Creative Energy Exchange 2020
Artists A.D. Cook and Beti Kristof Create a Collaborative Tribute to America's Nurses and Caregivers
Like most everyone, we self-quarantined for much of March, all of April, and at the time of this writing, most of May 2020. As artists, I must admit being alone and isolated is part of the job. Creating art requires a lot of time at the easel. We do enjoy connecting with our friends, however, and we miss that. For the most part, and in many ways, we have been a bit removed from it all. We live in Las Vegas and it’s been lights out for some time, but beyond that, we have spared the horror that has overwhelmed the news of these past few months.
But what we have seen from afar, via news and the internet, is horrifying.
In times like these, we need heroes, and sometimes we find them where we might not expect. While America’s hospitals have no shortage of heroes, as artists we felt it necessary to pay tribute to those who show up every day and put their lives and family at risk for the health and welfare of others. Our medical teams understand the risk, but they never expected the overwhelming bombarded of wartime-level casualties as the Corona Virus has brought to America. Still, they have stood firm, and continue to in the face of ongoing adversity.
A Special Thanks to Caregivers
When Beti and I first started talking about creating this warrior artwork, and how nurses, doctors, and caregivers work together, we asked each other (and ourselves) how we could best co-create something powerful and positive that brings light to these amazing heroes.
Since we’ve previously collaborated on a few projects, Beti and I already know we work well together. Over time, we learned to complement each other’s skills, styles, ideas, and resources with our own.
For those unfamiliar, Beti is mostly known as a visionary painter creating colorful artworks in traditional media (mostly oil paintings), but her talents go far beyond that. She is a very accomplished artist working in a plethora of media and styles, who has created hundreds of paintings over a lifetime at the easel. I am a massive fan of her art. I have been since we first met, and she hired me to help design her coffee table book, Persephone and Polka Dot Shoes, in 2015, which ultimately turned out to be our first creative collaboration. While working together in producing her oversize coffee table book, I inspired by Beti’s diversity of style, and the magic that goes into each of her artworks, regardless of the media.
Our diverse styles and passion for figurative art have led us down similar paths, creatively. We both love representational art (or realism), and we paint at the same level of craftsmanship and satisfaction, so our styles play well together. Beyond that, we want our art to tell a story, to make its viewer pause, and bring lasting value. These are just a few things we wanted to take into consideration for our new creative collaboration.
Back to our Project
First things first, and what came first? The answer, in short, is always the vision, the dream, the idea. Then we paused and asked ourselves, and each other. “Why?” Why this painting? Why now? Why us?
More than a painting...
Before ever touching a brush, we discussed the importance of our nurses, doctors, and caregivers and the role they are playing in today’s America. Turn on the news for two minutes and anyone can see what they are going through. For many of them, it is a war zone. Each day these dedicated people knowingly go to battle, to save people they’ll never even know against an enemy they won’t even see until it strikes because that’s what heroes do.
And Beti, she wanted to paint a hero – a woman hero. I already believe many women are natural heroes, to begin with. Beti is a bit of a warrior herself, but that’s another story for another time. Suffice it to say, she has much respect and love for these courageous ladies, even before our current “new normal” turned some heroes into superheroes.
It’s all about the collective essence of those who go above and beyond for others.
— Beti Kristof
With her vision in mind, Beti, like all great painters, needed some reference imagery. Since we were creating this artwork during a global pandemic and staying home under self-quarantine, it was unlikely that we could get a friendly nurse to stop by with a sword. Of course, I jest, but no worries, we had a plan.
Years ago, back when I was painting my art nude series, I did a photo shoot with a beautiful model, Dale O, at my Tigard, Oregon studio. As much as I loved the images from our shoot, I never created any art from our session beyond the photos themselves. But when Beti described what she saw in her vision of our hero, we both knew my model was perfect for inspiring our new painting together.
While I tended to other projects, Beti spent countless hours at the easel drawing and underpainting this life-size artwork on canvas. She took care of handling all the drawing and underpainting, which is at the heartbeat and soul of this piece. The painting, as I saw it, could have been signed, sealed, and delivered — an elegant addition to any home.
A Bolder Vision
Color! Our hero needed color — superhero color. Like our hero, this painting needed to be bold and powerful. She needed a heroic background inspired by American strength and courage, born of red, white, and blue.
Beyond that, a whisp of color here, and a splash of color there, that all-in-all adds up to hours and hours at the easel. It’s all about the details and a small sacrifice to pay tribute to our real heroes. Beyond that, a little airbrush goes a long way, so I massaged colors just a little as needed.
There is a certain energy and satisfaction that comes from wrapping up a painting that you also feel good about.
Often, as Beti and I get into the final stages of a collaboration project, we both dig in and work on it together. That’s what collaboration paintings are about. They bring out the best in both of us.
On a large painting like this, it’s super manageable for one person to work on one side of the artwork and one on the other. Like I mentioned earlier, our styles intermingle well, so we become essentially one painter, often flipping the painting around to each add to the other’s effort. In the end, the artwork is neither about her or me or hers or mine alone. Much like our heroes, it’s about teamwork, although we like to refer to is as our creative energy exchange.
Thank you and cheers to all our heroes!
A.D. Cook & Beti Kristof
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Previous creative energy exchanges between Beti and A.D.
- DREAM TO LAUNCH – book and website
- STILL STANDING, a cowboy’s journey and lessons learned – book and web course
- KITCH – comedy screenplay
- SECRETS OF THE HYPNOTIC FORMULA by Joe Frazzette – illustration and book design
- HomeBrewing the craft beer in the photo above
AS SEEN ON