Tag Archives: Suzanne Forbes

Portrait of Shakrah, third sitting.

Portrait of Shakrah Yves work in process third sitting by Suzanne Forbes April 29 2019Sometimes a portrait changes a lot during the process!

Suzanne Forbes painting Shakrah Yves photographed by Mirella Frangella June 2018 all rights reserved

Suzanne Forbes painting Shakrah Yves photographed by Mirella Frangella June 2018 all rights reserved

I was frustrated with this portrait of my friend Shakrah Yves because it’s on a small canvas (about 40x50cm) and I usually paint quite large.

I just couldn’t get comfortable with the composition.

Plus, during the second sitting, which was photographed by Mirella Frangella, I radically changed Shakrah’s pose and completely repainted her face.

But we convened for a third sitting last week and it came together, finally. WIP Portrait of Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes first and second sittings 2018

Here are the results of the first two sittings, above.

Really different right?? It’s not done yet, but Shakrah’s time-traveler beauty is emerging. In the ten months since we last worked on this picture, Shakrah and I have spent time hanging out, and I have come to know her face much better. I was truly feeling like her character and her beauty weren’t captured by the portrait to date, and seriously considering abandoning it. Plus, the pink velvet salon chair she was sitting on was destroyed by a giant hacker during our New Year’s Day epic brunch, so we needed to use a different chair!

But she was up for posing, after my work hiatus caused by the bus accident and after her very busy year, and I decided to see how it went. Because I know her face better, when I returned to the painting, I could see what was salvageable and good about the second iteration, and build on it. And we decided to remove her headpiece, even though she made it and it is beautiful, because its scale overpowered the small painting.

I’m glad I didn’t give up on this one! I posted the latest on my Instagram and one of my Patrons commented,

Portrait of Shakrah after third sitting detail by Suzanne Forbes April 29 2019 2

“Thank you for sharing your frustrations as a professional artist. It gives the rest of us newbies perspective and that we too should keep trying.”

I was glad to be of service, and also surprised. I started earning money as an artist when I was sixteen, so I’ve been working within my own insecurities and frustration my whole life. That’s why it’s WORK!

I guess I assume everybody knows that professional artists struggle constantly with not being as good as they want! Or not being able to resolve a piece! Or not being able to capture someone or something beautiful!

That’s the greatest frustration to me, that I can never capture the beauty of my subjects the way I see it.

I will never be able to show you exactly how beautiful and luminous and unique you are before me, but I will get closer and closer til the day I die, Goddess willing.

And I am able to do this because of the help of my Patrons on Patreon who provide the monthly sponsorship that allows me to tell women’s stories and grow as an artist!

 

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.

 

A benefit for Berlin’s only Gay-Inclusive Rugby Team, the Berlin Bruisers!

Lola Rose at Violet Variete Benefit for Berlin Bruisers by Suzanne Forbes April 14 2019Sometime soon I’m gonna go draw the Berlin Bruisers actually playing rugby.Ben Meachum at Violet Variete Benefit for Berlin Bruisers by Suzanne Forbes April 12 2019

But first, I drew the fabulous performers at a benefit for the Bruisers, who are Berlin’s only gay-inclusive rugby team. The annual benefit is called Violet Varieté, and was held at epic queer nightclub and party space Schwuz. That’s beautiful Lola Rose, above!

On the left, comedian Ben Meachum, in his latex wrestling singlet 🙂

The event was hosted by legends of queer Berlin, Gieza Poke and Liliana Velásquez! Two of the hardest-working performers in town, they have contributed their talents to this fundraiser for years.

“I love to draw Liliana,” I said to her dear friend Fannie Headaek, “she has the elegant lines of a fighting swan.”Liliana Velasquez at Violet Variete Benefit for Berlin Bruisers by Suzanne Forbes April 10 2019

Does that make sense? I don’t know, but I stand by it! And check out co-host Gieza Poke!

Is Pansexual Pleasure Goddess Gieza’s outfit a yellow plaid bustier and plaid booty shorts topped with a yellow plaid cape with power shoulders and a yellow tam o’shanter fascinator? Yes, yes it is. Fucking amazing.Gieza Poke at Violet Variete Benefit for Berlin Bruisers by Suzanne Forbes April 12 2019

Also performing was The Darwish, an elegant neo-bellydancer.The Darwish at Violet Variete Benefit for Berlin Bruisers by Suzanne Forbes April 12 2019

Dunja, an incredible Guinness World Record setting hula hooper, (see below!) as Mia Wallace!Dunja at Violet Variete Benefit for Berlin Bruisers by Suzanne Forbes April 12 2019

And Evilyn Frantic, muse of Dr. Sketchys Berlin, who I have drawn many times before, but never while she was moving!Evilyn Frantic at Violet Variete Benefit for Berlin Bruisers by Suzanne Forbes April 13 2019

Plus Nana Schewitz, another local legend!

