Got a chance to paint my precious mama on this visit, which was her longest so far.
I did a drawing on each of her previous visits – here and here– and this time I wanted to try a painting even though I have very little strength these days.
Painting takes a lot out of me physically, and with the endless upper respiratory infections I’ve had on top of my Hashimotos this year, I am always at zero physically.
I was willing to go into spoon-debt and suck up the recovery time for this though!
We did the sitting on the last night of her visit, so I could collapse after taking her to the airport the next day.
Here she is sitting in our salon, reading her Kindle.
Books are such a huge part of my mom and me’s life together, from the beginning. We shared books when I was a teen – Ed McBain, Dean Koontz, Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, and most of all Dick Francis. In the 80s, we read every single thing every one of those writers had written.
And every Christmas there were stacks of paperbacks under the tree for me, all the Anne McCaffery and Isaac Asimov and Larry Niven and Heinlein. (Problematic as hell, but geek teens took what they could get!)
My mom still reads voraciously and lightning-fast, though I no longer do – I am too tired most of the time.
She discovers new writers, or new to her old writers, and burns through their work. The Kindle is great for her, as it is for another power-reader loved one, my Friend-Muse-Patron Barbara North.
My mom wore this pink striped sweater earlier in the week, and I asked her to wear it again for the sitting, I thought it would be nice against the pink model chair and the purple of her Kindle.
I need to do some finishing work on her sweater and paint in her hands properly, but I’m well satisfied with the likeness and how much I got done in the two-hour sitting. I took some photos of her jewelry and sweater for reference – as you all know, I never take reference photos for faces.
Even if I didn’t have a principle against it, I got enough of that on Star Trek!
I did some work on the backgrounds of two other paintings in progress the next day, even though I was dazed with tiredness – the portraits of Shakrah and Cadbury are now much closer to done. Having a palette with fresh paint on it was too much to resist!
I’m so grateful to my Patrons (including my mama and mom-in-law!) for supporting my work and making paintings like this possible.
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 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.
The lineup was astonishing, and I stayed in my stageside seat by the piano, supported by kind stranger Arthur, for a good six or seven hours. There was no way I was leaving before drawing Hungry and Betty Fvck!
Check out Amber Alert, above! What a stunner! Amber talks about the early days of Brooklyn’s innovative drag scene and her drag journey here on Huffpost.
Rhama is so lovely!
An elegant nonbinary singer and dancer, you can see them on youtube here. Their latex dress is by a designer named Florian Máthé.
There’s nothing as convenient for us ladies of a certain age as a rack of pamphlets to fan ourselves with!
Perimenopause is a journey of arriving in rooms that are much hotter than you could possibly anticipate, like my GP’s office last Wednesday.
Doctor’s offices mean paperwork everywhere, particularly in Germany!
In our orthopedist’s Thursday I had to sign a stack of papers for my upcoming knee surgery. Including a prescription for crutches – the co-pay is 5 euros, and some Germans find this outrageous!!!! Our orthopedist is a hilariously brusque guy. When I told him I didn’t want a prescription for opiate painkillers, he was like, “HA HA we don’t give you those! Live with it! Use ice!!” Which is fine. My pain level after my previous surgery here was negligible.
What a character, right? Always bring a book!
In the 80s my boyfriend Paul and I had this thing, not a joke thing, about always carrying a paperback. In case you were arrested copping and stuck in the Tombs for a 72-hour hold. When I did get popped during a sweep in January of 1989, just two weeks before I got sober, I was so glad to have that paperback in my pocket. I read it three times over as I detoxed cold turkey in the jammed cell. It was either Larry Niven or Norman Spinrad, and it was not very good. For decades I remembered the exact title, even though I never read it again, but I have now finally forgotten it.
My documentary drawings of everyday Berlin life are courtesy of my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support allows me to make this free art available
Fabulous muse Noélinela Bouche shook it in purple, amazing as always. Afterwards I visited her at her booth where she sells her beautiful fascinators and headpieces – check her insta to see what shows she’s selling at.
You want your Suz to stay in Berlin, drawing your beautiful selves as you do your wonderful creative work, right?
Here’s how you can help!
My loves, there has been a big mess with the visa office, and I have only a three-month visa to stay in Berlin now. Yes, this is happening when I just had surgery and have had a year of serious health problems.
I have an appointment to renew my artist’s visa or restore my spousal visa on November 20, and before then I need bank statements showing more income as an artist/more media coverage of my work.
How I am asking you to help:
1. Buy an original drawing at my tax/visa sale price of only 40 euros – 20% less than the regular price. And pay by Paypal or bank transfer, stating “artwork sale”, if possible so I have a record of the sale. Paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org
Easy to view and search albums here. Scroll the whole stream of thousands of drawings here.
