Tag Archives: traditional portraiture for alternative lifestyles

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 big pastel drawing finished!

Viva Lamore by Suzanne Forbes detail pastel on Mi Teintes June 26 2018Using pastels on dark paper is so weird.

I started this drawing of Viva Lamore at Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin “Broken Baroque” session quite a while back. She is the producer of Full Moon Cabaret as well as lots of other artistic projects, and a frequent Dr. Sketchy’s model; I love to draw her. I worked on this one a good bit at home, but couldn’t figure out how to resolve it.

So I tabled it for a while, to see if I got more comfortable using pastels.

One of my beloved Friend-Muse-Patrons sent me a box of Prismacolor Nupastels for my birthday. Those were my favorite pastels in college, if I could have been said to have a favorite in a media I do not love. They are square in profile rather than round and both harder and more waxy than most pastels. I find them much easier to control and they lay down a lot of pigment on my toothy Canson Mi Teintes paper.

Viva Lamore by Suzanne Forbes mixed media 32cm x 41cm June 26 2018I also knew I needed a workable fixatif to freeze each layer of color as I laid it on.

But I was having trouble finding the kind of workable fix I used in art school.

Eventually I figured out that Winsor and Newton “soft fixative” is the same product. It’s sold as Professional Fixative now in the US, I believe. It’s a (virtually odorless! brave new world!) spray fixative that holds the dusty pigments in place, and creates a new layer of tooth for the next layer of pastel to catch on and adhere to. I ordered some and went back to the picture of Viva this week.

Portrait of Viva Lamore in media media and pastel work in process by Suzanne Forbes 2017 to 2018

The process of adding layers of Prismacolor Nupastels to a portrait on Canson Mi Teintes paper by Suzanne Forbes, 2018

Pastels are imprecise anyway, so I can use them fairly well with my injured hand.

The problem with workable fixatif, or any fixatif, is that when you spray them on, they adhere the pigment particles to the paper with an adhesive medium. Which has the effect of darkening the pigments. I hadn’t had much trouble with the Lascaux fix I’d been using, but the new can totally knocked out my highlights.

Portrait of Viva Lamore in media media and pastel work in process by Suzanne Forbes 2017 to 2018After each spray of fix I had to go in and restore the highlights. The paper got coarser and coarser, although as promised the fix does build a new layer of tooth. You can continue to add pigment on the surface for a long time. The lightest values in the drawing you see in the photographs aren’t properly fixed; they could easily be rubbed or wiped off. But that is a problem for another day.

I feel like this is a nice depiction of Viva’s beauty and mischief!

Thanks so very much to my Patrons on Patreon whose financial support makes it possible for me to experiment and grow as an artist. You sustain me.

Work in progress: Painting Shakrah, while being photographed by Mirella Frangella!

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

Shakrah and I had our second sitting for the new portrait the day before I was in a bus crash.

Work in Progress portrait of Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes June 2018It was very lucky timing, as we had also scheduled with amazing portrait photographer Mirella Frangella.

Mirella is a career photographer whose personal work focuses on intimate character studies.

My friend Miss Natasha Enquist met her when Mirella’s photos of gauchos in South America were exhibited at The Ballery.

Mirella did a shoot with Miss Natasha, and was looking for other artists to photograph. Natasha suggested me!

Mirella came to the house and photographed me in fancy clothes the week before last.

She wanted to do another session, while I was actually working, so we set up a time with Shakrah, who I had recently started a second portrait of.

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 love Mirella’s work and her way of using available light and her handheld flash to capture a close and realistic view of her subject.

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

We were so relaxed and comfortable with her presence as she worked.

During the sitting, at one point Shakrah was lounging elegantly on my boudoir chair while Mirella shot some close-ups of me.

I looked up and saw her and I yelled, “THAT is the look!” and grabbed my brush to make superfast big changes to the painting.

I changed her pose from standing to sitting in about ten minutes!

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

As you can see, I changed the painting quite a lot. I don’t often make such big changes between the first and second sittings, unless some new aspect of my model just captivates me. Or I accidentally painted my model standing on the wrong leg, like in this portrait of my beloved Friend-Muse-Patron Ramon!)

WIP Portrait of Shakrah Yves by Suzanne Forbes first and second sittings 2018Somehow I feel like you have more of a sense of Shakrah as a singer in the new version even though I haven’t painted the mike in yet, like she’s pausing by your table in the cabaret.

You can hear Shakrah singing vintage jazz here and see Mirella Frangella‘s beautiful portraits here.

We had such a lovely time working together with Mirella, it was amazing. Once my hand is healed enough for the cast to come off Shakrah and I will reconvene and finish the painting!

