of creativity. I hope the Queen will find that ok!
This extremely cute boy Nām was one of two backup dancers for queen Ocean.
As a guest of international NY/Berlin drag festivalBushwig this summer, I drew more performers in a single day than I have EVER drawn before, but I couldn’t draw everybody. I felt bad I couldn’t capture the beauty of the queen herself, but sometimes even the best stage-side seat doesn’t give me a decent view of a performer, and that was the case here.
ReveRso is a Berlin drag legend, bringing a very different style.
There was a whole other part of ReverRso’s performance, involving actual fireworks in personal areas, that I could not draw for this Patreon-sponsored site. Perhaps you will find it elsewhere 😉
I didn’t get this performer’s name but they danced tremendously in those sky-high boots!
This guy is incredibly tall and an amazing dancer, he was BEATING the stage into submission in the brutal heat, just moving and slamming. Drop splits!!
I am still working on finishing all the Bushwig Berlin drawings and spraying them with fixativ and scanning them! I actually still have another five performers. The first Bushwig Berlin post is here and the second is here.
As usual these drawings are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) for all to share and enjoy!
In addition, I release the copyright on each drawing to the performer shown and they may use the drawings for their own profit and pleeeasssure in any way they choose.
As a fat, queer, disabled artist, crowdfunded support is the only way I can make this work and release it for free.
I adore the delicate and sophisticated (and sometimes naughty) sound of Loreleila Voix and Syren Joey, and it’s a thrill to see them perform in full sea-worthy costume. This session of Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin featured the Sea Salts duo performing quite a few lovely numbers. Above, Lorelei in her “blangmange” costume, a marvelous pink hoopskirt froth with a mermaid tail.
Plus, lady with a rapier! Always love a woman with a sword.
Syren Joey is a great performer and I always love to draw her. However, I was struggling quite a lot with these drawings, as I am pushing iterations of my mixed media technique and experiencing the danger of over-confidence. “Don’t get cocky, kid!”
Using chalk markers, pastels and india ink pens, I’m developing an additive/subtractive approach to drawing that lets me work in a more painterly way.
I’m constantly changing and correcting as I draw. It’s actually a derivative of the correction-tape method I developed when doing pen-and-ink work on Guidolon. If I made a mistake, I ran the correction tape over it and was redrawing on top in seconds. It worked great for drawings that were being scanned and transmitted digitally, because no-one ever saw the tape. Not so good for art people are gonna buy the originals of! (and they do; if you want to buy one of my existing drawings from an event, go here, towards the bottom.)
The chalk markers, with their tremendous opacity and extremely fast dry-down, give me similar powers to correction tape. And at the previousDr. Sketchy’s, with just two models in neutral colors, I was flying! But Sunday I jumped in with the same fearless vigor, and a lot went wrong. Damage to the surface of the paper from too much water in the brown chalk marker, problems with my line as I moved too quickly even for myself, and weird scumbling effects from the pastels I was using.
I just kept rolling, working and reworking the same drawings, trying to figure it out, because I am invested in the process.
It did mean, however, that I didn’t make nearly as many drawings as usual. There are these three of the Sea Salts, and a couple portraits of Bishop Black, and one of beautiful Gizam Akman, and that’s it!
You can see the drawings of Bishop and Gizam here.