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.
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.
My absolutely cherished Beloved Friend-Muse-Patron Clear was in town with his lady companion Jen.
I have a lot going on right now, and I still have strep, but I can work under damn near any conditions, and there was nothing on this earth I wanted to do more than have the sacred, precious drawing-time with these two. There is a connection when I work with people, when we sit together and I draw them, and we talk, that is like nothing else I’ve experienced.
It creates a bond, the bond between artist and muse, that lasts and connects. I get to see them through the merciful eyes of a Higher Power, illuminated by their beauty and character. Their faces move and shift, and the portrait is a gestalt of all the moments that pass between us as we work.
I say we because my portraits are a collaboration, the result of the work of being together and their work being visible to me. It’s the most precious and important thing I know. And of course it’s why I don’t do portraits from photos, only from life. We gotta hang out!
This image is the drawing halfway through, before I added pastels. My technique is evolving and developing in a very unorthodox way as I figure out how to “paint” with a combination of toned paper, chalk markers, greyscale and sepiatone markers, and pastel. I am figuring out how to make the drawing process additive-subtractive with these new tools. It means rather than pass/fail, this-mark-is-final, I can keep shifting as I would with a painting.
I described the changes that have happened in my drawing style since Clear came for my 50th birthday two years ago and brought me my first set of greyscale markers. How then my Beloved Friend-Muse-Patron of 44 years, Victoria, gave me a set of pastels and I started shyly, almost apologetically, adding touches of color. How Lydia loaned me a chalk marker at a life drawing session in her home in 2018 and I fell in love with its painterly qualities.
“It sounds like you’ve been iterating really fast,” said Jen, who is very smart as well as funny and beautiful. “Yeah, I guess I have”, I said. It’s the hothouse environment of my Patreon, I realized; it lets me feel so supported I can take risks. It was so wonderful to have this time with these two, and to document them together. Clear’s been commissioning portraits from me since 2006!
And this is the other portrait I did this week, of my husband at the visa office, where we got startling bad news!
He is always gracious about posing, even though he really dislikes having his picture taken and being seen or shown on social media. I’ve been carrying this little Kraft paper sketchbook around this week, and it was the perfect size for a quick drawing. Although I generally like to work as large as possible, sometimes a little drawing is just right 🙂
Hello lovelies! I need your help!! There’s been a serious mixup at the visa office and we have a related tax crisis. Right now, I have only a three-month visa to stay in Berlin. (Read more below)
You want your Suz to stay in Berlin, drawing your beautiful selves as you do your wonderful creative work, right?
Then swing by our flat in West Berlin and buy a drawing of yourself or a friend for the excellent price of 40 euros, which is 20% less than the regular price!
This is just a single file, above – I have 25 files!!
Can’t buy a drawing? 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 am about to have 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 three things:
Our 2018 tax declaration complete and the money to pay it (about 1,000 euros).
An Apostille showing our marriage.(do you know about Apostilles? Help??)
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. Do you have a reliable steuerberater who can work fast? (ha ha no-one does, I know)
5. 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!
I started my second Make-Cation of the year on August 1.
As a self-employed artist, I don’t really have the concept of “not at work”; I work, on some level, pretty much all the time.
But there is a type of creative work that feels like play to me, and that is bricolage and decoupage and textile art.
I had an assortment of projects planned, and started with embroidering a commercial floral applique to a silk velvet pillow cover I got at H&M for five euros.
I used my largest embroidery hoop to hold the applique to the pillow cover while I stitched it in place and then added oodles of beading, Swarovski crystals, and embroidery. I used a fine silver embroidery thread to stitch the applique down; it took a very long time!
Bead embroidering, the slowest possible art, makes me feel dreamy and relaxed.
You stitch the applique down and then cut away the excess netting with tiny scissors, which is super gratifying!
For some reason I stalled out on this bead embroidered moth on pink velvet a while back.
I was feeling unsure about the technique I was trying for its ruff, with bugle beads layered into a 3D effect. I did another six hours of work on it, finishing the ruff, adding pearls, crystal beads, resin flowers and metallic thread, and I feel more confident about the style now. It’s still not finished, but it’s coming along.
And I also “uplifted” this little metal bug clip.
I used gold wire to stabilize its acetate wings and then jeweled and microbeaded the hell out of them. Please ignore my grimy nails – it’s charcoal, not dirt!
I had several other projects I was planning to get done on this make-cation, but unfortunately I came down with bronchitis on the 10th and then it turned into strep! What the even hell. Most of this month since has been resting and doctor visits. So I am home sick, posting the stuff I made 🙂
I know some of you have been wondering, where is the bug corset, Suz?
Because of how much I like bugs (“Bugs are Nature’s jewelry! Put a bug on and you’re ready to go out!”) and how very, very many bug things I have made.*
And how much I like corsets and how many elaborate bead embroidered and embellished corsets I’ve created.
It does seem like a natural match! But for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened – UNTIL NOW!!!!
Oh dear heavens, bead embroidery is a time sink.
This is a commercial corset with a lace overlay, and at this point I have put about 150 hours into embellishing with bead embroidery, appliques and metallic thread embroidery. I watched two seasons of “Colony”, a season of “Lucifer”, and a season of “Supernatural”.
Shockingly, “Supernatural” gradually recovers its footing in season 11, after some bullshit fridging in Season 10 that just about made me give up.
But season 11 has representation, diversity, fan service, precious cameos (I yelped with joy!) and the focus on family and Dean being kind of an idiot that I love.
The bugs are commercial appliques I’ve been collecting for a while; they are coordinated by using colored Sharpies to tint areas that are too bright or plain white. I sewed them on with plain black thread, then used many shades of metallic thread to integrate them with the glittering beads.
I estimate there’s another forty-fifty hours of work to finish this project.
Since I have strep throat and I have to have surgery on my knee in September, I should have plenty of time. If the cat lets me! Morgan le Fay had surgery on a melanoma on her ear and is SO MAD about the cone of shame.
I just need to choose some shows to run in the background. Supernatural season 12 is on Amazon Prime here; after that I gotta figure out some other options. “Lucifer”, in Season 4, has descended into “Will they/won’t they” hell (ha ha) and I am just about ready to start skipping episodes based on spoilers. Or I might just bounce over to “Legends of Tomorrow”, which is so good and so gay and so weird and so dumb.
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.
Cadbury is a total professional and working with her is terrific.
The painting is coming along very well.
I have a new tool, a USB-powered LED light bar with multiple color temperatures.
It replaces the bulky, expensive full-spectrum OTT-Lites I used in the US, which I donated to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse when we left for Berlin. My new light has LED bulbs and is much lighter and smaller. It’s working great, and was super cheap.
Cadbury’s next Berlin solo show as a performer is at Zum Starken August on August 31.
And this Fall there is gonna be a fantasy-themed Extravagant Shambles, which I’m super excited about!