Tag Archives: Rachel Ketchum

For the archives: My queer gaze, as expressed in pinups.

Pinup of flapper Spring 1982 or 3 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesI was always drawing pretty women, as a teen.

I was inspired by the great illustrators, like Alphonse Mucha and Maxfield Parrish, then by SF artists – by sixteen my bedroom was wallpapered with Boris Vallejo- and then by the comic artists who were known for their “Good Girl Art”, which does not mean art of good girls.

I believe the golfing flapper above dates from Spring 1983, when I had dropped out of Stuyvesant and was taking fashion illustration classes at The Art Student’s League of New York, waiting to be old enough to matriculate at Parsons. Before I discovered comics in Fall 1984, I wanted to be a newspaper fashion illustrator, which was a total real job then!

This drawing of a futuristic sex worker, in an imagined 2001, is probably from late 1982 or early 1983.

I can date most of my old drawings pretty well by what I had learned of my craft at that point! This drawing shows the street-hustling sex worker (although that term didn’t exist then) checking in with her boss via a little Bluetooth type headset, and dosing herself with drugs via a push-button in her hand that goes to her arm. Not a judgment – I just knew a lot of sex workers who were junkies in my teens, and I thought it would be nice if it was convenient for them. It looks like I designed it to be safe and prevent overdoses.

This bondage girl is from later 1984.

I think it may have been one of the portfolio drawings I used to get into Parsons – you were supposed to do an illustration from a book and I did The Story of O. Yup, I got into Parsons School of Design with a GED and a bunch of smutty pinups.

Fetish pinup drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes Oct 29 1986This one, from 1986, was probably drawn as a present for my friend Chris Claremont.

Because it’s signed. I didn’t sign most work until the 90s, except when giving it as a gift. Why didn’t I sign my art? Because it wasn’t good enough to meet my own standards yet most of the time. It didn’t look like what I saw in my head yet.

And I was really IN the process of learning to get better, and really just working the process. Some days I still am!

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Until today, no modern media record of these drawings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

 

 

For the archives: self-portraits from the 80s.

Self portrait with Gix 1981 or 1982 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is a deep dive, my darlings.

Pretty freaky to look at and handle these drawings. They have been in storage for decades, traveling the US and the world with me. The one above is the oldest. It’s a picture of me and my friend Gix, drawn probably winter 1982. I would have been fifteen and Gix seventeen. We are both wearing clothes and jewelry we actually wore at the time, and smoking, as we did, all the time. For the Europeans reading this, the header comes from a saying attributed to P.T. Barnum:

There’s a sucker born every minute, and two to take him.

Self portrait Spring 1984 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis one is from Spring 1984; I believe it is the self-portrait I drew for my Parsons application, or the study for it.

I wore harem pants a lot in the first half of the 80s. I don’t apologize; they were the only form of pants I ever liked. My husband and I are watching the first season of “The Deuce” and last night Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character was wearing earrings exactly like the ones I am wearing in this drawing, which were silver and turquoise, with hawks on them.

Self portrait in Betsey Johnson style dress by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes circa 1985This is from around 1985, I think.

The dress here is very similar to a flowered, corseted Betsey Johnson dress I owned, although drawn much longer, and the drawing is probably a school assignment.

Self portrait Spring 1986 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is from Spring 1986.

I was a sophomore in the Illustration Program at Parsons and chipping, which means using heroin only on weekends. The still-life below, a 1986 class assignment, is also sort of a self-portrait; it’s my cigarettes and my pipe (people used to smoke heroin, no idea if they still do). Clean and sober 30 years this past January 27, babies!Pipe drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 1986

And this one below is also from late 1986, or early 1987, I believe. Self portrait at 312 w 20th st drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes probably Fall 1986 or winter 1987

You can see some painted self-portraits from when I was newly sober and first learning to paint here in another archive post.

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Until today, no modern media record of these drawings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

 

For the Archives: ballpoint portraits from the 90s.

Gabes birthday probably summer 1991 drawn in ballpoint by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesI looked through some of my art school notebooks and found these drawings!

