Former Scottsdale City Councilwoman Betty Drake has swapped politics for paintbrushes, though she hasn’t strayed far from the governmental sphere. She recently completed a commission for another well-known Scottsdale resident: a portrait of Jamie Drinkwater, daughter of the late Mayor Herb Drinkwater. “When I was heavily into the council, I didn’t have time to do any art,” says Drake, 67, a councilwoman from 2004 to 2009. “I am really enjoying getting back into the creative flow, post-politics.”
Drake – whose work was once spotlighted in a solo show at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts – has intermittently put art on the back burner. She grew up in Tucson dreaming of being an artist, but her father was willing to pay only for a practical degree. So she studied architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and snuck into as many art and theater classes as she could. She was the art director of the school’s humor magazine during the height of the Haight-Ashbury hippie movement and recalls Janis Joplin and her entourage attending the first show of her illustrations.
Drake worked in urban design and planning for the city of San Francisco before returning to Arizona in 1971 for a job with the city of Tempe, authoring the award-winning “Tempe Bikeway Plan” featuring her comics. She prepares public art plans for development projects in Scottsdale and Phoenix, and founded Drake and Associates, a firm specializing in urban design, development and public art. “I always managed to weave artwork into urban planning,” she says.
Drake’s whimsical portrait of Drinkwater, “The Cosmo Cowgirl,” incorporates iridescent fabric and trompe l’oeil, and depicts Drinkwater donning a ratty, old cowboy hat studded with thousands of Swarovski crystals. “I am just blinging the hell out of it,” Drake says.