2. If you can’t afford that,sign up for my Patreon for one euro a month! If you’re already a Patron, you know how incredibly grateful I am to you for transforming my life and work.
4. FREE TO YOU and ideal for US folx!! ! Emailonline art magazines/websites about my work. I desperately, desperately need a break with some media coverage.
Got a gallery contact or a contact at the Schwules Museum? Tell ’em about me!
More info about my work, the loss of Patreon income SESTA/FOSTA has cost me, and how to promote me here:
Sample text/project descriptions for submission to art news websites:
Former courtroom artist makes a life’s work of open source documentary art, live-drawing scenes from sex parties to the Berlin subway.
Former DC comic artist documents alternative culture by drawing live on the scene, then distributes her work open-source.
Huge open source queer and alternative culture art archive in jeopardy from SESTA/FOSTA.
Suzanne Forbes is an expat New Yorker by way of the Bay Area, using the skills she developed as a courtroom artist to live-draw queer, trans and alternative culture. Much like the embedded combat artists who traveled with troops in World War One, she draws live on the scene for public distribution. Instead of newspapers, her drawings are published open source for anyone to print and share on flickr and her blog. Her documentary art project has been running since 2005, and is crowd-funded through Patreon. Her mission is to tell unique human stories, with a focus on visibility and representation.
I was so excited to be a guest of international NY/Berlin drag festivalBushwig this summer. I knew superstar drag performer and makeup artist Hungry would be performing; I’ve been dreaming of drawing her for years. And I knew I’d get to see and draw a whole armada of international drag talents for the first time.
I got to speak to her briefly and show her my drawing after, and I have to admit I was a gibbering fangirl.
You just can’t imagine how beautiful, how ethereal, how meta-human and naiad-like and perfumed with colors she is.
Her makeup is painterly perfection, her skin glows, her brocade corset by MistyCouture has an extraordinary pipestem waist, her smooth bone-tattooed chest is flecked with gold leaf and petals. Her nail gloves were made by Vie of Unicorns Poop Glitter and they waved like undersea fronds in the air!
Hungry is simply a living orchid, a baroque marvel, and the kind of talent you meet only a few times in a lifetime. And she was so sweet and kind!
Read about the development of her style and her collaboration with Björk here.
I got to draw Europe’s Cheekbone Queen, the beautiful Betty Fvck, twice in one week!
Always a thrill to see this beauty work it. Drawing her at both Bushwig and Extravagant Shambles “Pride, Not Prejudice” was a total drawing Lotto win! Betty is so elegant!!
I was seated right up against the stage, and had such a great view of everyone. The venue, Festsaal Kreuzberg, is really lovely, a kind of industrial/tiki forbidden island on the river.
The variety and diversity of talent was marvelous.
This angel bby drag goblin is Dirt from the Ground. You can see them perform here!
I was very charmed by Frida Pussy, who was assigned acts of contrition for unsafe acts: “Repeat, ‘I’m on PREP it’s fine’ fifteen times”.
Nun to devil transformation is a classic for a reason, baby!
I loved Donna Trump, a sass queen from Manchester’s thriving drag scene.
I was pretty damn wobbly near the end of this show, as I have been sick on and off all summer and it was very, very hot in the venue.
I was lucky enough to have a kind stranger be my support team – basically as my health has deteriorated this past couple years the type of embedded, in-the-splash-zone, eight-hours-nonstop drawing I do has become much harder.
A stranger (or friend!) showing appreciation for the value of my work, offering to get me a non-alcoholic drink, helping to buffer my drawing hand against surging crowds, fanning me with a flyer, holding my seat while I hit the loo, giving me a Euro or two to help my crowd-funding – all matter so much. Thank you, Arthur!
The minute producer Cadbury Parfait announced a Pride Week show with an all queer-identifying lineup, I was in!
I love to go to shows at iconic venue Monster Ronsons, even though it’s on the absolute opposite side of town (and of course in the summer getting to the East is a nightmare because U-Bahn construction). Because, a) the place just feels like home, and b) Ronsons actually has some shitty air-conditioning, which puts it WAY ahead of basically every other venue in Berlin. And Pride, Not Prejudice was a can’t-miss Extravagant Shambles lineup!
Above, Eden Lost shakes off the patriarchy.
EdenLost is one of those performers who just blows my mind. They have the kind of star power and gorgeousness that comes off the stage in waves. I was so thrilled to meet them and have been following their adventures on the Insta, where I just saw they cosplayed 80’s Punk Storm!!! You must click!!! So good I am basically rolling around on the floor SHRIEKING.