From past to present
Betty Notter adds downtown’s new favorites to her repertoire of pen and ink drawings.
Betty Notter uses pen and ink to depict favorite Tulsa locales, both new and nearly forgotten.
Tulsa’s architectural and landscaping designs are familiar to its residents and impressive to out-of-towners.
Unfortunately, many popular venues have been lost to urban renewal projects or a slow economy.
A few years ago, transplanted Tulsa artist Betty Notter began bringing back into memory past local haunts with her pen and ink notecards and posters. Last summer, Notter’s company, “Tulsa In Ink,” launched a collection called “Tulsa’s Blast from the Past.”
Now, Notter is at it again.
TulsaPeople recently visited with her about “Tulsa’s Downtown,” a compilation of signs of downtown’s newest favorite locales: James E. McNellie’s Public House, Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge, Woody’s Corner Bar and the refurbished Mayo Hotel, among others.
Where are you from, and where did you receive your training as an artist?
I was born in Paducah, Ken., and spent most of my young life in Louisville. Nevertheless, Tulsa has been home to me and my family for 46 years, so in my heart of hearts, I feel like a native Tulsan. After high school, I studied at the Allen R. Hite Art Institute (since incorporated into the University of Louisville). I also studied two years at the Dayton, Ohio, Art Institute.
What first inspired you to draw Tulsa locales?
Being a newcomer to Tulsa in 1967, sketching and painting scenes that were new and unfamiliar was a challenge and exciting to me. Many were done on the spot, which gave each composition a narrative to go along with it.
It seems the choices could almost be never-ending. How difficult has it been for you to choose which locations to include?
The choices are never-ending because there is no aspect of this city that is not interesting, or that is not evolving. Tulsa is changing its look and feel every day, sometimes for the better, but sadly, (Tulsans have seen) the loss of too much of her charm.
Why did you choose pen and ink?
Pen and ink is a medium I feel the most comfortable using. It (allows for) quick, free and spontaneous expression.
How long does it take you to complete one drawing?
Normally it takes several hours to do a drawing, but it always depends on the scene I have selected.
What is your favorite place or area in Tulsa?
The north side and central Tulsa have always been the most interesting to me. There is more variety and vibrancy to (these) neighborhoods. Maybe not the most glamorous sides of town, but ... very alive and active, from (their) old machine shops, lumberyards (and) little manufacturers, to (their) ’50s and ’60s houses with the fences around the front yards, and small apartment houses on their last leg.
Many of the locations in your collection (Pennington’s, the Camelot Parkside Hotel, Swinney’s Hardware and Bell’s Amusement Park) are no longer here. Did you work from memory or photos to draw these locations?
These places were all part of my life at one time, so memory, with the help of photos, has served me well.
Which location has been the most difficult to complete, in terms of detail?
The most challenging drawing for me was the Winterfest illustration. (There were) so many things included: the BOK Center, the ice rink, surrounding buildings and the crowd of ice skaters. However, this turned out to be one of my favorites.
Can you share any upcoming drawings you are working on?
I am currently working on illustrations of bygone businesses and haunts in one of Tulsa’s favorite icons, Utica Square Shopping Center, as well as “Blast from the Past II” (featuring more defunct signs of Tulsa from businesses such as Shotgun Sam’s, Looboyles and Froug’s).