Nana Schewitz at Violet Variete Benefit for Berlin Bruisers by Suzanne Forbes April 12 2019Here’s some of the Bruisers in uniform, on the dance floor before the show!Berlin Bruisers at Violet Variete Schuz April 10 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

And here is Feline and Strange, with my beloved Friend-Muse-Patron Rah Hell on drums!Feline and Strange at Violet Variete Schuz April 10 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

Thanks to the Bruisers for inviting me! And always, my heartfelt gratitude to my Patrons, who crowdfund my documentary art project of a queer feminist intersectional lens on Berlin life! You can help, with any amount you like per month, a dollar or euro is great ?

My Patrons on Patreon give monthly financial support which allows me to make this free documentary art available for all to share.

And enjoy witnessing Dunja setting one of her hula hoop Guinness World Records!!!!

 

Women tattooing women at the Drink And Draw Berlin Tattoo Jam – on a boat!!

Lydia tattooing at Drink & Draw Berlin Tattoo Jam April 12 2019 by Suzanne ForbesWhat a lovely time we had!

This is Lydia, aka Lylicious Ink, tattooing a lovely lady, ON A BOAT. Lydia is a friend who is a fantastic artist who is now a tattoo artist, like Daria.

I went to the new Drink And Draw Berlin location finally, and holy heck it’s amazing. Drink And Draw’s classes and events are now held in a 90-year-old boat docked in the Historic Harbor by Markisches Museum. The atmosphere is so cozy, so charming, so superbly comfortable for drawing, I cannot even deal. I want to go back ASAP.

Here’s the Drink and Draw Berlin Insta, featuring ME!

Daria tattooing at Drink & Draw Berlin Tattoo Jam April 12 2019 by Suzanne ForbesDaria was tattooing in a mask, looking even more like an artist ninja than usual!

The woman Daria is tattooing is Fania Katz, an “illustrator and creator of weirdness from Berlin“. Fania is a native Berliner, and with Daria, a native Muscovite, and me, a Native New Yorker, sitting there, Daria said we had a mighty trinity.At Drink & Draw Berlin Tattoo Jam April 12 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

These two cool as hell friends of Lydia’s were talking about tat appointments, and one of them was also drawing.

I just was so happy there! There were groups of artists and tattooists working at tables and on couches throughout the boat’s comfy seating areas, and another woman tattoo artist, the fantastically badass Strix, working up on the stage, and people doing stick-and-poke.

Elliott doing stick and poke tattoo at Drink and Draw Berlin Tattoo Jam April 20 2019Suzanne ForbesThis is Elliott, stick-and-poke tattooing his own leg.

I knew people stick-and-poke tattooed themselves, as my incredible artist sister-in-law Caitlin has a number of beautiful works she has designed and done herself. But I’d never seen it happening live in front of me before! I was like, look, a hot boy stick-and-poking his own leg on a boat! What could possible be more Berlin? But then I remembered my friend Suz told me about a nonbinary person who stick-and-poke tattoos drunk club-goers on the party train U8 on Friday nights around 3am, and that is actually more Berlin 🙂

I had some lovely Fritz-Kola on the boat (local soft drink company well known for always sponsoring art events!) and altogether the nicest time.

Thanks, Drink and Draw Berlin! I’ll be back!

And always, my deepest and profoundest gratitude to my Patrons, who crowdfund my documentary art project of a feminist intersectional lens on Berlin life! You can help, with any amount you like per month, a dollar or euro is great ?

My Patrons on Patreon give monthly financial support which allows me to make this free documentary art available for all to share!

Back to work! Portrait of Daria, second sitting.

Work in progress portrait of Daria second sitting close up April 9 2019 by Suzanne ForbesI took an eight-day Make-Cation, where all I did was bricolage and assemblage.

Work in progress portrait of Daria April 9 2019 by Suzanne ForbesIt was so relaxing and fun! So I was strong and ready to dive in the second sitting with Daria.

To the left you can see the portrait about halfway through our second sitting, after an hour or so.

It is easier painting someone you know well, someone you have spent hundreds of hours with. It doesn’t actually feel easier, but better results happen without being aware of how.

So this challenging foreshortened facial view, with Daria’s head bent over her ipad, and part of her face obscured by her hanging hair, was very doable.

 

I expect we will finish in one more sitting!

You can see the first sitting here and Daria’s website and Instagram here. Her witchy boots are starting to emerge, below! I still need to paint in her jewelry and tattoos.

