I’m Betsy Streeter – an illustrator, artist, and cartoonist, with past lives in video/film production, software, design, and video games. I can write upside down and backwards and once devised a way to score infinite points in Space Invader for the Atari. One of my cartoons is taped to the cabinet in Paul Giamatti’s character’s office in the movie San Andreas starring The Rock. Another travels around with the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory’s exhibit on black holes. I am learning to tattoo and so far have inked myself and one of my kids.
I grew up in the East Bay of San Francisco, California, USA, rooting for the Raiders and the A’s and Ray Guy and Kenny Stabler and Hendu and Dave Stewart and Jim Plunkett and the San Jose Earthquakes (and for a while the Stompers) and World Team Tennis. I was (am!) a huge fan of Martina Navratilova, David Bowie, and Jacques Cousteau and Carl Sagan. I needed to run around a lot, so I played all the sports. I had Bjorn Borg and Pelé posters on my wall and watched Cosmos and The Muppet Show and a lot of MTV.
My hometown was/is the semi-rural site of a national laboratory, so the adults around were chemists or biologists and sometimes rocket scientists – or, ranchers or vintners. Many of them were musicians and photographers and artists as well. Scientists do a lot of art and vice versa.
As a kid I was obsessed with the Painting section of my parents’ encyclopedia, which had a color plate of Raft of the Medusa by Géricault. I loved the covers of science fiction and fantasy novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Asimov and all those folks. I also gravitated toward Cy Twombly and Jenny Holzer, and all sorts of record album covers, and street art, and Indigenous American art. So the narrative/illustration impulse has always been there, I think.
My parents had a theater company with their friends in a one-room schoolhouse that burned down in the 70s. My mom acted and directed and sang soprano and my dad acted and played trombone or piano and built sets and did lighting. My dad played the piano for hours every day – Chopin, Schubert, Scriabin, Beethoven, and Bach, mostly. Our small-ish living room was the site of a lot of rehearsals and performances.
I did my high school FORTRAN homework on a Cray my dad used for work (considered a supercomputer at the time, these days’ it’s probably an iPhone) by way of a teletype with tractor-feed paper. We’d visit the Lab on Family Day (my dad worked there as a systems programmer), and become enthralled with a role-play game running on a teletype sitting in the hallway. The computer room full of donut-shaped Crays was used to film scenes in the movie, Tron.
When I got to college I studied painting and drawing with Nathan Oliveira (whose printmaking is still in my thoughts) and Frank Lobdell (who told me to “slow the brush down”) and Communication (documentary film and journalism, where I learned to edit film by hand). At my school if you weren’t a “techie” – pre-med or pre-law or an engineer – you were “a fuzzy” or just lacked direction in general.
I started drawing cartoons on paper placemats at restaurants. That evolved into Brainwaves, a single-panel feature that grew to over 2,000 panels that travel the world in various forms like wall paintings and psychology textbooks and a tennis water bottle.
Currently I’m working with Grant Petersen on an illustrated history of the bicycle (it’s been such a journey and the world has, shall we say, been busy during that time). We’re also doing a smaller project called “Bicycle Sentences” that pops up on Rivendell’s Instagram every so often.
Art critic Jerry Saltz says:
“In the alchemy of art, once you embed your consciousness in material, one plus one equals three.
That is, one thing placed with or next to another produces a new third thing.
This third thing then combines and re-multiplies with and off of all other previous third things.
These form colonies and networks that then become culture. Each culture is in constant dialog with other cultures.
In this way art forms our consciousness and culture that then forms art and culture that then – – it is culture all the way down.”
I like that, so I’ll conclude with it. Thanks for reading!
Clients/Publications (partial list)
The Funny Times
Body + Soul Magazine (a Martha Stewart publication)
For Women First Magazine
Z Magazine (cover, double issue)
Henry Stewart Talks
Daily Press, Newport News Virginia
Utah Statesman, Utah State University
The Lamoni Chronicle, Lamoni, Iowa
The Rake, Minneapolis, Minnesota
She Shines (YWCA), Rhode Island
Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory Exhibit, “Black Holes and Time Twists”
Stanford University Press