Tag Archives: St. Paul

Artwork Archives: people of my early sobriety (besides Anita!)

Matt at the Bat Cave August 10 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesAs I’ve said before, the first thing I did when I got sober was start drawing portraits.

I met Matt when he came to the first party I ever gave at my first place of my own. I lived in a basement apartment on a really lovely street in St. Paul when I first got out of the halfway house, which of course we called The Batcave. Matt and I dated a little, briefly, but were mostly friends. He was a good man and always happy to pose for me.

Matt at the Batcave August 6 1989 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumMatt, August 6 1989. Did I mention he worked out?

Painting of Matt winter 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Matt, winter 1990, acrylic on board.

This was done during the few months’ period after Anita and I moved in together and I started back to art school full time. I painted Anita many times, and Matt got painted too.

portrait of M seated by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes winter 1990Here he is in green.

I kept running out of paint and having to use a limited palette for practical, not aesthetic reasons!

St. Paul Matt and unkown 1989 or 1990 by Suzanne Forbes working as Rachel KetchumHere is Matt and someone else, not sure who, winter 1990 I think.

I have only the photocopy, so Matt must have gotten the drawing.

J and Tom perspective drawing Winter 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Jamie and Tom in St. Paul, Jan or Feb 1990, pencil on paper.

Our friend Tom moved in with us when he got out of Fellowship House, and Jamie was the boy who appeared during the party Anita and I gave at the end of January for my one year and her six months sober. I was unwise to date him, but I did.

Keith at the Barbary Fig May 23 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesKeith, March 1990, 9×12″, pencil on paper.

Keith Sketchbook 1990 Minneapolis by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesI met Keith at meetings, and we had one night of amazing sex. Then he ghosted me. As the kids call it nowadays.

I find it so strange, looking at these old drawings, to see how central men were in my young life.

As a teenager, half of my closest friends were guys, half were girls, and I slept with nearly all my friends back then! I really loved my male friends, gay and straight, and found it normal to be very close to guys in my teens and twenties.

However, when I got sober I did this thing in the halfway house called “Female Focus”, where I was not allowed to talk to the guys in the house for a week.

I liked it so much I asked for another week. I was going to women-only recovery meetings, too. Meeting so many strong women. It was at that point that I started slowly shifting, over decades, until today when I have far more women, pangender and non-binary friends.

“Women heal together”, we say in recovery meetings, and that has come to be the center of my life.

Tom at table drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes June 1990Brian and Tom, June 1990, ballpoint, 9×12″.

Tom and I were best friends during the year or two of early sobriety when I carried a sketchbook EVERYWHERE I went, and I made so many drawings of him! He was a great friend and companion, and is doing good work today. I am gonna do a separate post with all the pics of him, there are so many!

Kirk Kristlibas Rachel Ketchum and Rob Houston Fall 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesKirk and me and Rob, Fall 1990.

rob h at harriet st 1990 by Suzanne Forbes aka Rachel KetchumKirk Kristlibas, an incredible multi-disciplinary artist, and Rob Houston, another very talented guy, lived in a beautiful flat in Uptown Minneapolis, and I met them my second semester at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

I would go visit them and hang out in their wonderful creative home, which they had painted in rich jewel tones. They also had a tremendous fish tank. More art of Kirk here. Kirk was my dear friend, and we had fun.

Rob was beautiful in the way that I got really messed up by back then, and our friendship was fraught.

kirk me and rob harriet st 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

kirk and rob harriet st 1990 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Kirk was easy to draw and I got several good likenesses of him.

I wish that I had made a picture of Rob Houston that captured his beauty as a young man, though.

Sketchbook 1990 fantasy Ani and Gigi by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesMy friend Ani was a big part of my life, until she cockblocked me!

This is a fantasy drawing of Ani and her girlfriend Gigi from 1990. Done on birthday request I believe! Ani and Gigi were one of those lesbian power couples for a long time. Then at one point, Ani left town. Time passed. I met this girl named Liz, who I really liked.

Liz and I had a couple of nice evenings together, I thought she liked me, I was hoping we could get together.

Sketchbook 1992 liz by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesHere’s a picture of Liz I drew then, early 1992.

Then Ani roared back into town on her motorcycle like a blonde metal recovery biker goddess, and Liz forgot I existed and ran off to run around with Ani!

What the hell, Ani.

There are quite a lot of other portraits of friends from this period; however I archived those on the last pass at archiving, in 2009, and they can be found here on my flickr.

Only two of these drawings had ever been photographed; until now, no record of the rest of them existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

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

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!

Gabe and the Monsters 199__ Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is another sketch of Gabe.

It has color notes, as if I intended to make it into a painting. It was clearly an attempt to depict a vision or mental experience he had described to me! I loved that child.

Sadly, his mother chose to publicly out my abuse survivor experience at a party, and I no longer felt safe going to their home. My memory is not clear: I hope I said goodbye to the kids. I was such a seething wreck of trauma in those days, it’s hard to remember.

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.