As always, this portrait is painted alla prima (without any preliminary drawing or underpainting), in straight-from-the-tube acrylic mixed only on the canvas. I am continuing to tone my canvas with acrylic paint to an even 50% grey before painting and absolutely loving the results as it increases my speed even more. The large painting seen below is about five hours total work.Work in progress portrait of Daria second sitting April 9 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

The Shimmy Shake Show at Ballhaus Berlin, with Scotty the Blue Bunny!

Scotty the Blue Bunny at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne ForbesYou can never really get used to the sight of a very tall, loud, slightly drunk gay man in a glittering velvet bunny suit.

As often I as see, and draw, Scotty the Blue Bunny performing, there is still a pleasant frisson of shock at just how much blue bunny he is. Even in flats!

The beauty below is La Viola Vixen, mâitresse of Shimmy Shake School.

La Viola Vixen at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne ForbesThis was my first time making it to the Shimmy Shake Show, which features students, graduates and teachers from Berlin burlesque school The Shimmy Shake School. It is held at the beautiful vintage venue Ballhaus Berlin, where I go multiple times a year for Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin.

You can call the bar to order a drink with the antique telephones on the tables, though the bar is always too busy to bring you a beverage when I’ve been there!

As you can see, the audience members were dressed for the show.Attendee at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

I was invited to draw at the show by Shimmy Shake teacher La Loba Lucía, who I became a mad fan of after I saw her perform at Extravagant Shambles. She is the most leonine, ferocious, superheroic burlesque performer I have seen so far. Drawings of her act coming soon!

Meanwhile, here is another instructor, Anja Pavlova, performing a ballet-like burlesque that had a rococo Rites-of-Spring feel!

Anja Pavlova at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne ForbesAnd here is Cadbury Parfait, who produces Extravagant Shambles.

I have been invited to draw at Extravagant Shambles several times now and really love the crew.

Cadbury Parfait at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 30 2019 by Suzanne ForbesI also know Stella Von Fersen, seen below as a pearl emerging from satin oyster fans, from the Shambles.Stella von Fersen at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

There was a Neo-burlesque duet, below, that was passionate and lovely, Adèle Meta Morphosis is the dancer.Duet at Shimmy Shake Show Ballhaus Berlin March 24 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

And btw, check out Scott’s beautiful gay portrait sanctuary, Love Gay People, here.

Lots of love to my beautiful Patrons on Patreon, who make it possible for me to document Berlin’s queer intersectional burlesque scene and release the artwork free to all!

A special night at Monster Ronson’s!

My friend and Patron Robert Wimpory is a bastion of the indie music scene in Berlin.

He goes to see everyone’s shows, all the time. (“I try to support the scene”, he will say modestly when complimented on his showing up for the community.) Plus he has a band or two and is in the OK!Chorus and often co-hosts Uke Boogie and of course, also has a (really cool) job! And he is an archivist and curator of his own history, like I am, and has a wild collection of video and film from the 80’s. Here’s his YouTube channel!

So his birthday had to be celebrated at queer Berlin clubhouse Monster Ronsons, home of Pansy’s House of Presents, Merlin’s Berlin, Loving The Alien, and so much more. This is Robert with bumBlechum, above. They played “Disco Knicks” and threw masses of underwear aka pants out into the crowd.

Disco knicks! Shake your disco rear!

The crowd had a blast, as you can see!

One of my very favorite things about going to events in Berlin is that the crowds are of all ages. It’s rare that I am the only middle-aged person; often there are lots of us!Party at Monster Ronsons by Suzanne Forbes March 25 2019

And this is the lead singer of Pump Gang, below, who played some serious 90s hits.

I was listening to alt-radio for the 90s so I didn’t know most of them! Plus, there is a whole Euro-dance thing that is very specific to this side of the Atlantic, like the Vengaboys, who I only learned about last year. Apparently, they were a THING!

Pump Gang at Monster Ronsons by Suzanne Fprbes Marc 14 2019I had to tip out suddenly partway through Pump Gang’s set, as the decibel level was just too much for me. But nobody ever judges me for doing what’s best for me, in this community <3

I am so very grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to document Berlin life and art!

The Hunger Moon at Full Moon Cabaret!

Viva Lamore at Full Moon Cabaret Hunger Moon event by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019This was my first time at one of Full Moon Cabaret’s secret suppers.

I have been to Berlin’s most transgressive burlesque show before, in another very cool secret venue, and I love to draw producer Viva Lamore, who is a fellow New Yorker. (That’s her above with her gong! She told me she was having so much fun with “the fucking GONG!”) The acts are always fierce and freaky.

Plus, there’s a mooning contest which is pretty exciting!

So I was psyched to see this show and I was not disappointed.