They have never been scanned, photographed or copied; if we had a fire they would just have been gone forever. The one above is the birthday party of Gabriel, the son of a woman I knew in the recovery community. Gabe was what we would call a Spectrum kid nowadays, and there was not much understanding about how to support him, although his parents were devoted.

For some reason he adored me, and I was very fond of him and his older sister Shuli, and spent a lot of time with their family altogether. Based on the notebook this was found in, I am estimating it was done in the summer of 1991. I have only the haziest memory of drawing it!

Teacher at MCAD Fall 1991 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesAnd this is a teacher at MCAD, where I finished my BFA.

Kirk Kristlibas October 1991 ballpoint by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is a drawing done in class of my friend Kirk Kristlibas.

Kirk was a dear friend of mine in my last couple years of art school, a deeply creative and talented person whose personal style was amazing. The kind of self-directed polymath art-generator you only meet a few times in a lifetime. He was a fellow New Yorker and we would drive around in my car yelling about the fucking Minnesotans. I have not seen him in decades, but he is quite googleable and so I see he has written a book, gotten multiple art degrees, done theater work and apparently looks exactly the same?

I drew a lot in my school notebooks and a little bit in my journals.self portrait in bed with Jamie Jan 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

This is a self portrait of me in bed with a boy named Jamie.

In my bedroom in St. Paul, right after I’d been sober for a year. My roommate Anita and I had a party for our sobriety birthdays and I said to him, “You must be my birthday present.” He was a wounded soul, one of several survival sex workers I’ve been lovers with. Self portrait in Woullet uniform Spring 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

This one to the left is a self-portrait of me in my uniform from Woullet Bakery, where I worked for nearly a year when I was newly sober.

My roommate Anita had been forced to go back to prison, through some very fucked up drug testing stuff that was extremely unjust.

I was devastated; she was one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and an extraordinary muse to me right when I went back to art school, at MCAD. She posed for all my homework, and was an amazing cook, and gave me Neuromancer to read.

I’m going to start in soon on photographing some more of the many drawings and paintings I made of her in the short four months we lived together.

Looking back at the way I drew before I worked as a courtroom artist and then on Star Trek, I feel like something was lost.

The spring that I drew this picture, I did my first official tryout for Marvel, with Fabian Nicieza.*

One of Fabe’s critiques of my work was that I needed uniform, enclosed lines on all shapes and consistent, inkable shading. Which was good advice for superhero comics then, and maybe even now. Although in 1990 Baxter and Mando papers and Flexographic printing had long since become part of comic production, a lot of comics were still printed on newsprint, and artists were still being told to pencil for newsprint production.

I had to get rid of the multiple lines, the looseness, the brushiness of my drawing, unless I was gonna ink it myself, which I was never interested in. Comic colorists needed areas that were fully enclosed for each color, to be painted in carefully with Dr. Martin’s dyes, for the hand separated CMYK plates of the four-color printing process.  I believe nowadays it’s all done digitally, with digital shading, stored codes for costume colors, and there is a person in the production line called a flatter, who is somehow involved in preparing digital color files for printing.

My old style probably still wouldn’t work for comics, but it was beautiful and free. Since I don’t have to draw comics ever again (it was not good for my health), I would love to find my way back to that free style. You can see a collection of more older drawings I scanned during my last period of archiving work, in 2009, here.

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Again, until today, no modern media record of these drawings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

*the splash page of the tryout script Fabe sent me was a picture of a dead woman, lying in a boat. I talk about some of the many ways women were deterred from working in superhero comics, even by well-meaning editors, here.

 

Archive post: We The Jury and the story of how I became a courtroom artist.

Rachel Ketchum courtroom drawing mid 1990s jury and monitorI always enjoyed drawing the jury.

It was permitted in most trials, and it gave me something to do when there was no-one of significance testifying. Someone on Instagram commented on how they enjoyed the “earnest” and detailed representation of 90s fashion in my courtroom drawings.