You can see our first sitting here and the previous portrait Shakrah and I did together here. Thanks so, so much to my beautiful Patrons on Patreon for providing the monthly sponsorship that allows me to tell women’s stories and collaborate with women artists!

Berlin summer days on the KuDamm.

Roxy the dj at Berlin Classic Days by Suzanne Forbes June 10 2018This is Roxy the DJ, she was so nice!

I went to an event called Berlin Classic Days, a car show/street fair that happens in our neighborhood.

Dancer at Berlin Classic Days by Suzanne Forbes June 10 2018Here’s a dancer who was working with the street art crew.

The folks from Murales Berlin art collective had some of their graffiti/calligraphy/art-transformed cars on display.

Miss Natasha Enquist at Berlin Classic Days by Suzanne Forbes June 10 2018 1My friend Miss Natasha Enquist was performing and I very rarely draw outside, so I wanted to take the opportunity.

Miss Natasha Enquist at Berlin Classic Days by Suzanne Forbes June 10 2018 I was sitting in the shade in the tent with Roxie so I was drawing MNE from a new angle, her very lovely and hard-earned posterior!

I was intrigued by the way the straps of the accordion delineated her shoulders. An accordion is such a heavy, breathing instrument; I love to draw the way people play with their whole bodies.Miss Natasha Enquist at Berlin Classic Days by Suzanne Forbes June 10 2018 2

I especially like the fashion-illustration style of this last one.

I was gonna be a fashion artist before I discovered superhero comics. I don’t know how long it’ll be before I can draw live again or use a pencil/brush pen, because of the bus accident I was in. So these are the last new drawings for a bit! But my orthopedist says I should heal up just fine. Meanwhile, I’ll be finishing up other things and doing other kinds of art 🙂

When the ladies play the blues.

Rah Hell and Alfred Ladylike perform with Vintage and Used by Suzanne Forbes May 29 2018I returned to the delightful Art Stalker Berlin to see the first Donut Heart reunion.

Alfred Ladylike and Rah Hell were performing with blues band Vintage & Used. Rah says I am getting better at drawing the drums! It was interesting to draw her arm and wrist movements playing the blues vs. playing punk with Baron and The Erinyes. Her axis of movement was much lower. You can see what I mean by that, with the sharper angle of her forearms, in these drawings from the Sekrit Rehearsal Space. You can see my previous visit to Art Stalker here!

Vintage & Used is the other band Baron Anastis is in and they were great. Greek guys can totally play the blues!

Vintage and Used at Art Stalker Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 24 2018

You can see dozens more musician drawings here on flickr.

As always, I am so grateful to my beautiful Patrons on Patreon for providing the monthly sponsorship that allows me to document the Berlin music scene!

 

 

Dancers at Berliner Kultursalon, April 30, 2018.

dancing at Berliner Kultursalon by Suzanne Forbes May 28 2018I drew some amazing dancers at a cultural and artistic venue newly opened in Berlin, the Berliner Kultursalon at Forum Factory.

Hoop dancing at Berliner Kultursalon by Suzanne Forbes May 28 2018Hoop-dancing, Burning Man style!

I love to draw hoop dancing and it’s been ages since I had a chance.

Dancer at Berliner Kultursalon by Suzanne Forbes May 28 2018

Fusion bellydancing, to German folk music.

I’ll update with these performers’ names shortly! You can see the previous post from this event here.

As always, thanks so much to my Patrons on Patreon. Thank you for making it possible for me to document Berlin life, culture and art.

Anyone can help, for as little as a dollar/euro per month!

 

Woman-fronted bands at the opening of the Berliner Kultursalon!

Das Fluff at Berliner Kultursalon April 30 by Suzanne ForbesA new cultural and artistic venue has opened in Berlin, the Berliner Kultursalon at Forum Factory.

I went along to see my friends in Das Fluff perform, and caught two other bands with powerhouse frontwomen. Das Fluff, above, was the final act.

Two Times Twice at Berliner Kultursalon by Suzanne Forbes May 20 2018The opening band was Two Times Twice.

With a fierce, howling frontwoman!

Feline and Strange at Berliner Kultursalon by Suzanne Forbes May 20 2018The middle act was Feline and Strange, a steampunk two-person band.

Also with a fierce, howling frontwoman! Hell yes.

There were also some wonderful dancers and I made drawings of them which I will post soon! Holy heck this has been a busy, amazing, productive month!

Mixed media portraits of women.

Portrait of Anna May 3 2018 by Suzanne ForbesA fellow New Yorker came over to visit and was kind enough to pose for several hours so I could make a careful study of her beautiful face!

Portrait of Anna May 3 2018 by Suzanne Forbes detailI can hardly believe it was less than a year ago I was so scared of adding color to my drawings that I thought it was a big deal to buy one pink pastel.