Guests at Full Moon Cabaret Hunger Moon event by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019Behind a secret door was a long room with a stage, lined with a very long dining table.

I took a seat on the sidelines so I could draw. (I learned my lesson about trying to eat and draw simultaneously at a LOTR-themed immersive dinner theater event put on by the Greater Bay Area Costumers’ Guild in 2005 or 6!) Most of the Full Moon attendees were in ’30s finery and there was a crew of gorgeous performers in really wonderful Shanghai 1930s style. That’s stage manager Maylisss standing in the background above; she is an expert at vintage clothing and costuming.

Below, more lovely audience and attendees!Audience at Full Moon Cabaret by Suzanne Forbes March 15 2019Chika at Full Moon Cabaret Hunger Moon event by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019

That’s Chika, above helping with the mooning-hole!

and below with legend Vanessa Jupiter in the long gloves who is a trained massage therapist and was doing massages for the guests.Performers at Full Moon Cabaret Hunger Moon event by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019Viva and her crew are so vibrant and sexy, and there is a kink vibe to the shows so I feel right at home!

Marianne Cheesecake at Full Moon Cabaret Hunger Moon event by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2019This was one of those events where I wanted to draw everyone a dozen times.

Marianne Cheesecake, performing with a very badly behaved dragon puppet, was SO beautiful!

The finale performance, by Crystal Tassels, was fantastic. Sadly, I cannot show you the drawing on a Patreon post. (It involved a cake and a chair!)

As always, I am so grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to document Berlin life and art!

New portrait painting: Lolita in Latex!

Work in process detail Lolita Vavoom by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019The moment I saw Lolita Vavoom performing, I knew I wanted to paint her.

She is a VERY busy person, with producing the Berlin Burlesque Week, Jews! Jews! Jews! and touring all over as a performer, so it took time to schedule. We got started with a first sitting last night though, with Lolita wearing custom latex by a local artist.

Work in process face detail Lolita Vavoom by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019I actually took pictures of the process periodically, which I don’t often remember to do.

I thought my Patrons on Patreon, who provide the funding for my art, might enjoy them.work in process 4 stages of portrait of Lolita Vavoom by Suzanne Forbes Feb 26 2019

I reconvene with Lolita at the end of the month, as she’ll be touring all over between now and then.

Here’s her Insta for peeks! Meanwhile, if you’re in Berlin, mark your calendars for Berlin Burlesque Week in May! Here’s the Instagram for updates and news! And here’s my first drawing of Lolita, performing with Full Moon Cabaret – speaking of which, some pretty exciting Full Moon drawings coming soon 🙂

Jo Pollux shoots Sadie Lune’s pregnancy photos in our salon!

Jo Pollux and Sadie Lune at Sadies pregancy photoshoot Feb 13 2019 by Suzanne ForbesGetting a chance to draw these two artists as they work was a dream collaboration.

Ace photog Jo Pollux shooting Sadie Lune Feb 13 2019 by Suzanne ForbesBerlin photographer and film-maker Jo Pollux has photographed Sadie Lune so often, and so beautifully; they work together in easy harmony.Jo Pollux shooting Sadie Lune at Sadies pregancy photoshoot Feb 13 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

Sadie knows Jo will make amazing images, and Jo is gonna get the shot no matter what!

Being trusted to be present and document their process was such a privilege.

I have painted them together and drawn both Sadie and Jo often, but this was a whole new level.

Sadie is VERY pregnant with her second child! Nonetheless, she is a very experienced model and the vibe was extremely chill. She wore several pairs of SUPER high heeled Fluevogs!Sadie Lune at her pregancy photoshoot Feb 13 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

I didn’t plan for the drawings of Jo to come out all anime-superheroine, but I was working with a new type of pen and really working fast!
Jo Pollux in our library Feb 13 2019 by Suzanne Forbes
I’m super grateful to Jo and Sadie for letting me share this moment.Sadie Lune pastel portrait detail Berlin Feb 13 by Suzanne Forbes

Jo Pollux shooting Feb 13 2019 by Suzanne ForbesI did a pastel drawing of Sadie posing on the couch en déshabillé but you’ll have to go to my flickr to see it!

Sadie’s Amazon wish list for the new baby is here if you’d like to help a single parent working artist out!

If you want to follow her work here’s her Insta, her twitter and her (NSFW) website.

Jo’s website is here. You can pre-order Jo’s exquisitely beautiful erotic photobook in collaboration with Sadie, “As You Wish My Lady”, here. (NSFW 🙂

My work documenting queer culture in Berlin is made possible by my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support allows me to make art. 

You can help, for a little as a dollar/euro a month! My live documentary art is licensed Creative Commons and free for all to share and print, you can read about how that works here.