To which I replied, look, I was exactly the same freak then as I am now. That wasn’t “earnest”, it was editorial! It was my critique of their Minnesota style choices (and a commentary on their inevitable whiteness). I myself considered having to put on semi-respectable clothes for working in the courtroom a form of costume, in order to “pass”.

Most courtroom artists don’t draw the jury in any detail or try to get their likenesses or clothing, because they don’t have time.

Rachel Ketchum courtroom drawing mid 1990s juryBut I could do it, because from the beginning, I was twice as fast as everybody else.
Rachel Ketchum courtroom drawing mid 1990s jury and prosecutorHow did I get started as a courtroom artist? Well, somebody died.

I was in my second year at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, having moved to Minnesota to continue treatment for my drug and alcohol addiction and decided to stay for a while. My Illustration teacher suggested that since I could draw so fast and was good at likenesses, maybe I should contact one of the local tv stations about doing courtroom illustration work.

He knew I wanted to draw comics, but he thought it would be a good way to get paid for drawing til I broke in. He was right.

I took an afternoon and went to the courthouse, made a couple sample drawings, and contacted the stations. I met with the news producers at a couple of them, and they liked my work. I was called in to work on my first trial pretty soon afterwards. And one of the stations, WCCO, the CBS affiliate, claimed me as their own right away.

Rachel Ketchum courtroom drawing mid 1990s court audienceIt turned out there was a gap in the local courtroom artist pool.

There were four local stations in the Twin Cities in the mid-90s, WCCO (CBS), KSTP (ABC), KARE (NBC) and an independent whose call sign I can’t remember. There were also four local courtroom artists, or had been for some years. Each artist worked mostly for a particular station. Right before I contacted the stations, one of them died. Of old age!

Courtroom artists are hired by the press, not the courthouse; there’s a common misconception that courtroom artists are like court reporters, who are the stenotype operators who transcribe speech for the court’s records.Courtroom drawing Rachel Ketchum early 90s for WCCO TV court reporter and witness

Why was there so much courtroom illustration work in the Twin Cities, at a time when Court TV was exploding in popularity?

Because Minnesota happens to be one of the most restrictive states in the US regarding cameras in the courtroom. Almost every state was allowing local proceedings to be broadcast starting in 1991, but not Minnesota. In the 90s, cameras were almost never permitted in trials at the state level and absolutely never in the Minnesota Federal courthouses. So if the TV stations wanted images to go with their reporting like TV stations in other states had, they needed courtroom artists!

That’s right, I had my first professional art career because of the state I randomly landed in when I wanted to go to the best halfway house.

Courtroom drawing Rachel Ketchum early 90s for WCCO TV defense attorneyPretty crazy, right? But I was really fortunate, because I was damn good at the work, everyone loved my courtroom drawings, and I wound up doing work for the CBS National News and selling drawings to CNN and the local papers when I was barely out of art school. I was settled in an art career that paid handsomely before I even graduated.

There were only three problems: I wanted to draw comics, I wanted to leave Minnesota, and I am a sexual assault survivor.

Working in the courtroom wasn’t sustainable for me in the long run, even if I hadn’t been giving every spare minute to breaking into comics.

I couldn’t handle covering the endless violence against women and children; I was burning out by the time I got my first comics job in 1994. I tried to do both for a few months, because I felt terrible leaving the station with no-one to call. I had worked for them for three years, and I was really fond of the reporters and producers and my fellow courtroom artists.

And I was afraid that if I quit, the artist who would replace me would be a man and that would be one more man in the audience the rape survivors would have to look out at as they testified.

But I got offered a full-time job as the regular penciller on a monthly Star Trek book.

Being the regular penciller on an ongoing monthly book is about as good as it gets for comic artists, and I was thrilled beyond words. It had been my dream since I was seventeen, what I’d been working towards for years. So I had to tell WCCO I was done. I went to the station and collected the drawings that were still there, in a storage room, and brought them home. It’s drawings from that batch that I’m photographing and documenting now.Courtroom drawing early 1990s Rachel Ketchum for WCCO T V witness

You can see the previous post of courtroom drawings here.