Now I am routinely adding color. Not a lot, not every time, but I keep gently pushing myself to experiment.

The drawing below is of my Beloved Friend-Muse-Patron Monique Motil, who came here to spend her birthday with me and her sister Marie!

We were dining at Restaurant Lutter & Wegner sei 1811, an amazing Charlottenburg treasure.

I discovered this beautiful little gem of a traditional German resto when I was hired to live-draw at a birthday party there earlier this year. This time I had Spargel for the first time, with sauce hollandaise.

Although Spargel looks like zombie dildoes or White Walker penises, it is absolutely delicious. Monique and Marie by Suzanne Forbes West Berlin May 12 2018

Seeing my beloved Monique and spending time with her and her amazing sister was a glorious time.

yes this is miniature and yes I own it thanks to my mom who I shipped it to and who sent it to Monique so she could bring it to me.

She is a cherished friend, fantastic human, AND one of the most gifted artists I’ve ever known, as well as one of my longest-time collectors and Patrons.

She brought me fantastic art treasures as well as the miniature LEDS and miniature defibrillator for the Dollhouse Underground Laboratory.

I was able to go out and do things with M&M, in the daytime (!!!!!!), thanks to the wonder of the HRT treatment I’m taking for my menopause symptoms.

You don’t have to settle for a shit quality of life, uterus/ovaries-having women of a certain age. You can be stronger, clearer-headed, better rested, full of energy.

Aren’t you worth finding out if HRT is for you? It’s working for millions of menopausal women in the UK and Europe and for so many trans women every single day!

Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin delivers a gangbuster show for Berlin Burlesque Week!

Betty Fvck at dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 8 2018 second lookAnd I brought the drawing magic.

Check out Betty Fvck from Finland! Seriously, I am doing some of the best drawings of my career to date at Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin.

Trixie Tassels 2 at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 8 2018Trixie Tassels at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 8 2018 detailThe superb models, the wonderful sets and music, and the gorgeous setting of Ballhaus Berlin all come together to inspire me profoundly.

Trixie Tassels, above and below, is a former professional life model.

She combined classic life modeling skills with her bombshell looks and amazing costume. What a fabulous treat!Trixie Tassels at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 8 2018

This show had more than fantastic showgirls- it had live singing by some of the best cabaret singers I’ve ever heard.

Among the many performances was an unbelievable version of “Fever” by Rachel Von Hindman, absolutely stunning. She sang classics from Cabaret too, with house-on-fire power!

Rachel Von Hindman at Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 8 2018Maya Full Power steampunk queen at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 8 2018I found Maya Full Power exceptionally lovely.

I was crazy for both her costumes, a steampunk princess and a hardcore full-on peacock look.

Maya Full Power at Dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 8 2018

And Betty Fvck had three different looks!

Sadly, I was only able to draw two of them.

Betty Fvck at dr Sketchys Berlin by Suzanne Forbes May 8 2018But I knocked it out of the park for both of them!

Mad kudoes to LalaVox and co-producer Syren Joey for this wonderful, wonderful time.

And I am so profoundly grateful to my Patrons on Patreon. Thank you so very much for making this sweet life possible by funding my art.

Anyone can help, for as little as a dollar/euro per month!

 

A portrait of E in pastels, on a Sunday in Berlin.

E Pastel Portrait by Suzanne Forbes May 6 2018 detailMy muse these last thirteen years was here this weekend.

We had a portrait sitting, and brunch. There was crying, as there often is, and evil laughter, and then we got to work. I had told her we would try the pastels, on dark paper.

I said that with her lilac hair she would “emerge from darkness, like a lily from a lake of blood.”

E by Suzanne Forbes May 6 2018 WIPI have always found E tirelessly interesting to try and make a picture of. I have been trying since I met her at the Folsom Street Fair in 2005, where she was wearing a vintage slip and white flowers in her masses of tentacley black hair.

I was so struck by her I went home and drew her from memory, something I very rarely do with portraits. In 2006 and 2007 she had more free time, and she sat for me often.

Then she got an important job and an athletic hobby, and has since become progressively more busy doing good, important work. In the intervening years our lives have been set on fire repeatedly, and we have survived the fire.

I have made so many pictures of her, and I would happily make a hundred more.

But for now, this one. E Pastel Portrait by Suzanne Forbes May 6 2018 edit

You can see my watercolors of E from summer 2016 here, and a drawing of her in Kreuzberg in 2015 here. And you can see the many, many paintings and drawings I made of her in the Bay Area here, and the story of our great collab “Defending the Electronic Frontier” here.

Or you can hear me talk about “D.E.F.” at Maker Faire in 2008 at the 4:32 mark in the video below.