I didn’t have a camera, and of course there were no camera phones. So until this moment, the only documentation of these drawings that existed was the footage the WCCO-TV cameraperson shot for the night’s news. And the station kept all that footage on BETAMAX tape. So, I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Until today, no modern media record of these drawings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

 

From the Vaults: Courtroom drawings and the Case of The Frozen Head.

St Paul Russian gangster trial courtroom drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes approx 1992So you all know I used to be a courtroom artist.

It’s the only job I’ve ever had where people would immediately say, “Oh, that sounds so interesting!” and I would say, “Yes, yes it is.” It was also deeply traumatic, and wildly challenging, and sometimes deadly boring (embezzlement or early days of DNA testimony).

One of the more disgusting but less traumatic cases I worked on involved a pair of Russian gangsters who had moved to suburban St. Paul.

They were best friends, and their wives were best friends, vacationed together and so on.

An attorney courtroom drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes approx 1992But all good things must come to an end, and some business rivalry caused one of them to shoot the other, chop off his head and hands, and dump the body in a lake.

At this time, around 1992 or 3, I was driving a 1991 Toyota Corolla. It was a dealer demo return but still the closest thing I’ve ever owned to a new car, and only my second car.

So I was extremely proud of it and kept it clean, visiting the carwash downtown after a day working in court.

Back to the trial: the cops found the slushy head in a partially frozen lake, and eventually arrested the Russian gangster guy.

St Paul Russian gangster trial courtroom drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes ca 1992 detailHe was not the coldest human I ever saw in court, but definitely a really vicious sociopath. I have a drawing of a forensic pathologist using a pointer to indicate gunshot wound and axe marks on a slide of the decayed head, the headsicle if you will, but I can’t find it yet.

The prosecution utilized the shockingly cavalier way many murderers talk about their acts.

This guy was really just like, so he got the lease on the laundromat, so I chopped off his head. They always talk about it like, “Well I just did what anybody would you know.”

The thing is, the thing is, the guy put the body in his trunk to dump it. And then his nice suburban car was all bloody, so he took it to a carwash to be cleaned up.

He told the guys at the carwash that he had killed a deer. Not so unusual, in Minnesota.Witness courtroom drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes approx 1992

You know what, my dear ones?

It was my fucking carwash he went to. The guys testified and everything.

Narrator: And she never went back to that carwash. 

Only the top drawing is from the Frozen Head trial; I have no idea where the other two are from. I made hundreds of courtroom drawings from 1991 to 1993, and I have only a fraction of them. I was constantly selling them to people involved in the trials, prosecutors and defense attorneys and DNA experts and ballistics people and so on.

I didn’t have a camera, and of course there were no camera phones. So until this moment, the only documentation of these drawings that existed was the footage the WCCO-TV cameraperson shot for the night’s news. And the station kept all that footage on BETAMAX tape. So,

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Until today, no modern media record of these drawings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

 

Archiving some very early portrait paintings.

Portrait of John Talbot Wallis by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel Ketchum fall 1989One of the very first portraits I ever painted.

In late summer or early Fall 1989 I did this painting of my beloved, cherished friend John Talbot Wallis. He was staying with me at my little basement apartment in St. Paul, trying to kick heroin. It didn’t work out for him, and he went back to NY and relapsed immediately. I desperately hope he is still alive. Last I heard, in the mid-90s, he was very deep in addiction and had apparently lost most of his teeth. The odds aren’t good, but we junkies are tough as cockroaches. I’ve said a prayer for him every night for almost thirty years.

This was one of the earliest portraits I ever painted, though I had drawn quite a few by this point. To get ready for going back to art school full time, I was taking a painting class in downtown St. Paul, an extension class from the Minneapolis College of Design, with a wonderful woman professor.

I started out painting in acrylic, though there is tremendous bias against acrylics in the figurative and especially portrait painting community.

I really appreciated my teacher’s willingness to let me use acrylics. I was afraid I would have problems with my sobriety if I used oil paints, which involve solvents. I had never been an inhalant abuser, but I was less than a year sober and I wasn’t taking any chances!

I liked acrylics and it turned they are perfectly suited for my run-and-gun, punk rock style of painting, so I’ve never looked back. Detail portrait of John Talbot Wallis by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel Ketchum Fall 1989My palette was a lot more Fauvist early on, partly because I didn’t know how to mix colors or how to see color temperature in shadows.

I had never intended to be a painter – I was gonna be a comic penciller, and have colorists to take care of that!  So I had paid little attention to my color theory class at Parsons and stubbornly avoided working in color as much as possible. It was really an accident that led me to becoming a painter, that the only class in the extension program that Fall was a painting class, and that I loved my teacher.  I also just really love Fauvism, and I still think my early paintings are terrific examples.

This portrait of John, an homage to The Green Stripe aka Portrait of Madame Matisse, is probably one of the top ten likenesses I’ve ever achieved.

This IS John, who I met at Stuyvesant a day or two after my fourteenth birthday and was close friends and sometimes friends with benefits with til I was 23. He was literally the jolliest drunk I have ever met, a vibrant, loving, wildly creative guy without a mean bone in his body. He was a drummer, an artist, a rapper, and a lover who adored pleasing women.

He turned me on to NWA and The Tubes, and we walked thousands of miles together over Manhattan Island in the 80s. We logged thousands of hours hanging out, writing graffiti, drinking beer, roaming the city or watching MTV. We used to do acid and heroin and watch Jaws 3 in 3D with the colors on the television reversed, laughing hysterically. He had a heart the size of Central Park. Merciful Goddess, I hope he is still alive.

detail Portrait of Brad Geiken by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel Ketchum Fall 1990Another redhead, fellow MCAD painter Brad Geiken.

I painted this in the fall of 1990, I think, when Brad and I were together. Brad was a terrific, terrific painter and a really nice boyfriend. He looks mean here but that is the fault of me as the painter, not the man. Or he was mad because I was a shitty girlfriend and he deserved better. He had the most beautiful red hair.

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Until today, no record of these paintings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

A New York subway station under a dollhouse in Berlin.

Peter Parker Rogues Gallery in customized action figure subway Suzanne Forbes Dec 2017Earlier this year I discovered that action figure photography is a thing.

Like, a huge thing. There are all these groups on Instagram of guys – it’s only guys, as far as I can tell – taking serious photos of their 6″ (dollhouse) scale action figures. As the toy photography culture has grown, props for it have also become a thing. And a company called Extreme-Sets (which tells you a lot about the dudebro culture of the toy photo groups) has emerged, creating pop-up cardboard sets for your action figure photo shoots.

When they came out with a subway station that had a NYC subway map and a subway car that looked like a classic NY car, I knew I had to have them.

Look at this, you can practically hear Electro saying “Ayy, whaddaya whaddaya?”

But shipping was ruinously expensive. Lucky for me, some friend-muse-patrons were coming to Berlin for Thanksgiving!

Once I opened my new sets, I set about kitbashing them. Kitbashing is a term from the model car world, I believe, that I learned after it found its way into dollhouse culture.

My dollhouse, for example, is a radical kitbash of a standard dollhouse kit.

I trimmed down some elements of the Extreme-Sets station and changed their proportions so it would feel truer to an 80s’-era station.

I customized my station by cutting the panels apart and melding them back together in new forms. That way I could feature the subway map and have the parts of the panels I liked best clearly displayed.

I added a poster for the original Terminator movie. It’s 1984 in my subway station.

I mounted the panels on the deconstructed interior of the IKEA door modules on the bottom center cubbies of my dollhouse, using carpet tape. I spackled the grooves where the panels met and colored the spackle to match.

Customized memorial subway station panels Suzanne Forbes dec 2017Then I tagged the station and the train car with the tags of my 80s graffiti writer boyfriends and people I knew back in the day, and my own tag, with my crew, Acid Writers. I posted what I was working on Instagram, with the hashtag “AcidWriters”. It showed up as an official hashtag, so I browsed through the images, and saw people I recognized.

That’s when I found out another one of my boyfriends from the 80s was dead.

We had a high-risk lifestyle. I don’t know why I had expected he’d be alive. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about what he was doing in many years. There’s so much grief and loss from those days; I don’t borrow trouble. Matt was drinking hard by the time he was twelve.

Making art, and my dollhouse in particular, is a way of processing grief and turning it into tribute.

My dollhouse is a safe house for my memories and stories, a home for all the things that matter. How much I loved Peter Parker and the New Mutants when I was seventeen. The refuge that fantasy books provided, starting with the Narnia books when I was eight. The impossible, inconsolable grief of the death of my best friend and love of my young life at nineteen. The New York we roamed and loved, and the way Berlin recalls it.

Berlin is a recursive, palimpsest city, drilled down deep into the underworld, like New York.It seems completely right to build a tunnel to the past under my dollhouse here, a secret shrine with coded messages.

Stories are the immortality of love, and telling my stories are my tribute to the dead.

 

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

Bat Monster Woman!!

Bat Monster Woman Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 20 2017Bat Monster Woman Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 20 2017It’s a gray day in Berlin but this gold and bronze Bat Monster Woman I just finished is glowing.

She is inspired by my beloved Archie McPhee Monster Women rubber toys, a gift from my oldest friend Victoria.

I used what may be my last scrap of silver velvet, some old-gold colored wired organza ribbon that I bought with a coupon at Jo-Ann for my first wedding, and gold tulle.

Plus my favorite Black Pearl metallic thread from Rico Design, which is the only good metallic embroidery thread available in the world.

Bat Monster Woman Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 20 2017And two citrine Swarovski crystals for her eyes, some brass rhinestuds, a scrap of teeeny gold dollmaking braid trim, and plain dark green cotton thread, doubled, carefully stitched around the border of the design.

Using a fine dark thread to go around the edges of important shapes really helps me control and refine the line, I highly recommend it.

It’s especially great where a regular back-stitched embroidered line butts up against a satin stitch area. The tiny needle you can use for a single strand of floss or regular thread means you can stitch into the satin stitch without disturbing or spreading it, yet stabilize it at the same time.

I also added brass stud stars, both to reference Wonder Woman iconography and because I love studs.

When I was a child, about seven to nine, I had a babysitter I adored. Her name was Melissa, and although she was a hardcore drug addict and a total flake, she was so mellow and gentle with me. Some friends of her and her sister Nadine had a clothing store on 8th Avenue between 20th and 21st, a funky hippie store where everybody hung out. I don’t know if they ever sold anything but drugs.

Sitting on the floor in there under racks of fringed and embroidered and patched rocker clothes impacted my aesthetic so much.

Bat Monster Woman Embroidery by Suzanne Forbes Feb 20 2017There was a barrel of studs for your jeans or jean jackets, all different shapes and designs, stars and moons and pyramids and other shapes I can’t quite summon. Like, a barrel- they must have bought them by the kilo at some surplus place. I would run my hands through them, gently so the points wouldn’t poke me.

I felt completely safe there. Years later the clothing store friends became famous Deadhead t-shirt silkscreener artists, and I went to a party at their loft on 14th st. I came home drunk at dawn and gleefully told my mom about their huge ball python Clyde who had cuddled me. They were such nice people, and such incredible artists.

Melissa died in a motorcycle accident in Hawaii in the 80s, and I still think of her with love and remember her gentle grace, which bent like a willow in the crappy world of 70s New York.

Everything you do or see or feel goes in the hopper for creative work. 

Everything I remember, here in this safe-at-last place, surfaces and turns and shines under the light. I don’t know where the synthesis will take me. Or what the meeting point will be between painting and drawing, the skills I trained a decade for and made a career in, and the making things I’ve always loved.

Self portrait drawing of the artist in Berlin, nearly fifty.

I drew this picture of my reflection on the U-Bahn when I was going to gallery openings last weekend.

Suzanne Forbes self portrait October 14 2016

A number of my Patrons have asked for a self-portrait; here you are, my darlings!